If you’re in Procurement and you haven’t heard of The Art of Procurement Podcast, it’s a pretty good bet you will soon. Started in 2015, this Podcast has already made a splash in the Procurement world by offering informative interviews with Procurement luminaries on a variety of subjects in the field – from a more personal, fresh and dare we say it, interesting angle than the bland coverage Procurement often receives.
Everyone knows that Procurement is changing. And Art of Procurement host and founder Philip Ideson is on a mission to both document that change and to be advocate for wider Procurement community. He’s on a mission to “elevate” the role of Procurement beyond its transactional past, and to help the industry realize that in the age of white collar automation, Procurement needs to continue to adapt – as it has in the past several years, becoming more strategic and valuable — or perish.
It’s exciting stuff. So we interviewed Philip Ideson about why he started the podcast and what he’s learned about Procurement from interviewing the best in the business.
Could you tell us a little bit about your background in Procurement and what led you to start the Art of Procurement podcast?
“I’m fortunate in that I have a long and varied background in Procurement,” Ideson says. “It was the first job I did out of college. I’d never even heard of it before and I enjoyed it so much I never left. I’ve worked for companies like Chiquita, Ford, and Pfizer in a big variety of roles covering the entire value proposition from being a junior buyer all the way up to heading Procurement for an international division of a Financial Services firm.”
“You think in your first role your responsibilities will be grabbing coffee for the boss, data analysis, menial work as you learn the ropes. In my first job I had an opportunity to be responsible for $25 million US, which was more responsibility than I thought I’d have in my first role. I was motivated by the chance to speak with suppliers from around the world. I saw the impact that I had on the business, whether it was saving money or bringing supplier innovation to a product. In some other functions it’s harder to make that correlation.”
“I’d been on the edge of trying to go and set up my own business within Procurement, always waiting for the right moment. But the right moment never comes. I was listening to a lot of podcasts in the entrepreneurial space, which was educational but also helped me psychologically make the leap. I got the bug of listening to podcasts, and realized there wasn’t anything in the Procurement space. Nothing on a consistent basis. I thought, let’s do something for Procurement. Let’s try and bring the thought leadership that exists in our space to as many people as possible.”
What role do you see for the Art of Procurement podcast?
“I love Procurement,” says Ideson. “But I think we’re at a bit of a crossroads in terms of what the future looks like. I think we’re at the moment where technology has the potential to automate what we do, and if we don’t stand up and be more vocal about how we provide value and how we do it in different ways, there’s a risk of us becoming irrelevant.”
“What I want to do with the Art of Procurement is create a mechanism to connect people who have vision about the role of Procurement, who have been successful in executing great strategies, with the rest of the community. So I talk about elevating the role of Procurement. I want the podcast to be a platform for that, and there’s a huge amount of potential there.”
You’ve already racked up quite a few interesting interviews. Could you tell us a little bit about your future plans for the podcast?
“I think that I’ve been fortunate so far in terms of the number and quality of guests who have agreed to be on it,” says Ideson. “The first focus is to continue sharing great content – to bring guests, insight and thought leadership to my audience. There’s an opportunity for more shows, say around a specific topic, say on a region – for example, Procurement in the Middle East might be very different from in the U.S. I’d like to explore Public Procurement vs. the Private Sector. Ultimately the Art of Procurement is more than a podcast. It’s a way of helping us all teach each-other, if you will. A way of sharing experience.”
What have you learned creating a high-impact podcast for the Procurement profession?
“One of the great things about the show is, when I set it up, I thought nobody would listen,” says Ideson. “I saw it as a way to ask questions about what I wanted to know in Procurement. It helps me in my education to have conversations and crystalize my thinking around certain topics. When I step back and think about it, I needed to have these conversations for a few things to hit me in the face:
“The first one is about alignment. As practitioners and service providers, we so often get focused on objectives and deliverables, whether it’s cost savings or meeting certain KPIs, but we sometimes forget to step back and think about what the client wants – either the business or internal stakeholders. I think it’s realizing our objectives aren’t aligned with each-other. When that’s the case, it will never end pretty. We need to change our focus so that everything we do is making our stakeholders be the best at what they do. That’s what my job is. It’s not to meet some savings target that might be irrelevant to them.”
“The second one is about skillsets. It’s clear that the value that traditional Procurement skills carry is diminishing. I don’t want to say that they’re irrelevant, because they’re not. But when you look at where we’re going, and when you start to become more of a commercial and business partner who can think about how to increase revenue and not just shave off the bottom line, it involves different skills. We need to think about our business acumen, and ability to win influence. It’s kind of an art – bringing the supply bases in line with the business that adds value to the relationship, not only on the cost side of things. We need to focus less on the technical skills and more on the soft skills. CPOs are going to hire for the soft skills and train the Procurement skills.”
The other is something that a number of guests have talked to me about both on mic and off mic. We talk about these changes and about how ‘we want a seat at the table but we never get invited.’ What I’ve learned is that we shouldn’t wait to be invited. We just have to stand up and take it. We’ve got to drive people’s understanding of what Procurement does instead of waiting for people to recognize us.”
A big thank you to Philip Ideson for the interview, and we encourage any Procurement professional, whether aspiring or established, to check out his excellent podcast The Art of Procurement!
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