Print Share Home / Publications & News / ISM Conference Proceedings

Successful Skills Development for the Purchasing Professional


Phillip D. Aultman
Phillip D. Aultman, Manager Skills Development, Shell Services International, Houston, TX 77002, 713/241-3125,
Daniel D. Currie
Daniel D. Currie, Senior Consultant, Rowe Associates, Inc., North Andover, MA, 281/286-6300,

83rd Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1998 

Purchasings' customers look to our profession more than ever before to bring value to their business through effective management of the supply chain. Continued development and growth of the skills required to deliver this value is a major challenge for the profession. This includes development and management of effective supply strategies, extracting optimal value from supply relationships, and managing total cost of ownership in addition to having a high expectation in our traditional purchasing business skills of forecasting, negotiation, contracting, cost/price analysis, etc.

The Value of Continuous Learning for Purchasing Professionals
Today's competitive environment requires that the Purchasing professional continually strive to acquire new and renew existing skills that are valued by the customer. The intense pressure to continually reduce costs, improve cycle time of the procurement process and improve reliability of operations introduces the need for Purchasing to make a significant shift from a price focus to a cost reduction focus. This involves learning new skills in managing the total supply chain, introducing global sourcing to the supply equation focusing on methods to evaluate and impact the Total Cost of Ownership and managing a new level of supplier relationships.

Aligning Purchasing Products with the Customer's Business Plan
Too often, purchasing training is just another event that an individual participates in where the learning objectives are not well understood. Lack of connection with the customer's Business Plan and Value Drivers typically leads to the individual returning to their work with little incentive to really apply the new learnings obtained in the training. This makes for a very expensive investment if no valuable return is achieved.

Aligning the Purchasing Skills Development Model with the customer's Business Plan and providing the products & services the customer values adds new incentive to the professional to learn new skills and then directly apply this learning to impact the customer's bottom line.

A logical process for determining the valued Purchasing products, outlining individual performance expectations leading to learning needs and the right training programs is depicted in the chart.
(graphic is not available in text-only version of this article)

Establishing the Importance of Skills Development in the Organization
Establishing a strong purpose and direction of the skills development process for Purchasing Professionals is a key ingredient for success. Unfortunately training competes for the professional's valuable time and to make it an important element of their development, the performance expectations in delivering services to customers must be clearly established. An individual who has the incentive to seek new skills and apply them in their work is highly valued by their customers. Clear recognition and rewards for being an aggressive learner and practitioner must be established and implemented.

Purchasing Skills Development Model
An effective Skills Development process for any individual is one of balance across many development areas where acquiring learning facilitates the best delivery of services to customers. This includes not only Purchasing functional skills but other areas such as customer service, communication, project management, marketing, etc. (graphic is not available in text-only version of this article)

Implementing the Skills Development Program
Purchasing skills development is best achieved through "training alliances" with other training professionals to effectively supplement internal training resources. The importance of using trainer resources external to your own business is the value of their learnings and perspective developed across many different industries and customers. Many best practices are introduced to your business through these valuable resources. (graphic is not available in text-only version of this article)

Learnings & Success Stories

  • Align your skills training with products that are valued by your customers and contribute to success of their Value Drivers
  • Ensure a clear training purpose and application expectation for your Purchasing professional
  • Create solid recognition and reward incentives for Purchasing professional regarding skills application in their work
  • Develop effective training programs that deliver high value for your people
  • Create strong "training alliances" with others for training delivery which introduce new concepts and perspectives

Back to Top