The Answer Alex: Busch, Handfield, Vitasek, Cummins and Barner by Jon Hansen

Posted on March 2, 2015


Dear Jon

I like reading your blog, “The Face of Procurement’s Generation Next” as it very much resonates with me.  I am an independent consultant, who is supporting a global organisation to define the Procurement Capabilities of the future.  I would like to speak with some leading edge professionals in Procurement & Supply and wondered if you could give me any pointers as to where to look?

Many thanks for your attention.

Kind regards

Joan (Amsterdam)

One of the things that I enjoy as much as a good debate and productive commentary exchange (refer to my recent posts Are these profile images representative of the brand Coupa wants to project? and The Face of Procurement’s Generation Next), are the direct interactions I have with readers and listeners through e-mail.

The above example serves as a case in point.

While requests for information and direction relative to procurement is nothing new, I must admit that as a PhD graduate from Cambridge University, Joan’s interest in procurement was well . . . interesting.

The question is who or whom would I consider to be leading edge professionals?

Rather then simply passing along names with a few perfunctory comments relative to why I chose them, I thought that it was more important to provide names in the context of where we were, where we are today and where we are headed tomorrow.


The Past

There is a saying that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.  Or to put it another way, however problematic and unproductive the past might have been in terms of the procurement industry, there is still some value to be gleaned from those many years in the desert.

Let’s face it, it was a time of subjugated anonymity in which “buyers” were viewed as little more than administrative order takers, whose performance was rated on achieving the lowest cost.

It was also a period that Gartner recently referred to as being the before in terms of the present “Postmodern ERP Era” – an era I might add for which they were largely one of the main architects. The other architects being the industry journalists and analysts such as Jason Busch from Spend Matters.

Back in May 2007 when I first launched Procurement Insights, Jason’s blog was considered to be the source of industry insight and perspective.  The advantages of being one of the first industry bloggers certainly helped to build an early following.  However much like Gartner, and as discussed in posts such as It’s the end of the world as we know it . . . at least for traditional analyst firms and bloggers and The Bandwagon Effect or why Spend Matters coverage of Coupa speaks to the growing creditability gap of “traditional” industry pundits, these early pundits are now playing catch-up in an industry that is vastly different from the somewhat cloistered world they previously knew.  In a future post I will have to share with you the highlights from a discussion based on an e-mail I received asking me if Spend Matters’ new CPO dedicated page is an ‘attack’ on Ardent Partners’ CPO Rising territory?

The point is that it would be worth Joan’s time to speak with these harbingers of unfulfilled promise.  What she will likely gain is a better understanding of where the mindset of some of those with whom she is currently working originated, and why their thinking might still persist.

The Bridge

It is from this barren Past side of the procurement chasm, that the bridge of transformation is being built by thought leaders such as Dr. Robert Handfield, Gerard Chick, Kate Vitasek, Tim Cummins and Charles Dominick.

Why did I choose these individuals?

For some, they have long been the lone voices in the proverbial wilderness, heralding a change everyone knew was necessary but unwilling to embrace. Have a listen to my interviews with Dr. Robert Handfield (who co-authored a book with Gerard Chick titled The Procurement Value Proposition), and Kate Vitasek (the author of 5 books discussing the Vested Outsourcing model), and you will understand why they are important figures in facilitating the needed transformation.

Of course both IACCM’s Cummins and NLPA’s Dominick are also agents of change, but for different reasons.  As far back as 2009, when their organizations participated in a panel discussion on my radio show, each recognized that the traditional association model had to be revamped in order to remain relevant.  With a significant combined reach through their respective memberships, the fact that they stayed the course and have continued to make the adjustments to better reflect the brave new world championed by the Handfields and Vitaseks, means that they will be an invaluable resource for Joan.

Just as an aside, I would be remiss if I also failed to mention ThomasNet and ISM, whose Top 30 Under 30 Program identified the most influential Generation Next procurement professionals in the industry today. Since both organizations have been around since the beginning of the profession, their decision to connect with the new procurement pros who are going to help shape the future of the industry, provides a broad perspective that spans more than a single generation.

The Present Future

While some may assume that any reference to the future implies individuals who are new on the scene, or are introducing new ideas and concepts, nothing could be further from the truth.

Often times some of the greatest present day breakthroughs are, as I suggested in a recent post, the realization of a long held vision of what might be possible, becoming possible.  Or to put it another way, when you build a bridge there has to be another side to which it can connect.  The thoughts and ideas fostered by a Kelly Barner (with whom I am co-writing a book) and Andy Akrouche, represent the possible becoming possible.

With Barner, she is an astute observer of an industry in the midst of a major shift.  Like myself, her background as a practioner turned industry pundit, puts her in the unique position of seeing the past, present and future from multiple perspectives.  In other words, and in the context of having to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you can truly understand them, it is safe to say that Barner has walked many miles and gone through many pairs of shoes over the years.

As for Akrouche, whose book Relationships First: The New Relationship Paradigm In Contracting will likely become required reading for any procurement professional, he could have easily been part of the Bridge Group.  However, it is the progression of his relational model that has been developed and successfully implemented over the past 20 years reaching a scalable convergence point with new wave thinking, that clearly places him on this side of the current transformation bridge.

Now I am certain that I could have added a few more names with equally compelling reasoning for their inclusion, however Joan here you go.  These are the people who collectively provide a complete picture of the procurement world.  While for some their influence is waning, for others like a Vitasek, Handfield and Akrouche, their lasting impact will be made in the months and years ahead.

future bridge


Posted in: Commentary