Leveraging Procurement Professionals within IT and Telecom Departments

Finding personnel with the perfect fit can be challenging for any department. You can develop a set of requirements and job specific functions, but how do you really determine whether someone is qualified to address and fulfill your actual needs? And for IT and Telecom departments, recruiting can be overly cumbersome. In many cases, companies are more inclined to overly focus on technical skill requirements often leading to the WRONG resource being hired.

For example, I worked with a previously employed telecom carrier account manager who was hired as a telecom analyst. His role was to audit telecom invoices and identify areas for cost savings, optimization, and recommend potential technology upgrades based on specific requirements. This person advertised himself as a telecom guru who understood the market, technology, and supplier service offerings. He passed the interview process by throwing out industry trade verbiage and navigating some technical questions. Unfortunately after less than a week, it became clear the only thing this person knew was the definition of the services his previous employer was selling but not how it applied to business operations or its actual function within the commodity. He could not identify the same technology with an alternate carrier because he only knew the name of the services and products he previously promoted.

Lesson learned and recommended course of action: Consider looking outside the typical technical area of expertise and invest in a more strategic candidate. When hiring for a role within these departments, job postings usually target qualifications with keywords like: Technical support, network designers, engineers, support staff, analysts, IT, telecom background, project manager, security, web development and so on; but what is the underlying need within the department? There will always be a mandate for the technical person(s) who maintains business operations and can quickly assess, navigate, and manage troubleshooting in order to keep the lights on. However, these departments will need management and support staff who:

  • Objectively analyzes business processes
  • Makes recommendations for planning, budgeting, acquiring or implementing systems, and
  • Identifies overall improvements in all areas of department spending

One does not necessarily need to know how to design a network topology, program, or configure a phone system to successfully accomplish these tasks. So, why not challenge the status quo and balance the technical folks with resources who bring a consultative mind set and a different perspective to the team. One place to look when it comes to bolstering your team: Procurement. Procurement professionals can offer a more holistic and strategic approach to Telecom and IT Departments. Their methodology includes building a foundational understanding of the commodity they are sourcing or managing by:

  • Identifying all billing elements being invoiced,
  • Educating themselves of the competitive landscape and what the market is doing,
  • Navigating contractual best practices viable to supporting the need and improving business processes, and
  • Managing overall supplier relationships

The result is being able to speak intelligently about the commodity, identify areas for improvement both financially and operationally, and being able to acknowledge when a more technical resource is needed to support the initiative. Procurement manages and executes sourcing initiatives with both an analytical and tactful approach. The goal is to promote cost savings and procure innovative services to address not only short-term requirements but long-term company objectives.

When reviewing contracts, it is more than a validation of line item costs and basic terms, but a deeper focus on the fine print and overall value adds the supplier can offer. In my example above, the carrier account manager hired would not be able to traverse any alternate proposals, identify erroneous billing errors, suggest contract changes, or offer any insight how to grow the company into the future. Therefore consider posting a job that focuses more on skill sets and keywords including: Analytical, consultative, self-starters, self-managers, collaborative. Take a step back and ask yourself the following: What is the end result I am looking for in this resource request? Does the role really require decades of very specific experience? Or, am I looking for someone with a proven ability to think strategically about my departments operations to fill in the gaps and improve efficiencies?

About the Author:  Leigh Merz is a Consultant for Source One Management Services, LLC with over ten years of spend management experience. Specializing in telecommunications, administrative expenses, and small parcel, Merz helps clients reduce costs through strategic sourcing and expert contract negotiating. Beyond supporting client savings objectives, Merz is go-to resource delivering further value by enhancing supplier relationships and identifying outside the box solutions.