Why Procurement Should Adopt Design Thinking Principles

design thinking for procurement

Empathy is the way to build trust. And the strongest, most productive relationships are built on trust. It ‘s certainly that way in our personal lives. So it stands to reason that it ‘s the same with professional relationships. Yet, too often, empathy is left out of the equation when identifying and implementing solutions in the business world in general and in procurement specifically.

That ‘s not good because, as we all know, strong stakeholder and supplier relationships are the bedrock of a successful Procurement Ecosystem. That ‘s why the more I ‘ve learned about the concept of Design Thinking the more I am convinced it can be a game-changer for procurement.

Design Thinking Isn ‘t a Strategy, It ‘s a Mindset

What is Design Thinking? Well, it ‘s not a new concept. It ‘s been around since at least the 18th century. But its wisdom is just now being embraced by procurement teams, so it feels new.

Basically, Design Thinking involves a different mindset for how to define and solve problems and it begins with empathy for the end-user. The process starts with really listening to and understanding the biggest challenges and pain points for your stakeholders. The idea of putting yourself in their shoes, so you can be sure you are addressing their true needs and not what you think they need.

Design Thinking is a highly creative and iterative process that encourages a lot of experimenting and prototyping. The goal is to fail fast to learn even faster. When you put together a prototype and test it out, your end-users provide feedback for what works and what doesn ‘t in an iterative feedback loop. The end result, in theory, yields greater stakeholder alignment, better adoption rates, and demonstrates procurement ‘s strategic value to the business.

Procurement Sits at Right Spot to Act as a Design Thinking Broker

Reorienting your approach to crafting procurement solutions using Design Thinking requires the active participation of the larger procurement ecosystem of stakeholders and suppliers. Because procurement functions as a conduit between the internal stakeholders, the end-users and the external suppliers and partners they work with, it makes sense that procurement would serve as a facilitator as prototypes are envisioned, built and evaluated.

It sounds simple, doesn ‘t it? Of course, putting yourself in the shoes of the end-user makes perfect sense, but how often does that really happen?

If you are intrigued by the concept of Design Thinking as it pertains to Procurement, I encourage you watch the keynote address of the SIG Procurement Technology Summit.   I was joined by Herve Legenvre, Professor and Director of the EIPM Value Creation Observatory. Together, we provided more details about Design Thinking and shared examples of these principles in action. WNS Denali also created a simple, easy-to-understand handbook on Design Thinking, which you can download here.

Greg Anderson

Greg Anderson

SVP, Sales North America, WNS Denali

Greg Anderson is Senior Vice President of Sales in North America at WNS Denali. He is a proven expert in Supply Chain and Procurement Managed Services and Technology solutions. Greg has over two decades of cross-industry sales and marketing leadership experience. Prior to WNS, Greg held leadership positions at Ivalua, Pensiamo, Directworks, Tenzing Consulting, SmartOps, Ariba, FreeMarkets, GE, and PPG.