Main content

Now is the time for procurement to step up and lead

Rob Bernshteyn Profile picture for user Rob Bernshteyn April 16, 2020
Never has the strategic role of the procurement community been more essential than at this time, writes Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn

Business man silhouette looks at bright light bulb in wall © ra2 studio - shutterstock
(© ra2 studio - shutterstock)

When I posted a call to action for procurement professionals on LinkedIn, I didn't expect such a vocal response. I was inspired to see readers recognize that now is the time for procurement to step up — and redefine its impact.

"No one wants a burning platform, but like it or not, it is on fire," said one LinkedIn reader. "This is the time for procurement to show its mettle and what it can do to help the company and the community," said another. If procurement focuses solely on cost control right now, we're going to come up short.

As another reader told me: "The impact Covid-19 is having on global supply chains presents a perfect opportunity to step out of the 'Discount Getter' mold and demonstrate the real value of effective procurement." Indeed — but how do you get there?

As I wrote on LinkedIn, no one wanted it to occur under these circumstances, but now it's time for procurement to step up and lead in at least these key areas:

  • Your CEO — She wants to know the company will have the goods and services it needs to maintain the company's business flow, so there won't be a disruption in the ability to serve customers. She wants to know how you will proactively aid the company in mitigating supply-chain risk. She wants to understand the degree of those risks and how they will be avoided with contingency plans. She wants to be able to dynamically re-prioritize all areas of spend in ways that are vital to the business. She needs to lead your company through the storm.
  • Your CFO — He is looking for assistance as he quickly compiles the latest revenue projections and manages the newly appropriated spend-profile for the company. He needs access to the right systems and processes to prevent people from spending more than what these newly defined budgets allow. He wants to be able to push out a revised set of budgets and ensure a more rigorous approval process takes hold. He wants to take advantage of opportunities for rapid renegotiation with suppliers. He wants to look at new short-term contracts to increase flexibility. He wants to be able to dynamically shift spend to new areas of focus. He needs to help your company weather the storm.
  • Your Functional Leaders — They want to optimally manage what they can control. They want to optimize their budgets and have the ability to get quick support in renegotiating contracts and deals for things that might not be as relevant today as they were just a few months ago. From Marketing to Sales to Services to Production to Support, and beyond, they need help in re-prioritizing their spending. They need help in doing their part in helping your company weather the storm.
  • Your Suppliers — They want to understand where your company stands. They need to know about your willingness to continue with anticipated order volumes, and whether you will pay per previously agreed terms. They need to understand how their cash flow will be impacted by their relationship with your company. They need to know what will change and what will not. They need your help in discerning how they can best navigate through the storm.

Please come together as a community

There's arguably never been a more urgent moment for the procurement community to come together, share real-time learning and data through phone calls, conversations, webinars, systems-based bulletin boards and the power of community intelligence.

Many leaders are already working together. They are not only helping their companies but are also collaborating to help the community at large, via timely initiatives such as jointly sourcing much needed safety supplies and equipment for all.

Now, more than ever, is the time for procurement to come forward, take their seat as a strategic business adviser and on-the-ground leader to help navigate through this environment for everyone's benefit. As one of our Coupa followers put it on LinkedIn:

This is truly a watershed moment in our lives, where we could demonstrate the vital role of procurement in serving stakeholders and customers internal as well as external as a partner.


Now's the time to lead. Let's do it. Together.

A grey colored placeholder image