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Taking a Risk-Based Approach to Procurement: The Importance of Executive Buy-In



It’s time for executives to rethink the role procurement professionals hold in organizations, and this shift is critical to reducing organizational risk, boosting resilience, and increasing return on investment (ROI). While the traditional approach to procurement centered on margin impact and managing suppliers from an operational perspective, there is an evolution taking place requiring forward-thinking organizations to focus on the long-term strategy and impacts that the role is playing in today's world. 


This increased recognition of the vital position of procurement is seen across all industries, and according to Deloitte Insights


“CPOs are successfully navigating… complexities while delivering across a greater breadth of KPIs. Although they are still heavily focused on costs, they have expanded their value propositions to influence demand, drive innovation, and work closely with strategic suppliers and partners to foster commercial compliance, increase speed to market, accelerate M&A integration/divestiture programs, and drive continuous improvement.” Deloitte Insights 


There are high-stakes risks that necessitate procurement’s shift to a more holistic strategy. However, without the buy-in and support of executives, these initiatives can lose momentum and support. 


Why a Risk-Based Approach to Procurement? 

No longer can procurement departments solely serve cost-savings functions. They must also be aware of risks introduced by key suppliers and be provided with the appropriate tools and technology to proactively manage them before major losses or breaches occur.  


Heightened risk areas that are leading this necessary shift in procurement’s functions include: 


Isolated or siloed procurement functions: Traditional procurement departments were de-centralized from the larger organization and focused on transactional, short-term initiatives. Organizations that still exemplify these silos face challenges when it comes to managing risks from all angles. Driving collaboration and strategic initiatives between departments from the top down is a best practice for eliminating these silos, while still managing a daily workload of financial responsibilities.  


Elevated third-party risks: Third-party risks are rising, and can take the forms of cyber-attacks, supply chain delays, components shortages, sustainability challenges, and more. While the incidences of these events rise, organizations are increasingly being held accountable, and procurement plays a critical role in managing vendor relationships.  


A multitude of unorganized, decentralized data points: Procurement professionals deal with a huge amount of data related to personnel, financial, operational, regulatory, contractual, and more. When this type of information is stored on different platforms, inconsistent, incomplete, or managed by different teams, procurement cannot gain proper insight into potential external risks facing the organization. 


Transforming Chaos into Clarity 

As the role of procurement has evolved, procurement professionals are moving from transactional managers to strategic relationship managers, focusing on developing and managing a wide variety of data points across all aspects of their supplier relationships.  


In order to understand the riskiness of suppliers and third parties, procurement professionals need to wade through all of this information with efficiency and ensure alignment with both company strategies and global regulatory mandates. To do this, third-party risk management software needs to be available that provides centralization of data, full visibility, and documentation for audit trails. Procurement needs to play a key role in managing and utilizing this software in order to monitor vendor relationships and performance. 


In addition, it is imperative that procurement maintains healthy, collaborative internal relationships to ensure that organizational teams like IT, compliance, finance, sustainability, and others are well informed, with real-time visibility to potential risks, and are able to sustain positive working relationships with suppliers. 


Areas Where Executives Can Assist Procurement 

Without the buy-in and support from executives and key stakeholders, procurement teams will not be able to make holistic risk management improvements. While not everything will be implemented immediately, there are general aspects of agility that should be on procurement and executives’ agendas, including: 


Empowerment and a culture shift:  

Perhaps the most important area to undertake is to embrace the power that procurement holds within an organization. During years since the pandemic, CPOs and their teams protected their organizations, and executives should continue to take notice of these critical functions. Procurement should be empowered to include themselves in company strategy and products that matter, build teams to better combat emerging risks, and find ways to drive positive change. 


Thinking holistically:  

To take TPRM beyond a single function and into holistic areas for acceleration, CPOs should be empowered to focus on their collaboration and influence across job functions, not just as a spend relationship. Being involved in the entire third-party/supplier relationship management process ensures agility. This allows prioritization of suppliers who may pose a higher risk to an organization, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all procurement strategy that may allow risks to fall through the cracks.  


Company strategy:  

By shifting a primary focus to long-term initiatives and goals, procurement professionals can gain a greater foothold in wider organizational strategy. This includes determining risk management priorities, and working with risk, legal, executive, and other teams to better manage supplier onboarding, relationships, and risks. By being in tune with company strategy and thinking of procurement activities from a risk-based approach, procurement teams step out of the shadows and into more collaborative roles. 


Digital transformation:  

A key step to take is to build scalable practices rather than one-off pilot programs. By prioritizing data cleanup and investment in TPRM tools that can build centralization and efficiency, CPOs can work with executives to see positive impacts across the organization that support overall risk management.  


If there are challenges with incorporating digital procurement technology into an organization, gaining executive sponsorship is a critical way to garner support and investment in the tools that will assist in procurement and supplier data. Emphasizing both short and long-term goals and wins, and how these technologies will drive organizational resiliency and agility can be critical when approaching executives. 


Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) urgency:  

The magnitude of environmental, social, governance (ESG) regulations and compliance is reshaping how organizations manage suppliers, affecting not only procurement, but legal, compliance, risk functions, executives, and more. With concerns such as climate change, eliminating human trafficking and modern slavery from supply chains, identifying and eliminating corruption, etc. procurement must work with executives to take a driving role in ensuring that third-party vendor relationships are compliant and ethical.  


Shifting Company Culture for Procurement Success 

Maintaining healthy supplier relationships is not just about onboarding, it also must include managing risk, quality, and performance of suppliers, assuring compliance where needed, while still owning the transactional responsibilities that are at the foundation of this role.  


The procurement team is the bridge between the enterprise and the extended enterprise: the organization and its suppliers. No one knows suppliers as intimately as procurement. They, like no other function, can make predictive connections between their suppliers and the risks they may pose to the enterprise. In addition to mitigating risk, procurement has the unique opportunity to drive innovation for the enterprise by partnering with suppliers to identify new products, materials, capabilities, and offerings.  


In order to manage these responsibilities, drive efficiency, and take a risk-based approach to procurement, executives within a company need to recognize procurement’s strategic value to the organization. They must step up to establish an organization-wide culture that empowers procurement to be a driver in managing the full lifecycle of their organization’s supplier and third-party relationships. 


Aravo provides centralized, automated TPRM solutions to help procurement and other risk teams proactively manage risks and build resilience throughout their organizations. To learn more, speak with one of Aravo’s experts today.  

 


 

Author Info: 

Hannah Tichansky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at Aravo Solutions, the market’s smartest third-party risk and resilience solutions, powered by intelligent automation. At Aravo, she manages all content and thought leadership produced for products and campaigns and contributes as an author for articles and blog posts.  


Hannah holds over 13 years of writing and marketing experience, with 7 years of specialization in the risk management, supply chain, and ESG industries. Hannah holds an MA from Monmouth University and a Certificate in Product Marketing from Cornell University. 

 

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