Sparring partners in procurement & supply chain management: impulses, feedback, rapid successes

Short reaction times and quick decisions are success factors for competitive advantages. Of course, this requires a „lean“ organization in which reliable arguments and solutions can be generated even within short periods of time. For procurement managers this means: getting the team fit, strategic decisions for a new orientation, change, selection of adequate tools, marketing of the procurement or supply chain organization and its added value … A potpourri of challenges.

Not only during the first 100 days in a new position, but also as an established procurement manager it is helpful to play through all scenarios with a sparring partner in close exchange. The bird’s eye view allows a broader overview and thus new starting points. The aim is to be able to initiate well-founded measures within a short period of time.

Advisory – The procedure

A sparring partner – or business advisor – bundles coaching and consulting approaches. He supports the manager directly and practically in his daily work, on a regular basis and/or as required. A recurring calendar appointment (recommendation: jour fixe once a week) offers the opportunity to exchange information on upcoming decisions and outside of larger (singular) consulting projects. The manager immediately receives impulses and feedback. He can ask questions, discuss alternatives and discuss trends.


  • How do we arrive at a vision and then implement it?
  • What goals do I set for operational and strategic purchasing?
  • How can we increase internal customer satisfaction?
  • How can cost targets be achieved?
  • Do we have the right key figures?
  • How can I make the performance of my supply chain department transparent?
  • What specifications can I give for material group management and supplier management?
  • In which areas do we urgently need to make technical improvements?
  • What are the pitfalls of (our) digitization project?
  • How/what can I delegate better?
  • How can I better position myself?
  • How do I deal with blockades/blockers?

Advisory is an approach that sales managers, top managers, board members, individual politicians and governments have been using for a long time. Consultants, spin doctors and marketing specialists ensure the exchange and, in special cases, the targeted positioning of people and content.

Creating added value through advisory

Procurement and supply chain, too, should secure intelligent expertise by exchanging ideas with external experts. Sparring means not having to „invent“ everything yourself. Benchmarking with other managers is advisable, but only offers one side of the coin. The comparison of figures, data and facts usually stops at the implementation problem. From this point on, everyone has to find their own way. This often leads to uncertainty and delays.

Independent advisory boards and sparring partners for procurement and supply chain managers are still largely new territory in the DACH region. This can therefore generate a competitive advantage. Those managers benefit from the close exchange without having to apply for or argue in favor of a complex consulting project. The core tasks of a manager are rarely the focus of classical consulting projects anyway. But it is precisely here that it is important to free up free space and capacities, which then benefit medium- to long-term strategies. Selective support creates a healthy balance within reasonable periods of time.


Gregor van Ackeren

Managing Director, ADCONIA GmbH (Oberhausen)

Oliver Kreienbrink

Managing Director, ADCONIA GmbH (Oberhausen)