Like many procurement professionals, Chris Shanahan, who is the Senior Vice President of Global Procurement at Becton Dickinson (BD), a global medical technology provider, sort of “fell” into the space. Part I of his profile offered a brief synopsis of his career progression and delved into how he runs procurement operations at BD. Part II of this series will explore the ways in which procurement and supply management have changed since Chris began his career in procurement, and where he sees the profession headed.
The Times, They are a-Changin’
Reflecting on the last fifteen years, Chris believes that the procurement and supply management industry has changed considerably, particularly with regard to the quantity and quality of talent in the space. Recruiting, retaining, and motivating talent is more competitive now compared to fifteen years ago. Although the industry has seen an increase in engagement and excitement from the millennial generation, “we’re still growing talent and people’s understanding of what value procurement can bring to the table.” The challenge is compounded by the fact that many people have never heard of procurement or know what it does. As a result, when students graduate from high school, they aspire to other fields, like engineering, finance, marketing, or sales. Thus, Chris believes that procurement professionals like him have some work to do to draw the next generation in from these other fields.
Chris is encouraged with seeing the increase in the number of procurement and supply management-related courses and degree programs available to students and professionals today – a common observation by CPOs and procurement leaders featured on CPO Rising. In the last 25 years, the number of degree programs has increased from two or three to several dozen spread across the United States. Still, Chris sees some white space in these areas, due to the demand for educated and skilled talent, which will continue to grow, particularly as procurement’s value proposition expands.
Room for Improvement
As Chris sees it, most organizations can improve their direct and indirect spend operations, particularly their indirect spend, depending on their maturity level. Less mature organizations will likely struggle to manage more of their indirect, G&A spend compared to more mature organizations, which will likely make improvements faster.
Looking ahead, Chris believes (as perhaps any progressive CPO and procurement leader would), that technology and innovation will be critical pillars for procurement organizations in the years to come. Part of his focus is linked to the new people coming into organizations and how they engage in work. Technology and innovation are enormous parts of their personal and professional lives – they use technology every day. It is logical, then, for practitioners to want to extend their use of technology and their drive for innovation into organizations that not only employ technology but also incorporate it into their culture.
Knowledge is Power (and Value)
The need for innovation, along with collaboration and communication, is apparent when Chris reviews the company’s P&L, G&A, and spend reports. As he said, a bigger part of his team’s job (bigger than executing a contract), is to facilitate a two-way flow of information from the various parts of the business to procurement for analysis, and then back to the line-of-business in order to enhance their decision making. It is also helpful for Chris and his team to give stakeholders a view into their past and projected spend and demonstrate how procurement can help them identify and realize future savings.
This free-flow of spend intelligence and analysis is also helpful for other business leaders to understand the breadth and depth of their G&A spend, how it impacts the bottom line, and how they can improve their bottom-line performance by driving greater governance around it. As he noted, “top-line performance on the innovation side is more product based; bottom-line performance comes out of the G&A space.”
Chris also believes that supply risk management will be even more important in the years to come, particularly as organizations need to ensure a steady, sustainable, and reputable flow of goods and services to satisfy their needs. “The continuous role of looking at risk – tier one, two, three, four, five…however deep you need to go, whatever your product makes,” will be critical. CPOs need to be focused on it, particularly as the breadth and depth of supply risks increase. “All the risk factors that are out there – from human, environmental, workforce/place factors, reputational risks – they will always be top of mind for businesses.”
As he looks ahead, one final area that Chris remains focused on is improving his team’s capabilities – not just his staff’s current skills and capabilities, but also preparing for future needs. He does not think that procurement as a whole is going to change much; but the challenge for him and his team will be to keep up with the incremental innovations in business processes and solutions. Technology is something that he and his team will continue to implement and the processes that support them will also be critical.
Chris has co-written a book, “The Global Procurement Leaders Handbook” based on his experience over the last four-to-six years. It includes what the first 100 days look like in a procurement leadership role, including the need to build relationships, key leadership skills, and the building blocks to the future. It is targeted towards professionals who are new to procurement, who are already in a leadership role, or who want to be in the CPO role. As someone who began his career outside of procurement, then realized its value proposition, and ultimately embraced it as a procurement leader, Chris Shanahan’s perspective is valuable and will serve current and aspiring CPOs and procurement leaders well on their career paths.