Interim Insights: A conversation with Jim Townsend, Senior Procurement Leader
Daniel Wood, Consultant, Consumer and Retail Practice, spoke to Jim Townsend, an experienced leader in procurement, discussing his career and insights into the fields of supply chain and procurement.
How did you get into procurement?
In my early career I worked at Rolls-Royce Aerospace as an engineer. I moved through the organisation into change management, ERP/SAP implementation, and then into the UK aerospace industry’s supplier-facing initiatives. From there it was a natural step to move into procurement. I often hear people talking about how they fell into procurement, but not me, it was always a planned move.
What are you most passionate about when it comes to procurement?
Building and watching a great team of people grow, exceed their own expectations, and deliver fantastic results as they make the organisation better for customers, employees, and owners. This is what motivates me every day.
What does sustainability mean for you in the field of supply chain and procurement?
Sustainability should be at the core of everything we do in procurement, it’s about how we turn-up and do the right thing because that is what motivates us. Sustainability in procurement varies significantly across sectors, but each of us has a role to play. Our role maybe to reduce the harmful mining of raw materials or it may be reducing energy consumption in your offices. It all counts, and we do it because we care.
What do you think are some of the future trends we might see around the topic of sustainability?
The efficacy of supply chain assessments has been brought into question. We are now witnessing a shift from the desktop self-assessment of suppliers to the active assessment (often third party) of supply chains as the materiality of compliant and dynamic supply chains increases. Solutions that capture, track and report carbon performance throughout the supply chain and present this with actionable insights will become the norm. This will in part, be enabled by multi-tier supply chain visibility; this will allow organisations to truly understand their total footprint and develop new solutions to reduce carbon. Moreover, category managers will further develop their category plans to seek to continuously reduce the carbon footprint of the organisation’s activities; this will be at the heart of an organisations ESG approach.
How do the best procurement teams develop influence and deliver results?
To be successful in any organisation, one needs to be relevant, have influence and know how to deliver - everything depends on this. The procurement leadership team should focus on its relevancy by aligning functional goals with that of the wider organisation, be ambitious when setting targets and aim high. Nobody wants a ‘sandbagger.’ We want leaders that are striving to deliver the exceptional for our customers, employees, and owners It’s the ambition that wins.
How critical is technology to procurement’s future success?
This is a great question but the answer is, it all depends. What I mean by this is, it depends where you are on your maturity journey. If within your organisation, you can deliver your results effectively without technology, then harvest this. When those results start to show signs of decay, build your case for investment. ProcureTech when implemented on a return on investment basis will bring new ways to deliver value to your organisation and extend the value case and relevancy of procurement.
What do you look for when you’re hiring interims?
I look for similar qualities as permanent hires, which is great experience, EQ, leadership, commercial savvy, influence et al. What makes an exceptional interim is the agility they demonstrate as they switch form one organisation to another; they understand the nuances of what drives different businesses, how they operate and the culture, and where appropriate, they assimilate this.