A leading procurement expert has recently suggested that procurement staff should move between different procurement roles within an organisation on a regular basis to ensure seamless succession planning.

There are occasions in which procurement recruitment firms are faced with extraordinarily difficult tasks, such as rapidly identifying suitably senior candidates to fill a top procurement position that has suddenly become vacant.

These scenarios may be relatively infrequent, but they’re far from unheard of, as the recent departure of Malcolm Harrison as CEO of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) exemplifies. Mr Harrison left his prestigious procurement role swiftly to become head of the Chartered Institute for Procurement and Supply (CIPS), an opening that arose after the unforeseen, sudden death of the CCS’s former boss, David Noble, last year.

Veteran procurement consultant and CPO Peter Smith believes that procurement succession planning requires careful, pre-emptive thought to avoid crisis at times such as these. In a large organisation, for instance, how can one ensure that there are enough category managers available for promotion if the unexpected happens?

Smith believes that the solution resides in preparing for these eventualities well in advance, being clear about the skills that senior category managers need which junior counterparts don’t require. The key, he suggests, is to begin adequate in-role training for prospective high-fliers so that, when the time comes, they are already equipped with appropriate skills to shoulder the promotion.

Smith writes: “You can do that by perhaps using more of a category team approach across a wider span of categories, rather than one-man or woman band category leads.  Or you can use analysts, graduate trainees or similar in supporting roles, so they have at least a working knowledge of what is going on.”

Finally, he advocates rotating staff on a 3-year basis to build more resilient organisations peopled with procurement pros who have broad experience in the event of a sudden requirement. Procurement jobs have always been interesting. They could be on the verge of becoming highly mobile, too.

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