What does Procurement Process and Farming Have in Common?

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Process and Farming Common Areas


Using farming analogies and finding common ground to improve procurement process, systems and methods. Read More

What does Procurement Process and Farming Have in Common?

What do procurement process and methods have in common with farming?

For me, procurement often reminds me of farming – I see many areas of common ground.

In my life I have always had a connection with farming somehow.  As a small child, we owned a lifestyle farm.

We had a lifestyle! We had no electricity, it had an outside toilet and we used candles and lanterns at night.

I have seen farming success and I have seen failure in farming.

Procurement, just like farming, requires hard work and one sees both success and failure.

What are the 6 things that procurement process and farming have in common?

  1. You require a long term vision, strategy and plan with the ability to adapt and be agile.
  2. Simplicity rules – simple, purposeful systems and processes make it easy for those requiring the service of procurement to use the systems and processes.
  3. The right technology pays for itself – many times over;
  4. By including key business partners in the process, you improve business sustainability and minimise supply chain disruptions
  5. Mentoring those who are in procurement and have to work with procurement reduces red tape and issues along the way – learning from the experience and lessons available
  6. It takes courage to dare to be different and do procurement differently, but only by trying out different ways will we know if the old, traditional ways are still the best.

Procurement and Farming – how do we make the connection?

1. A Long Term Vision, Strategy and Planning.

Although in farming you have to learn to deal with nature and what nature decides to deal to you, you still need to know:

  • why you are farming,
  • where you want to get to and
  • have a plan as to how you will get there.

Over time, you adapt and change but you always need to have that long term view and strategy.

Farmers know:

  • about rotating crops and nurturing the soil in order to get the best results;
  • that notwithstanding the best plan, there are factors that you cannot control.

You cannot control the weather or what mother nature sends your way.

Lesson #1: Adapt and Be Agile

Same in Procurement – some things cannot be controlled and stuff happens.

You adapt and your processes must adapt too.

In procurement we often work reactively.

When you work in an organisation where you have to react all the time, it is  hard to be proactive, have the time to plan and know where we would like to go.

“Life on a farm is a school of patience; you can’t hurry the crops or make an ox in two days.”

Henri Alain Liogier

However, making the time to understand your why and decide where you want to go, you will be able to plan.

Being proactive allows you to:

  • move from a position of being pulled
  • to a position of pushing business towards value for money and finding innovation; and
  • with the right systems, procurement processes and technology you improve your ability to learn and adapt.
Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement and Farming Liogier Quote

Plans will adapt as we go along.

But most important we need to have a long term vision and strategy as this provides the roadmap for success.

2. Without the right systems of work, you will not get far

Owning a farm in itself does create a harvest.

You can own a huge farm but without:

  • the right people,
  • equipment,
  • technology,
  • cashflow and
  • partners

you will not be able to turn your farm into more than a veggie patch.

Lesson #2: Simplicity removes confusion

Even when you have all the right systems of work, you will face interesting challenges.  Therefore you need people and partners with the right attitude and aptitude, who will be taking the journey with you. Those who will focus on removing confusion and red tape and can focus on outcomes instead of tick boxes.

Procurement can become very transactional rather than outcomes focused.

No, it is easier said than done to move from transactional focus to a outcomes or results based focus.  Especially when we don’t provide the right training and mentoring and even worse not the right systems.

When we make it hard to achieve an outcome, it is impossible to expect great results.

The leaders within an organisation requiring the services should learn to empower rather than enslave procurement.

3. Technology does make a difference

When I first arrived in Australia, I lived in a very small town.

This was an interesting farming area.  One farm and farmer stood out head and shoulders above everyone else. He was young and had not been a farmer as long as the others; many of the original farmers had to clear the bushland before they could even think of farming. The young farmer was the first to plant and the first to harvest.  His crops were always better than the other farms, even in the times when it was too wet or too dry. He maximised his harvest by using the latest technology – with his technology he did not guess what to harvest, he optimised his harvest.  The young farmer achieved results as he   used the right technology.  The technology paid for itself.  It even allowed him to expand his farming activities.

Lesson #3: Technology should pay for itself

Procurement is an area where we cannot afford to go manual and focus on transactions rather than outcomes – nor continue to focus on tasks that can be automated and require no discretion or assessment.

It is no different to trying to plant 1000 hectares by hand with only a fork.  It is an absolute waste of time. Unnecessary transactions limit procurement’s ability to find opportunities and provide a value for money service. Resourcing and technology  however often where business sacrifice capital.

The right technology pays for itself.

The next time a budget cut impacts on the improvement of a procure to pay system, think of procurement and farming and keep in mind:

you reap what you sow.

4. You can milk a cow dry but you cannot milk a dry cow

Even in boom times there is a huge push for procurement to find more and more cost savings.

Often these initiatives are very short term focused and has to be done in an aggressive manner.

The push drives no further than today’s survival and fails to consider what happens to our business partners.

