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How To Stand Up a Procurement Department of One – The Lone Wolves

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Procurement practitioners across the globe are looking into the best ways to set up procurement departments, even procurement departments of one, and we’re here to help.

We talked to our friend and expert, Paul Nilsen, to help us get to the bottom of how to stand up a procurement department in normal circumstances versus when you’re a procurement function of just one person. We’ll discuss the key differences and explain how to excel at being a lone wolf.


How To Stand Up a Procurement Department in Normal Circumstances


Before we dive in, here’s a summary of this complex process. Typically, you would have an internal team to lean on. You would follow a protocol and fill roles, identify objectives, identify stakeholders, and set up purchasing and strategic sourcing contracts, among many other vital things.

Among these roles would be five main areas of responsibility, with each relying on the others to keep everything running smoothly:

Buyer: Responsibilities include selecting a suitable vendor(s) (a list that will be sent to the manager for approval) and issuing purchasing orders.

Procuring Officer: Responsible for being the designated liaison that handles all direct communication and negotiations with vendors. Common daily tasks for this role would include sending out requests for proposals (RFPs) to approved vendors and often helping in some duty sharing with the buyer, such as submitting the approved vendors list for approval.

Procurement Manager: They are responsible for all supervisory and managerial oversight/tasks. These individuals are the leaders responsible for spearheading the purchasing division, including the buyer and procuring officer roles.

Purchasing Director: This differs from the buyer since this role focuses more on driving the long-term direction of strategic procurement processes and services. This role would deal more with high-value contract negotiations, such as those with the government or other federal bids.

Purchasing Analyst: Responsible for tracking and informing upper management about how things are going, usually through detailed procurement reports. Similar to the progress reports you used to get in grade school, but with much higher stakes and far more in-depth details (spending activity, compliance, etc.)


How To Stand Up a Procurement Department of One


But what happens when there isn’t an already synced internal team set up and smoothly running? We reached out to an expert in this scenario, Procurement & Expense Management executive Paul Nilsen, to gather insights on how to stand up a procurement department of one starting from scratch.

Nilsen explained that much of the recipe for success as a lone wolf involves action, “A long time ago, I learned that it’s not a matter of avoiding failing. Fail quick and continue acting.” Procurement departments of one have to move quickly, and continue moving at all times. But, individuals still must follow process like a team would.

There is still the importance of acting in specific steps. Lone wolves must learn to bring vendor partners in quickly and put them in place to solve problems. Nilsen encouraged us to ask ourselves: “How many experts can I put in place ASAP to solve many problems?”


Top 3 Tips for Lone Wolves


Lone wolves, or procurement teams of one, need to remember three core takeaways.


1. Take Inventory of What You Need To Accomplish


Objective number one, take inventory. Decide what you want to accomplish in the first year. The first six months will be especially critical times to look for key wins and build trust with stakeholders. Focus on relationships right out of the gate, because supplier relationships and internal relationships play a huge role when you’re alone.


2. Figure Out How To Do More With Less


The second tip is figure out how to do more with less. Analyze your process for pain points and figure out where to focus spend. Most procurement professionals know well how to do that, but it is even more important to take an analytical look at this when you’re alone.


3. Automate Your Tasks

Multitasking and organization is a must. Automation is the key to a successful solo operator.

So, what’s the best way to go about it? Do an 80/20 analysis of your own time and figure out how to get very efficient with it. That frees up more time with stakeholders and the C-suite.

Are you ready to launch your procurement department of one journey? We’re here to help. Join the Foundry to connect with other lone wolves.

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