Prioritizing Alignment: Perspectives from 3 Procurement Leaders

by SpendHQ Marketing

“Build a better tomorrow.”  

“Seat at the table.”  

“The colleague experience.” 

Those phrases above were heard during the Art of Procurement’s 2023 Digital Outcomes program, in a session featuring two SpendHQ customers represented by their procurement leaders. Blessen Kurian, Thermo Fisher’s Procurement Director of Digital and Data Science, and Keith Barthelmeus, Chief Procurement Officer and Global VP/CFO at Brinks, joined SpendHQ’s Chief Product Officer and former procurement management practitioner, Pierre Laprée, to discuss their forward-looking priorities and elevating the impact of their organizations. 

The session’s big theme was procurement-to-business alignment and its need for strengthened data-driven communication and prioritization. 

At SpendHQ, many active conversations with customers are focused on alignment with the c-Suite, and Mr. Laprée summarized the questions he hears most: “How do we keep the c-suite informed? How do we get the buy-in into procurement?” 

Mr. Barthelmeus of Brinks agreed that alignment is critical for them as a priority for 2023, as they shift from a traditional policy-driven organization to one that earns that seat at the table. “The macroeconomic climate is really impacting us right now. We can’t think the same as we always have. We’re in a much more proactive state.”  

He says they are looking to discover insights to drive them forward, accelerate outcomes, and serve the business. They also want to make sure their impact is clear. 

“When you interview executive-level staff or the business, you won’t get the same feedback as what’s perceived to be valued within a procurement organization.”  

Mr. Kurian at Thermo Fisher also echoed the importance of alignment, as well as prioritization in their centralized procurement organization. He says they think about what they call “the colleague experience” and goes on to explain: 

“How do we help people better engage with procurement in a more effective way and be less painful to do business with as well as for our own associates – the people within procurement. How do we make their lives a little bit easier.” 

It’s a balance of short-term goals – such as mitigating the effects of inflation – and long-term goals such as making progress towards ESG business commitments. Said Mr. Kurian: “It’s about prioritization and giving people that visibility into how everything fits together and how it fits into the company goals.” 

SpendHQ’s Mr. Laprée suggested thinking about alignment and prioritization as a roadmap concept. “The roadmap is built on an ambition. The ambition will mostly come from the top, and procurement will build goals around that. That is the key. How do you define your goal? How do you define your contribution to those goals? How do you execute?” 

Then he recommends you need to socialize that roadmap and your targets with the c-suite.  

Mr. Kurian at Thermo Fisher also said his procurement organization aims to stay connected to the business by the way they are structured and how they approach communication strategy. 

“It has got to be an iterative conversation because, yes, we know needs do change. If we have learned anything over the last three years, it’s that what was said last month might be very different in the following month based on whatever geopolitical hazard has happened,” he described.  

Mr. Barthelmeus of Brinks also expanded on the importance of soft-skills communication approaches to foster better procurement alignment with the business. “I think we often wait for the business to tell us what’s most important. There’s a push-pull in terms of that information flow. What is most important to them…. I’m realizing that there’s been an opportunity for us to connect more by increasing our level of communication by gaining some business and finance acumen within procurement so we can speak the language of our stakeholders and our executives. That’s a huge opportunity for us.” 

He also said they are continuing to determine what type of spend and performance insights they can newly surface that may also contribute to business goals and targets.  

As Mr. Laprée of SpendHQ explains, having easy, shared visibility into insights, goals, and reporting is also a key ingredient to good stakeholder and c-suite relationships and trust. “And we are seeing a shift towards not only financial but also non-financial performance. The non-financial performance can take a lot of different phases, and it’s key to have the right tech to support the validity of goals that you might try there.” 

Procurement teams can start by requesting a demo of the SpendHQ solutions being used at Brinks and Thermo Fisher to help them promote this alignment and strong organizational performance.