Expanding your procurement skills

“If you look at the letter T, you can consider the vertical line as the technical skills. But, to truly be complete, the letter needs the horizontal line and that’s the supplemental skills.”


Crossing Your Ts

What makes a top performing procurement professional? Is it the professional certification, college degree, or reputation as a great negotiator? While each of these things is important, it is really the supplemental skills that can make us rise above the rest. Here’s what I mean.

The T-Shaped Employee

A few years ago, I started learning more about the T-shaped worker. At first, I had no idea what this meant, but I soon began to see how important it was. If you look at the letter T, you can consider the vertical line as the technical skills. But, to truly be complete, the letter needs the horizontal line and that’s the supplemental skills.

Through a human resources lens, it is the individual that possesses deep knowledge and skills in a particular area. But, if they want to excel and collaborate with other disciplines, they will build their general knowledge in those areas. They don’t have to be an expert in every discipline, but should know enough to effectively talk the talk.

While this can apply to any area or profession, let’s talk about it in the context of public procurement. The technical skills (vertical part of T) can include knowledge of procurement regulations, experience in complex RFP development, and mastery of electronic procurement systems.

The supplemental skills (the horizontal part of T) might include knowledge of contract law principles, financial reporting, and effective communications. These will no doubt come in handy when working collaboratively with departments that specialize is those other areas.

The icing on the cake for a procurement professional would be the development of soft skills like interpersonal relations, teamwork, and active listening. Take a look at recent studies about what employers are looking for in procurement and supply chain professionals. You will see many of these skills.

While NIGP, Institute for Public Procurement, touts the importance of negotiation skills. They also note that flexibility and sensitivity are differentiating skills that elevate the value of procurement professionals. Our colleagues at the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) are stressing the importance of next generation procurement skills, such as innovation and communication.

I am certainly not diminishing the value of traditional procurement skills such as specification writing, supplier management, or RFP development. My point is that if we are serious about being the best professionals we can be, we should build upon these skills. As a hiring manager I have always hired for soft skills and talent and was then able to develop their technical skills. Give me a professional with great people skills and I can teach them the local procurement code.

Want to rise to the top for your organization? Make sure and cross your Ts.

About the Author

Darin L. Matthews, IGP, CPPO, CPSM, founder of the UCSC Silicon Valley Extension Procurement and Supply Chain Management certificate program, wrote this article for Government Procurement Magazine (February/March 2020). Matthews is the director of west coast operations for Negometrix, an international digital procurement company. He has extensive management experience, speaks throughout the world on procurement issues, and has published several book and numerous articles on the subject of procurement and supply chain management.

This article was reposted with permission.

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