This is second in a two-part series. Part 1 can be found here.
Purchasing leaders must not only be great at managing the complex functions of their department, but they must also become savvy communicators who know how to demonstrate the strategic value that the department lends to their organization. In a world of competing budgets and the struggle to hang on to resources, knowing how to market your purchasing organization to power stakeholders is a skill that you must have.
How to Communicate
Do it Regularly. Create communication vehicles that allow you to capitalize on your successes and to educate people on purchasing and supply chain principles. Use a blog, newsletters, planned emails and ad hoc communication of your successes. Your goal is to educate top management and stakeholders that you work with on a regular basis.
Develop Hybrid Skills. No matter what your specialty is, knowing how to communicate effectively is always useful. If you’re uncomfortable sitting down and writing a newsletter or blog post, remember that practice is the bigger half of learning how to write effectively. For the other parts, there are plenty of resources out there to help you hone your communication skills.
Use Understandable Language. Because you do this every day, it’s easy to forget that you are specialists who have an understanding that others do not. Keep your communication free of jargon and overly technical terms. Create communications that anyone can understand. You want people to grasp what you’ve accomplished, so keep it simple.
Be Disciplined. Many communications plans fail because there’s no follow through. If you set up a blog, make sure to create posts for it regularly. The same principle applies for a newsletter. Since writing blogs and newsletters are not the core function of your department, it may be harder to get into the habit of writing regular posts. Make sure that you are setting schedules and sticking to them.
Demonstrate Thought Leadership. Blogs and other communications make the perfect forum to demonstrate your department’s deep domain knowledge and thought leadership. Create emails or newsletters with topics that demonstrate the level of knowledge and expertise that you have in your department.
Show Alignment with Mission Statement or Organizational Objectives. Take a look at the organization’s mission statement. How do the efforts of your department further those goals? What can you do to communicate strategic value? Think about creating a mission statement for your department, which you can use not only to align the department’s efforts, but also to communicate how it furthers the goals of the organization.
Go Beyond Cost Reductions. The point of a communication strategy for your department is to show that your value goes beyond just reducing costs. Think about setting up a scorecard or some other tool so you can track successes and progress. Many companies use a “Balanced Scorecard,” which consists of metrics that track success in four key areas: Financial, Customer (include internal and external customers), Internal Business Processes and Learning & Growth.
Of course, a good and long-term communication strategy has to have some actual successes to use. If your department is struggling with processes that bog down or are based on antiquated platforms, it’s probably time to create a long-term strategy for improvement. If you are relying on paper, emails, spreadsheets and Word documents, it may be time to look for new technologies that will allow you to streamline and improve efficiencies. Remember the old saying “Success breeds success.” If you’re constantly on the lookout for ways to increase your department’s ability to be a strategic resource for your organization, you’ll have more successes to communicate. That will lead to more goodwill, better resources and the ability to create more success and so on.