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When procurement looks in the mirror, what do we see?


Sometimes a post on social media connects with people such that it takes on a life of its own. That happened this week in the wake of the Ivalua NOW event in Paris.

Philip Ideson shared a picture of Duncan Jones from Forrester Research sharing a striking statistic about procurement’s self-assessed v. actual maturity. You can see the image above, but here are the raw numbers:

  • Procurement organizations who self-assess as at the beginning of their maturity curve: 4%
  • Procurement organizations who are actually at the beginning of their maturity curve: 60%
  • Procurement organizations who self-assess as advanced: 65%
  • Procurement organizations who are actually advanced: 16%

While it is fair to ask questions about the Forrester methodology and maturity framework that might explain away some of the discrepancy, the fact remains that procurement’s perception of our own maturity is significantly skewed from reality. As a profession, we are significantly overestimating our organizational maturity by a huge margin.

This share gained 30K views, 40 comments, and over 200 likes in a very short time. (Click here to view the original post on LinkedIn.) Some of the most compelling comments centered around four core ideas:


Procurement must “own” our image

Comment from Slav V.: “Like many other functions Procurement can and does exaggerate its value and maturity. Why not! Perception is reality.”

Comment from James M. Baehr: “…as of late, more articles and blogs are calling out Procurement suggesting we be more realistic about what our image is and what it isn’t. This level of reflection is difficult but necessary.”

Procurement has an internal image or brand, but we have to question whether we see it objectively, and if we do, if we take ownership for that brand – good and bad. It is one thing to try and spin perceptions of what procurement does and why, especially when a mandate from the C-suite leads us to set priorities that others in the company don’t love. If, however, we don’t see ourselves the same way others do, we are in danger of making the situation worse without realizing it.


There may be more than one best-in-class

Comment from Rob Kurland: “‘actual’ maturity is more a correlation with our stakeholders’ expectations of our value contributions, rather than an objective scale.”

Comment from Michael Delle: “I have seen many organization that were great on paper, reality looked slightly different, stakeholders were not really happy, nut all KPI showed green – and to make the picture complete a leadership that did not like to hear such a story...”

While it makes sense that Forrester (or any analyst firm for that matter) will use a standard evaluation matrix to assess procurement’s maturity, is there really one maturity curve? Each industry, company, and stakeholder group – possibly even individual stakeholders – comes with unique expectations for the role procurement will fill and the value we will deliver. Some indications of maturity are common, but it does procurement no good to be mature according to an industry standard while falling short of enterprise needs.


We’ve got to get out more

Comment from Dustin Cochran: “I feel like procurement is mostly insular focused. While teams may indeed have grown substantially compared to where procurement was internally from a maturity standpoint, they may fall behind what their peers are doing elsewhere. Procurement needs to communicate and share more across the community - much of the work done isn't proprietary.”

Comment from Paul Twine (MCIPS Chartered): “Possibly individuals assess maturity in the one organisation they have worked. A blinkered view of a global multi-sector with many facets, regulators and supply chain nuances. Gaining experience across sector & internationally is a route for many to mature.”

For a long time, procurement has been behind the curve on social media use. We’ve cited negotiating leverage and information advantage for not sharing more. Unfortunately, if our only knowledge is first-hand, we are limited in our perspective. The solution lies in community – whether virtual or in person. Seeing and hearing what others are doing not only expends the horizon of our imagination, it broadens the scope of our short term strategies and approaches.


Do you see your procurement organization objectively – whether you are looking at maturity or something else? How do you know? Are you taking steps to validate your perspective, and are you prepared for the truth if it does not align with your current view?

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