Procurement 101

Agile Procurement: How to Build an Adaptable Supply Chain‍

Reading time:

6 minutes

Written by

Gabriel Swain

Man walking on tightrope to represent the importance of agility in procurement.

Agile procurement is transforming the way businesses approach their supply chain and procurement processes. This strategic approach allows organizations to quickly adapt to market changes, seize new opportunities, and mitigate risks. 

Below, we''' dive into the concept of agile sourcing and procurement, discuss how it differs from traditional procurement, and walk through seven key steps to incorporate agility into your procurement process.

We’ve also created an infographic outlining these seven steps. Download and save the infographic for a quick reference to guide you through the process.

What is Agile Procurement?

It is a flexible, adaptable, and collaborative approach to procurement and supply chain management

By leveraging advanced technologies, fostering strong relationships, and focusing on continuous improvement, agile procurement enables organizations to respond rapidly to market changes, mitigate risks, and capture new opportunities. 

This approach promotes resilience, innovation, and long-term value creation within procurement and supply chain management.

Infographic outlining the seven steps involved in the agile procurement process.

Agile vs. Traditional Procurement

Traditional Procurement

Traditional procurement uses a more rigid, linear approach to managing the sourcing and acquisition of goods and services. It typically relies on long-term contracts, fixed pricing, and a limited focus on building healthy vendor and supplier relationships

In this model, the emphasis is on cost reduction, and procurement decisions are made primarily based on price. As a result, traditional procurement processes can be slow, involving multiple layers of approvals, lengthy negotiations, and infrequent review cycles. 

The resulting lack of flexibility can make it difficult for organizations to respond quickly to changes in the market. This can lead to missed opportunities and inefficient supply chain management.

The Agile Approach

In contrast, taking an agile approach to procurement emphasizes flexibility, adaptability, and collaboration throughout the procurement process. It moves away from solely focusing on cost reduction and instead looks at creating long-term value for the organization. 

Agile procurement is centered around building strong relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders, fostering open communication, and sharing goals and expectations. 

The agile approach promotes continuous improvement. It encourages the use of real-time data, advanced analytics, and innovative technologies to streamline processes and make informed decisions. 

Finally, agility enables organizations to respond rapidly to market changes, capitalize on new opportunities, and effectively manage risks. And most importantly, it leads to a more resilient and adaptable supply chain.

Future-proofing Your Procurement Efforts

By implementing agile practices, procurement teams can future-proof their businesses in an increasingly uncertain world. 

As the pace of change accelerates, organizations that can adapt quickly and embrace new technologies, processes, and ways of thinking will be better positioned to thrive. 

Agile procurement enables businesses to be more responsive to market shifts, regulatory changes, and evolving customer demands. 

Boy in field with rocket pack on back to represent agile, future-proof procurement

Seven Steps to Creating an Agile Procurement Process

We've summarized the steps below in an infographic, which you can find by scrolling down to the end of the blog.

1. Leverage Real-time Data and Analytics

In-depth data analysis is crucial for making informed decisions quickly and adapting to changing market conditions. 

Utilize real-time data and advanced analytics tools to identify trends, monitor performance, and uncover opportunities for improvement. 

Having accurate, up-to-date information at your fingertips lets you make better decisions and drive continuous optimization.

2. Enhance End-to-End Supply Chain Visibility

Visibility throughout the supply chain is essential for identifying bottlenecks, monitoring supplier performance, and facilitating proactive risk management. 

Implement systems and technologies that provide end-to-end supply chain visibility, enabling you to track products, materials, and transactions from source to delivery. Greater visibility leads to better decision-making and improved risk management.

3. Adopt Innovative, Flexible and Scalable Technologies

Flexible, innovative, scalable technologies, such as AI, procurement management software, and blockchain, can help support adaptability, automate processes, and enhance collaboration across the supply chain. Such technology also helps you foster close relationships with vendors and suppliers - learn more about the differences between vendors and suppliers.

Evaluate and adopt solutions that can be easily integrated into your existing systems and scaled to meet future needs. By staying up-to-date with technological advancements, you can streamline operations and improve efficiency for years to come.

image of woman looking at a virtual grid to represent the need to adopt innovative technology to enhance agility in procurement

4. Implement Responsive Risk Management

A responsive risk management approach identifies, assesses, and mitigates risks across social, environmental, financial, and operational dimensions. 

Develop a comprehensive risk management framework that proactively monitors and addresses risks throughout your supply chain

In today’s unpredictable business and geopolitical landscapes, risks can pop up in a moment’s notice. A robust risk management strategy helps you quickly identify potential risks, make informed decisions and minimize disruptions.

5. Foster Collaborative Relationships

Strong, collaborative relationships with suppliers, customers, and internal stakeholders are vital to enabling faster decision-making, driving innovation, and creating shared value. 

Establish open lines of communication, share goals and expectations, and work together to find mutually beneficial solutions. Collaboration is key to navigating the complexities of modern procurement.

four people connecting puzzle pieces to represent collaboration and the agile supply chain.

6. Cultivate a Continuous Improvement Culture

Encourage a culture of continuous improvement by empowering employees to identify inefficiencies, suggest improvements, and drive ongoing optimization efforts. 

Provide the necessary resources, training, and support to enable your team to contribute to the ongoing development of your agile procurement process. A continuous improvement mindset is essential for long-term success.

7. Invest in Skills Development and Workforce Agility

An agile workforce is crucial for navigating the rapidly evolving procurement space. But you must take deliberate steps to develop agility.

Invest in skills development to ensure your team is equipped with the expertise needed, such as adaptability, data analysis, and emerging trends. It's also smart to educate them on the ins and outs of sustainability. By fostering a culture of learning and growth, you can build a strong, future-ready procurement organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

confused man with hands up and confused expression wondering what is agile procurement

Can the agile approach be applied to indirect procurement?

Yes, it can be applied to both direct and indirect procurement, helping organizations streamline their processes and adapt to changes in demand or market conditions across various spend categories.

How does supply chain agility support sustainability initiatives?

Agility promotes transparency and collaboration with suppliers, allowing organizations to better monitor and address environmental and social risks. It also facilitates the implementation of sustainable sourcing practices and drives change throughout the supply chain.

How can organizations measure the success of their efforts?

Success can be measured through a combination of quantitative metrics (e.g., cost savings, supplier performance, process efficiency) and qualitative factors (e.g., improved collaboration, increased adaptability, and enhanced risk management).

How can small businesses implement agile procurement practices?

Small businesses can start by focusing on building collaborative relationships with suppliers. Other first steps include leveraging technology to streamline processes, and promoting a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability among employees.

Final Thoughts

Embracing agile procurement is essential for organizations looking to stay competitive in today's fast-paced business environment. 

By following these seven steps, you can build a nimble and adaptable procurement process that promotes resilience, innovation, and long-term value creation. This, in turn, will future-proof your business and ensure future profitability.

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