By Frank Treanor Best Practice Thought Leadership 28th October 2016

What Can Procurement & Brexit Learn from Each Other?

With the Prime Minister’s announcement that we will start the process of leaving the EU early in 2017, and revelations about her private fears for the UK economy, the country is facing a whole new debate. What are our priorities in the negotiations?

The general opinion (if you still have enough faith to believe the polls and statistics) is that immigration rather than economic benefits was the primary driver for those who voted to leave. Theresa May seems to think so anyway, and that appears to be her lead. Meanwhile, according to an article I read in the Times recently, George Osborne (remember him) is urging her to focus on the economy. Either way, there is going to be the need for a great deal of skilled and careful cooperation in the months ahead.

What can procurement learn from the UK triggering Article 50?

I’ve spoken about this in the past, and will continue to do so until enough people listen: Collaboration doesn’t have the ring of truth to me. Surely, cooperation is a better way to go for Brexit, as it is in the world of procurement, when running a business, or in any other relationship between reasonable people.  Collaboration sounds more like collusions, cartels and meetings behind closed doors where, ultimately, one group loses out to the benefit of the few.

You might say that my point is just semantics over accepted industry terminology, but let me put it to you another way – A way that could have a big impact on the future of our country. Then I will come back to its very real relevance to the future of procurement.

Would you prefer cooperation or collaboration?

The fact is that we need to establish a culture of cooperation between the UK and the EU, as we negotiate our way out, with the end result being mutually beneficial to all. The last thing we want, and it is easy to imagine this happening, is the more powerful and influential members of the EU collaborating against us. Do you see my point? The words matter because the implication of what people say is usually reflected in the reality of what people do.

I continue to hear (and see) suppliers and industry leaders refer to the need for deeper collaboration within the supply chain to unlock value and innovation. With my early comments in mind, I seriously don’t believe that is what people really want. I’m not naïve enough to believe that simply by changing the terminology we use we can change the mindset – but I do believe it would better demonstrate our intent. Perhaps this is a factor in why procurement as a function is often not embraced by the rest of the business. They are often treated with suspicion and work on a set of objectives that are not aligned with the business function they serve. Collaboration all too often results in suppliers and procurement making agreements with little thought  of the consequences or objectives of the wider business  – yes costs get cut but so does creativity and innovation from a more engaged supply chain.

Procurement is about trade and relationships with partners!

As we take the tentative early steps towards Brexit, the politicians will be doing everything they can to prevent the rest of Europe collaborating and work more on the principles of cooperation to everyone’s benefit. We will be looking to cultivate relationships, negotiate new agreements, set up win-win associations, build trusted supply chains, and encourage out-in-the-open cooperation both inside and outside the EU.

All businesses, like countries, rely on mutually beneficial trade deals and trusted partnerships. For these to work, there has to be open, obvious and very real win-win on both sides. This sort of arrangement cannot be created behind closed doors through collaboration – it has to be clear teamwork.

Here at ProProcure we only think, speak and act in terms of cooperation. Our Geneus product is built on it as a principle – we preach it internally, and we will continue to promote its merits in everything that we do. We invite the rest of the procurement world to change their language and help consign collaboration to history.


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