Sparring partner

Sparring partner in procurement: 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 robust arguments and solutions can be generated even within tight timeframes. For procurement managers, this means: getting the team fit, strategic decisions for a realignment, change, selection of adequate tools, marketing of the procurement organization and its added value … A potpourri of challenges that the procurement manager can best master if he plays through scenarios with a sparring partner in close exchange. The bird’s eye view allows a broader overview and thus new starting points. The goal is to be able to initiate well-founded measures within a short period of time.

The procedure

A sparring partner – or business advisor – bundles coaching and consulting approaches. He or she supports the purchasing manager directly and practically in his or her day-to-day work, and does so on a regular basis and/or as needed. A recurring calendar appointment (recommendation: once a week) offers the opportunity for an exchange about upcoming decisions, and also outside of larger (singular) consulting projects. The purchasing manager receives immediate impulses and feedback. He can ask questions, discuss alternatives, and discuss trends.


  • How can cost targets be achieved?
  • Do we have the right key figures?
  • How can I make the performance of my department transparent?
  • What targets do I set for operational and strategic procurement?
  • What targets can I set for material group management and supplier management?
  • In which areas do we urgently need to make technical improvements?
  • How can we increase internal customer satisfaction?
  • What are the stumbling blocks in (our) digitization project?
  • How do we get to a vision and then to implementation?
  • How/what can I delegate better?
  • How can I position myself better?
  • How do I deal with blockades/blockers?

Advisory is an approach that sales managers, top managers, boards of directors, individual politicians and even governments have been using for a long time. Consultants, spin doctors and marketing specialists provide exchanges and, in special cases, targeted positioning of people and content.

Procurement should also secure intelligent expertise through exchange with external parties. Sparring means not having to „invent“ everything yourself. Four hours of exchange per month with an external purchasing professional provide security in action. Benchmarking with other purchasing managers is advisable, but offers only 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 purchasing managers are still largely uncharted territory in the DACH region. This is where a competitive edge can be generated. Purchasing managers benefit from a close exchange without having to apply for or argue for a complex consulting project. Core tasks of a purchasing manager are rarely the main focus of classic consulting projects anyway. But it is precisely here that it is important to free up space and capacities that can then benefit medium to long-term strategies. Selective support creates a healthy balance within reasonable timeframes.


Gregor van Ackeren
Oliver Kreienbrink
Managing Director ADCONIA GmbH