What is a Procurement Academy?

The Procurement Academy is a framework to accommodate a suite of learning and development offerings to the global procurement community of the organisation. It is often designed with a specific goal in mind e.g. further optimization of spend or driving more value for all parties from existing supplier relationships. What is included in the academy could vary from eLearning courses, skills assessment, scheduled distance learning events, or all of these and more. This “blended learning” concept is important to ensure that individual learning styles, preferences and access to online and offline learning is accommodated.

The Procurement Academy concept has grown in familiarity and scope over the last five years. The procurement academy concept was expanded out of corporate learning and development academies. Many organisations had started to create enterprise-wide online training environments that could host (typically eLearning) content. These were aimed at communicating broad corporate messages such as core values or key policy issues. The opportunity to extend this thinking into functional learning and development meant that departments such as Procurement started to adapt the format, often using the same software tools, to supply-chain specific training.

Many Learning and Development Managers are now responsible for sourcing and development of online content to push onto learning academies, but there is a risk that this reduces the academy to a static knowledge portal. The academy should be the ultimate home of the individual’s learning journey, which may include skills gap analysis and planned activities such as training and on the job learning. This approach supports the 10-20-70 model of procurement learning, where only 10% of learning is formal (such as classroom or eLearning) and the remaining elements are social and informal. The Procurement Academy can support the 20%and 70% with tools like functional social media, knowledge repositories, shared learning events and peer to peer coaching and mentoring opportunities.

The best types of procurement academy enable a match of the function’s capability development progress against the desired capability profile of the organisation, as set by the procurement leaders. In this way, it offers assistance with succession planning so that individuals who could be candidates for future roles receive appropriate interventions to progress towards them. If we neglect succession planning when building the academy, we could end up recruiting solely externally because we failed to adequately develop internal candidates.

An effective procurement academy will be the host of multiple learning modes, but most importantly will emphasise and record self-directed learning activities. It may link to human resources and payroll tools so that line managers can track the continuous professional development of their staff and the associated career progression and rewards.

What is required to start building an effective procurement academy?

  • A capability framework that describes the range of skills required across the department and the different levels of proficiency that may be relevant (depending on role type, location or category). This global infrastructure ensures a common landscape for skills definitions and targets.
  • A future skills profile and what achieving this will mean for the organisational objectives. For example, a profile of problem solving behaviours that emphasises financial literacy could cost analysis and value engineering skills will contribute to a goal of improved cost control.
  • Expertise to build or source suitable content. Content may be a mix of internal and external originated, so it is not only “bought in” but also “home grown” by practitioners. Ideally, content development should be part of the objectives of buyers so that procurement process development is rewarded and recognised. This helps to build processes that are built on real-life category experiences rather than a third party’s generic approach.

The final key success factor for procurement academies is to recognise that the concept builds and grows as engagement and understanding develops in the user base. It is better to quickly get some content in the academy environment that is meaningful and used. It is then possible to monitor take up and understand the response, building more content and functions as required.