What new responsibility do procurement departments now have?

September 9th, 2020
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The Universités des Achats, procurement forum recently organised a CEO round table to discuss the new responsibility falling on procurement departments. Three French business leaders share their views: Agathe Bousquet, President of Publicis Groupe France, Nelly Plu, CEO of the Equity Group and Pierre-Olivier Brial, Managing Director of the Manutan Group and Director of METI (Mouvement des entreprises de taille intermédiaire — French medium-sized business movement). On the agenda: rethinking companies and their supplier relationships.

How companies are reinventing themselves

The shock wave caused by the global health crisis has led companies to do some considerable soul-searching. Whether that means looking at corporate culture, the supply chain, value creation or something else entirely, companies have been forced to adapt quickly in order to bounce back. Now, with the initial surprise behind them, these companies are putting themselves under the microscope and starting to learn some lessons about resilience.

In terms of production, for example, Agathe Bousquet explains how Publicis had to relocate its content production operations, "This geographical obligation allowed us to reinvent ourselves. We can produce in France without it necessarily being more expensive, because there won't be as many of us at shoots etc. At the end of the day, we don't see this as a constraint but as an opportunity, as long as there is a policy of dialogue and trust [with the customer]". 

The facilitator, Stéphane Soumier, rightly notes that customers should be involved in projects as early as possible to ensure better understanding and collaboration. Agathe Bousquet agrees that procurement has a vital role to play in this, "Today, we are coming up with new ways of working. And to do this, we need to get buyers on our side".

A new era for supplier relations

This is where the issue of supplier relationships comes into play. Pierre-Olivier Brial, Managing Director of the Manutan Group, shares his view on the subject, "I think we need to see the relationships we have with suppliers in the same way as the relationships we have with colleagues. It's the same thing: lots of relationships, transparency and requirements... on both sides! I have to say, I need to manage [my suppliers] like any other member of my network". 

Building a long-term partnership with key suppliers is now crucial. In this time of crisis, this translates into two very concrete ideas:

  • It is important to support your suppliers wherever possible. Stéphane Soumier notes that some companies have shortened their payment terms, or have even made advance payments or paid when placing their orders for some of their suppliers.
  • By contrast, Pierre-Olivier Brial adds that during this period of shortages in hygiene products, suppliers have been forced to decide which distributors they want to sell their products. This is where a solid partnership makes all the difference.

The final word goes to Agathe Bousquet, "Basically, yes, it's a complicated time when we do need to look at spending, but above all it's the time to look at our vision for reinventing the future. That's why procurement bosses need to be part of executive committees because how I buy is who I am and where I'm going!" 

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