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#SorryNotSorry Procurement

B2B Procurement Business Spend Control

Following on from our Top Procurement Infleuncers on Twitter 2017, we are launching an InstaSupply Insights series showcasing some of the content these great authors produce. Each week, we will be bringing you a different opinion piece from the top influencers' list on everything from Blockchain to digital transformation and AI. This week, it's Kelly Barner's call to arms for all procurement rebels.


#SorryNotSorry Procurement

Look at any series of recent (particularly strategic) procurement articles, and tell me what words you see repeated over and over. Collaboration. Relationships. Alignment. Compliance. In combination, they paint the picture of a ‘good’ organization made of people doing the ‘right’ thing. We stop just short of all our efforts being ‘for the children’.

Frankly, it’s exhausting.

I’m the last person to advocate for conflict or friction. The closest I ever get to aggressive is passive. What I am saying is that sometimes procurement has a job to do and that needs to come before alignment and singing ‘kumbaya’. Under the right circumstances, procurement should go against the grain and dig our heels in. Rather than taking what we want to say and softening it to make it palatable for executives and internal stakeholders, we should speak our minds. Rather than focus group testing all our responses we should just respond. There is a place in business for anger, frustration, brutal honesty – and attitude. We work hard and that earns us the right to hold our ground.

The #SorryNotSorry phenomenon is something we all understand in our personal lives (thanks Demi Lovato). I’m sorry (not sorry) I bought another pair of black boots. I’m sorry (not sorry) I stayed out too late with friends. I’m sorry (not sorry) my team stomped yours in the playoffs. Why can’t we muster that same visceral reaction at work? Maybe procurement has been so beaten down by years of trying to be good that we have lost sight of how to stand for what is right.

If you are #SorryNotSorry, here are a few places to start.

I’m #SorryNotSorry we created unexpected competition for your beloved incumbent supplier.

What’s that expression, “it’s not personal?” Well it isn’t. This is business – and if you can’t take the heat, well, you know the rest. Why are we sheltering stakeholders that get overly cozy with their existing suppliers? Do they return the favor when we miss expectations on a savings target? No. And why should they? It’s not personal. Procurement has little to nothing to do with happiness. That is simply not in scope. Our job is to enforce rigorous guidelines for the efficient commitment of corporate resources. If your supplier can step up and defend their position, either based on cost or value, then they are welcome to keep their position. If they can’t, then the loss is theirs – and maybe the relationship isn’t what you thought it was.

I’m #SorryNotSorry we’re breaking down your iron grip on your spend category.

We talk about sacred cow spend, which always means that procurement is supposed to acquiesce and go hands off. Sometimes it also means stakeholders have political influence to swing against procurement and other times means that the budget owners know they are not getting the most for their dollars. Guess what? IT IS NOT YOUR MONEY. Period. We all bristle at the idea of someone peeking over our shoulder as we work. It stinks. But when we take actions on behalf of other individuals or large organizations we should welcome the cleansing ‘sunlight’ brought by transparency and oversight. The fact of the matter is, pushback should be interpreted by procurement as a reason to dig in. We know when something fishy is going on. The fact that you play golf with the CEO or hold sway with someone on the board is not a defense against negligent allocation of company resources.


I’m #SorryNotSorry that switching suppliers sucks.

A core principle at the heart of the sourcing process is that once the requirements are finalized and the suppliers are invited, a process is set in motion that may result in absolutely anyone winning the contract. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, but that is the premise procurement should be operating under. Stakeholders often root for their incumbent supplier to emerge as the right decision – confirming that they knew exactly what they were doing even without procurement’s help. But when that’s not the case, even procurement isn’t always happy. Switching suppliers is a lot of work and generally kicks up dust internally. No one really likes it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do – and as we’ve already established. It’s not your money.

2017 is quickly winding down, and 2018 will be here before we know it. Maybe 12 months from now the words we read in procurement articles will include influence, correction, drive, boldness, unapologetic, and governance. But you didn’t hear it from me. I’m a ‘good’ procurement professional…

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