At an interview for the position of a category manager, Ms. Paul, the Vice President of the company asked Mr. Simmons, the interviewee, “So what are your thoughts on traditional sourcing as a means for reaching a company’s business goals?” “I think conservative approach is just good but not enough. I am of the belief that category managers need skills that exceed traditional practices and add more value to procurement activities with a mindset that is risk-ready and finance-savvy”, answered Mr. Simmons. “I am glad you said so. So what are those skills? Can you elaborate them?” “Sure, Ms. Paul.”
Managing Suppliers is one of the most important skills for a category manager. It is on a category manager to ensure flow of products/services is unhindered. He or she should be a part of the mandatory supplier due diligence procedure that checks if a supplier has all required industry certifications and financial viability to sustain a business. Without a strong foothold in supplier management, a category manager will fail his organization leading to a compromise in its end product. .
Commercial Awareness is necessary for a category manager to be able to negotiate commercially successful deals with suppliers. It requires a category manager to take understand maverick spend, pricing models and variables, investment outcomes, and other procurement related risks. Although it is the legal team that approves a contract to execution, category managers are in charge of ensuring if all aspects of business commercials have been covered. Besides this, a category manager knows that while pricing is a key determinant, it is not all of it. There are other commercial aspects that need to be considered while finalizing a deal. .
Project Management entails programme and stakeholder management skills. For category managers it is necessary to be able to manage complex projects involving multiple stakeholders with varying degree of expectations, cross-functional working style, and diverse cultural backgrounds. Project management, needless to say, also implies completion of projects within stipulated time and budget. Category managers with project management skills win the trust of its people and make desirable business impact. .
Domain Knowledge is a key requisite to the making of a successful category manager. Often a misconception rules this aspect that any person with a sourcing background is capable of sourcing for a particular category. If a company has to be strategic about its procurement and take it to the next level, then its category managers must know about each category thoroughly to be able to add actual business value. This in-depth domain knowledge encourages insightful discussions with stakeholders and propels trust. .
Zero-Based Budgeting is a method of budgeting in which for each new period, its expenses need to be justified. Category managers, across organization, must initiate discussions with business stakeholders asking them for justifying their needs with logical reasoning. Instead of allocating budget before real estimation of costs, a need based budget allocation helps company be more strategic about its investments. .
Digital Nativity is attracting category managers for good. With the world gone digital and businesses leveraging it for global foothold, category managers can harness the digital to the advantage of procurement functions. Category analytics is one such aspect that can be exploited thoroughly to the interest of better procurement. .
What do you think of Mr. Simmons now? Isn’t he an ideal category manager that you would like to hire for your organization? And if you are wondering if he finally bagged the opportunity, I leave it for you to guess. Let me know comments if you think by adopting the aforesaid skills, if category managers can actually become a trusted expert and advisor to his/her business.