When some of my clients tell me that they have had a third letter to ask for yet another 15% cost cut, it makes me wonder:

How anyone can possibly cut this much more from their price and survive?

Lesson #4: Value Key Business Partners

Coming back to having a strategy and a plan. Procurement has the opportunity to:

  • work with their key business partners to find innovative solutions along the journey, and
  • push towards innovation rather than pull away because of the declining markets.

Did you know?

You can increase a cow’s milk production by increasing the milking time?

It is possible.

You will get more milk because the cow’s brain will look for ways to produce more milk, but it gets to a tipping point where you will milk the cow until it is dry.

Once the cow is dry, you will not get it to produce milk again. A more manageable strategy is to increase the milk production but also invest in getting more cows.

Economy of scale.

Same goes for procurement.

Asking for repeated cost cuts over time, is really only trying to milk a dry cow.

5.You may have to make hay while the sun is shining

A wise farmer will inspect his crops regularly and learn from doing this. My friend’s dad owns a wheat farm. He regularly checks his crop throughout the season.

One weekend they went away and guess what?

This particular Saturday morning, they had an unseasonably cold morning.

A few weeks later  he realised that the wheat had not started to make heads, the frost damaged the growth cycle. The crop was green but there was no wheat.

He called his neighbours but since the crops were looking nice and green, no-one really thought there was an issue.

However my friend’s father decided that too much was at stake immediately started making hay.

The rest of the community decided to wait and that year, it was a failure.

Making hay was not as great as having a bumper crop but it allowed them to recover the cost of planting at least.  It was a very brave thing to do when the rest of the community decided not to harvest.

Lesson #5: Value Mentoring and the Value of Experience

In procurement we have to find ways to make hay while the sun is shining.  Sometimes, we have to admit that things are not working.

Too often do we keep ploughing on with a contract that is not working whilst we are better off to change course and cut our losses.

Experience is not only picking the issue but finding a way to make the issue work for you.

To me the main cause in procurement comes through a lack of mentoring procurement leaders, failing to recognise the importance of #procurementintelligence and a very narrow view of business.

We need to mentor more procurement leaders in order to be able to make hay while the sun is shining.

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Process and Farming Jordaan Experience

6. Knowing when being different, makes a difference

The young farmer was different to the other farmers.  We always use to joke that in this particular community you were only regarded as a local when you have lived there for 20 years.  So really only the original farmers classified as  locals.

The locals had great equipment, red shiny toys but they still used the same old farming techniques.

The young farmer not only used technology, shiny toys with GPS and learned about weather patterns, but he farmed differently.

Once the harvest was off, he did not allow the livestock to graze in the paddock and chew up the stalks and stems left over from the harvest.  Neither did he really work these back into the soil.

No, he left the stalks and roots because when he next planted, these little stalks and stems acted as his natural irrigation and let the rain water soak  into the soil.

He planted early and harvested early.  No-one else really did it.

His crops were amazing because he dared to be different. He used different systems and processes.

Procurement Lesson #6: Dare to be Different

In procurement, we fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing. It is daunting to be different.

We look to find value for money solutions that are total cost of ownership solutions.

Total cost of ownership solutions focus on finding the right like-minded partners to work with to find innovation or solutions as part of a long term journey.  I focused on total cost of ownership solutions, long before the pull came from the business to find cost savings.

In order to be different, procurement has to remain agile, dynamic and have the ability to transform.

I prefer to be the disrupter rather than be disrupted – that is why I like working with procurement managers who are  disrupters rather than be disrupted.

Procurement Methods and Farming

Procurement process and methods and farming have many more things in common. However, the areas mentioned above are the key areas where we focus on improving teams and procurement leaders.

Success requires resilient professionals with the right attitude and aptitude.


Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Einstein Quote

Procurement Process and Farming

Procurement process and methods and farming have many more things in common. However, the areas mentioned above are the key areas where we focus on improving teams and procurement leaders.

Success requires resilient professionals with the right attitude and aptitude.

It requires procurement leaders who have not only the ability to spot the change but lead the change.

Procurement is a journey that is not for the faint hearted.

We cannot hurry the crop or make an ox in two days.

But we can apply the right procurement process and methods to ensure that we fulfil our core requirement:

provide a service to our customers.

When we work with your team, we focus on service delivery and achieving outcomes.

How is your procurement team performing?

Leaving you with this quote from Albert Einstein:

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

About the Author:

Celia Jordaan has more than 30 years international and corporate experience and worked in the areas of procurement, tenders, supply chain, contract management, law and risk. She works with business of all sizes and industries, procurement leaders and teams to develop and implement strategies to boost business performance, make tendering easy and improve bottom line performance.

To learn more about Celia Jordaan, please click here.

For more information on how we can assist your procurement team, your business with tendering or strategic business development and planning, please send us an email today.

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Advice and Tendering Solutions Celia Jordaan

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