How did you get into this field – was it purposeful or by accident?
I guess there are two things that came together for me in sourcing: The first is negotiation, and my work at the Harvard Negotiation Project and since on what it takes for an organization to get more value across its broad portfolio of negotiations. The second is relationship management and remediation, by way of lots of work advising both buyers and sellers in large outsourcing arrangements. I’ve learned from many clients and partners what it takes to negotiate and then manage effective relationships between two complex organizations.
In what ways do you feel your professional contributions have influenced or transformed the industry? (This could be a new approach or methodology, the application of an existing technology in a completely new way, significant thought leadership or even a career of inspiring others.)
Following on the theme above, I think the work I and others have done on how you develop negotiation strategy, how you prepare effectively, how you conduct a negotiation, and how you learn (and help others learn) has contributed to where we as an industry are today. My books (Getting Ready to Negotiate, with Roger Fisher and The Point of the Deal, with Mark Gordon) and articles in the Harvard Business Review and elsewhere, are widely read and quoted.
Similarly, on the relationship management side, our team at Vantage conducted and published some of the earliest research on the value of effective governance and relationship management in outsourcing agreements and drove a number of industry efforts to improve how those relationships are managed.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the industry today and what should be done to solve them?
Sourcing and procurement are facing huge challenges driven in large part by changes in:
- what the business needs from us (e.g., sourcing innovation, not just goods and services; leveraging suppliers to gain competitive advantage, not just reduce COGS; etc.),
- what can be cost-effectively outsourced and/or automated, and
- how we use data and AI to help us make better decisions.
The industry is just starting to recognize the implications of those changes for the competencies we need in sourcing; valuing those competencies (and our people) sufficiently to invest in them is going to have to be front and center on every CPO’s agenda.
Looking at the whole of your career, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Over the course of about 30 years doing this, I’ve had the privilege learn from and to work with some terrific people on really challenging problems, dealing with everything from remediating damaged partnerships to bring to market life-saving drugs, to reducing and ending armed conflicts. I had lots of help in every one of those situations, and what I am most proud of is contributing to building a team and a network of folks who can be thoughtful, collaborative, and adept at solving problems with others.
What three words do you feel your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
“Calm” is easy to say.
“Insightful” is maybe more aspirational on my part.
“Effective” would be nice too.
What advice do you have for those who are new to the profession or considering entering the industry?
Sourcing has to become much more about solving problems with our suppliers than about squeezing them. Work with your stakeholders to define more ambitious problems to solve, and work with your suppliers to help them bring their full set of capabilities to the table.