We tend to concentrate too much on the purchasing process rather than on its major objective i.e. client satisfaction. If purchasing departments are focused only on the best price offers, then they will not build the company’s value.
Client, not only the process
One of the topics discussed during the CIPS Middle East Conference was the impact of the purchasing department on client satisfaction. In purchasing, we devote our discussions to process improvements, savings or IT solutions. And this is the right attitude unless it occupies the entire attention of the purchasing department. Effective Purchasing can be achieved not only by using advanced process, but also by addressing clients’ needs in a creative way. Nowadays, such terms as savings-oriented purchasing strategy, product range planning etc. are nothing new. Process support solutions become more common and, in fact, are a “must have” for purchasing focused on efficiency. Consequently, the results of purchasing oriented towards building long-term competitive advantage more increasingly depend on whether, or not, its major impulse is client satisfaction. The synergy between the objectives of the entire company and that of the purchasing department is the key to establish partner relations with contractors and is the driving force of the whole enterprise.
Focusing on the process brings certain limitations, because the related activities are mainly task-oriented. However, focusing on client satisfaction provides unlimited possibilities of solutions and releases creativity. Measures that could often seem unnecessary or trivial, such as “creating vision statements” or “brainstorming”, prove to be the key and strategic elements of operations.
What matters is the right proportion
I agree with the main conclusion of the conference that client satisfaction is essential in purchasing. It seems obvious; ultimately, the objective of purchasing is to fulfil the client’s needs, whether it is, indirectly, an internal client or, directly, an end client, as in the case of manufacturing purchases.
However, I am of the opinion that, as with any such categorical statements, it is necessary to find the right proportion. Although the optimal purchasing process or generating savings are not, as a general rule, the objectives on their own, they are significant dimensions of the purchasing organisation’s effectiveness. The assessment of buyer performance should also provide such additional dimension. Ultimately, a client may be satisfied with the purchasing process, because his order was completed in a short time. From this perspective, the fact that it was the most expensive offer and it might lack transparency is not important. In such a case, not everyone has to share the client’s satisfaction.