Where does procurement fall on the art/science continuum?

In a July 14th article on NewsDay, NYASHA CHIZU asked ‘Is Procurement an Art or a Science?

In the article, he makes the following statement:

“There is definitely an art to good procurement but on the other hand, taking a scientific approach to options analysis, requirements development and the procurement evaluation process can facilitate a more successful procurement project.”

I found the article quite thought provoking. Rather than looking at art and science as discrete, competing approaches to procurement, I would argue that both are required for sustained success. Although we use different terminology, I believe we engage in this discussion on a regular basis in the context of quantitative (science) and qualitative (art) efforts, metrics, and opportunities. The constant tension between the two dynamics challenges us to alter our approaches and expand our capabilities to maximize the influence of both.

In many ways, the scientific portions of our function are enabled by technology. Analytics, bidding and bid comparison, and supplier data management (for example) are addressed by the solutions we leverage. To the extent that procurement’s performance is measured by savings, we are driven to be scientific professionals. We look for tangible, measurable evidence of supplier performance and seek to uncover efficiency opportunities based on demand, specifications, or alternate solutions.

But simply addressing the scientific side of procurement overlooks our significant qualitative potential. Strategy development, innovation, collaboration, and risk assessment are critical to the competitive advantage held by the company. Because they require subjectivity, these activities are unlikely to be completed in the same way by our competition. They allow us to differentiate ourselves by ensuring that the company has a unique quality offering that can be priced and delivered in the most competitive way possible.

When we consider the influence each of these dynamics has on the trajectory of procurement, science is required in order to meet expanding requirements, but art is the spark needed to exceed them.

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