By Peter Smith

The role of the procurement professional used to be perceived as focusing principally on our work to choose a supplier and put a contract in place. Even when category management first became the core process for the profession, some twenty years ago, it still tended to focus on researching supply markets, understanding needs and presenting requirements to the market, running competitive processes and negotiating contracts with the chosen suppliers.

Arguably the biggest advance in procurement in the last twenty years has been the greater understanding of what needs to be done after the contract is put in place. Both contract management – ensuring that suppliers deliver what they have contracted to do (and perhaps getting more out of them than the letter of the contract) and supplier management have rightly become seen much more as part of the core procurement role.

Watch Peter Smith’s on-demand webinar and Q&A with Jason Busch as he discusses Supplier Management in the time of CSR and GDPR.

Indeed, we’ve argued before that putting the supplier at the centre of procurement thinking and strategy is a good way to make sure the procurement role is aligned with business success. Colleagues who use the “services” of procurement and work with suppliers every day tend to see those firms as indicators of procurement’s competence (fairly or unfairly)! If suppliers aren’t performing, or risk issues arise, it will often be the procurement team that is blamed in some sense.

One of the key elements of effective supplier management is information – understanding what is needed, collecting the appropriate information, managing and using it in a way that generates benefits. So that’s what we were talking about on February 13th on our Real World Procurement webinar, titled “What Do I Need to Know About My Suppliers?

While this has always been an important topic, one aspect that has added a new dimension to the discussion is GDPR – the general data protection regulation, coming into force this year in Europe. This has raised some tricky questions for organisations and procurement professionals in terms of how they should be working with suppliers who hold data on their behalf, and what information should be held by the buyer. On the 13th, we took a look at GDPR during our session – this wasn’t a “deep dive” but we talked about some of the key principles and what procurement needs to be considering in this important area.

But there are also other types of information of course, from basic factual details through to much more strategic information around corporate social responsibility, or supplier performance, development or innovation. So, on the webinar we were talking about how you might segment suppliers in terms of the information that is needed, and how you can make sure you are collecting what is important and necessary. You can watch the on-demand version of the webinar here.