It’s time to quit wasting buyers’ time

I remember as a kid wanting a shiny new bicycle.  My dad looked at my then current bike, dirty and uncared for, and said “Why get you a new bike when you don’t take care of the one that you have”.

How does this apply to buyers?   Many purchasing managers, directors and vice presidents come to us looking for that shiny new buyer who is going to help relieve an overburdened staff or improve their organization’s results when what they should be doing is taking care of the buyers that they have.

Their existing buyers already have company, commodity and supply knowledge that is critical to success.  However, our studies show that buyer’s may be spending as much as 50-60% of their time performing non-value added tasks that require little, if any, of this knowledge.

The hours of work they would get from a new buyer can actually be found by eliminating, streamlining or offloading the non-value added tasks being performed by the current buyers giving them more time to spend on work that has a strategic impact to the group.  Imagine planning your day to spend the majority of your day on executing strategies and actions that bring the most impact to your company and your bonus.

There are additional benefits in this approach:

  1. It will improve your chances of keeping the buyers that you have. We recently surveyed purchasing professions who are in the job market to understand why they would consider leaving their current employer.  45% of those surveyed were “Concerned” or “Very Concerned” about the meaningfulness of their job; 40% were bored and unchallenged by the work itself.
  2. When it comes time to hire, you will be more successful. When we asked job seekers what they want in a new position 72% of respondents answered “More Meaningful Tasks”.  A hiring manager who is able to demonstrate a history of making work more meaningful for her team will be seen in a positive light by prospective employees.
  3. It will be easier to justify new positions to management. Managers who have a demonstrated track record of improving work place efficiency find it easier to obtain management approval for new resources when they are needed.
  4. Help you approach business from two directions, spend management and administrative management.

Our recommended steps for managers who want to quit wasting buyers’ time are as follows:

  • Interview your buyers about where they spend their time. What are they doing that they believe is non value added?  Why do they believe it is non-value added?  How would they propose making it better?  What tasks are they doing that create value?  The most important part in this step is to remember that this is a time for the buyers to provide input and you to gather information.  Trying to justify current processes and tasks will shut the buyers down.
  • Create a hit list. Use the information gained in the interviews to create a prioritized hit list of non-value add activities.  You may want to gain additional input from the buyers in the prioritization.
  • Make improvements part of your management team’s responsibilities. Management should take the lead in eliminating, streamlining or offloading the non-value added tasks.  Activities and progress should be reviewed with buyers to understand the impacts of the improvements.
  • Develop processes that create efficiency and value. Start to look at activities that are repetitive and how to create a process that creates speed, value, and quality. Also, with a process approach, managers can understand what the buyers are doing and how they approach buying.

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