The Brave CPO:
(Buying Magician)

I say ‘Purchasing’ you say ‘Procurement': whats in a name?

Is the purchasing profession intent on contemplating its navel?

It sometimes seems so from the number of times the procurement press raise the debate about what to call ourselves. Procurement Leaders magazine (and the others) have repeatedly used the topic on their blog. In this article and this article, and this article, etc. It seems like a regular topic to fill editorial space, when in fact the purchasing press are as guilty as anybody in using multiple terminology.

Needless to say, I am amongst those who think we have better things to focus on – like adding value. Value is the key, and each company’s value chain is different.

Arguing about Purchasing vrs Procurement does not really add value. What  about other names in common use like, Supply Management or Supply Chain Management and others?

Procurement could rightly be argued to be a part of the supply chain and therefore subservient to it as a function. It depends upon the  focus of the firm. The discussion needs to take place at the firm level and so the debate to standardize terminology across all firms could go on forever – and quite frankly, alienate the profession with stakeholders.

What is important for practitioners, is to understand their role in their firms value chain and to make sure they contribute to it. To obsess about the name this is done under, is not the best way to enhance the status of the profession.

Linked to this argument is, to whom procurement reports?

Again we see significant variation amongst firms. Should we report to the CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, or HR? I have seen them all – and this too, reflects the focus of  the firm and the potential for our profession to add value – and the maturity of the profession in the firm.

A further argument in this debate links the issue of our ‘name’ and ‘role’ together. If we think in terms of value chains where we ‘buy, add  value, and sell’, then we could argue for a ‘commercial function’, with  Procurement – Sales & Marketing, creating an integrated supply chain reporting to the same CXO. A Chief Commercial Officer for example. I have seen this also, and it worked very well. So this raises the possibility of the Commercial function.

In the end, it must be a good strategic fit with the firms value chain and reflect the ability of our profession to add value. This in turn is linked to the level of maturity, % of spend with external suppliers, importance of the supply  chain etc. So the important issue for CPO’s/Heads of function to focus upon, is to build the capability of its  staff to a level where they can make that vital link to the firms strategy and truly add value – under an appropriate name for each firm. With this capability achieved – the name will choose itself and become an irrelevant issue.

If you would like advice on building capability and linking the procurement function to the business strategy to add real value from your procurement, send us an email at

One Response to “I say ‘Purchasing’ you say ‘Procurement': whats in a name?”

  1. Omar Draz Says:

    A rose is a rose by any other name….
    You hit the nail on the head. What’s in a name anyway? If purchasing professionals cannot add tangible value to the company operations, they are just as useless as procurement officers as they would’ve been guilty of nonperformance as purchasing managers. It all boils down to performance. Managing the internal demand for goods & services by our internal customers and maintaining best business relationships with external suppliers to ensure un-interrupted supply line. Salesmen were salesmen before becoming account managers and business development managers. Titles have changed but the expectations remain the same. That being said, some of us would like to report into a CPO (chief procurement officer) rather than reporting to a CFO or any other C-suite executives.

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