Print Share Home / Publications & News / ISM Conference Proceedings

Critical Issues and Core Skills for the 'Globally Competent' Purchaser


Andrea Charman
Andrea Charman, Executive Director, CTS Inc, New York, NY 10017, 212-661-5682,
Agar Burton
Agar Burton, President, CTS Inc, New York, NY 10017, 212-661-5682,

84th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1999 

Abstract. Relentless development and change in the world business arena present an on-going challenge to all purchasing professionals. Just as corporations, and the markets that host them, are involved in an almost constant dynamic of change - at what appears to be an ever-increasing pace - so are we driven by the need to continually upgrade our knowledge and skills to keep pace. Our professional survival depends on an ability to understand, analyze, and manage the critical issues in successful world-class purchasing, thereby maximizing performance. In order to manage these identified critical issues, we need specific core competencies. We need a specific set of skills. In a business environment where on-going technological advancement is the key driver of structural change and global involvement, the skills challenge is immense.

This session addresses the challenge. It does so in two distinct ways. First, it looks at the critical issues in achieving optimal purchasing with bottom line benefits, in a business environment with an inescapable global context. It then reviews a repertoire of skills fundamental to global purchasing competence. In short, what exactly constitutes a globally competent purchaser? What are the critical knowledge areas, the hard and soft skill thresholds? How are these best acquired? The session provides participants with clear, concise, actionable deliverables.

Critical Issues in Purchasing and for Purchasers Today. The session opens with an update on the changing face of procurement, the potential impact the purchasing revolution can have to the corporate bottom line, together with the barriers companies face in escaping the old paradigm. As management and business professionals seek new organizational structures to meet the realities of an increasingly virtual business environment, critical issues in leveraging the power of purchasing emerge. With the goal of value maximization in this changing landscape, companies are rethinking how their supply chains operate. Total supply chain integration with a global scope is the vision. The presentation's review of the critical issues in this process leads the session to address the need to redefine the enterprise towards structural and behavior change.

Core Skills of a Globally Competent Purchaser. In this environment savvy purchasers will need to reassess their core skills. They will need to take a proactive attitude to meet the challenge. They will need a flexible mindset in an environment where the continual updating of skills is essential. The advice of China's Chairman Mao seems appropriate:

" When you feel the winds of change, build not a windbreak but a windmill."

In short, as procurement, an integral part of the new product development process, spearheads the structuring of external relationships, traditional skills associated with purchasing will not suffice. New systems, new technology, new perspectives will drive the need for investment in training and development to ensure practitioners of the requisite skill base. The increasing use of 'global' suppliers - now standing at an average of around 20% in North American companies - will only add to the need for additional skills. The session explores this need, identifying the key roles involved in global competency. Concrete examples are used to anchor the session in workplace reality. Relationship builder, ethical/standards model, strategy integrator, intercultural negotiator, pan-organization team player, change champion are some of the roles considered.

Objectives and Outputs. The session's objective is to present a concise overview of the redesign of the organization in today's global arena in the context of the procurement function. Once this is in place, a brief analysis of critical issues and the concomitant core skills for purchasers, will allow session participants to take away a comprehensive list of what is required to ensure global competency - to remain in the game.

Back to Top