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Transformation: What measures can you take to boost business agility? – Brice Malm

In our post-Covid world, this ‘new normal’, where uncertainty rules supreme and change is a constant, the ability to adapt quickly (read: very quickly) is key.

Responsible purchasing, digitisation, innovation, more expensive raw materials, disruptions in the supply chain and renewal of skills are just a few of the many issues that require you to quickly readjust and enhance your business agility in order to embrace change sustainably. So what about opting for new sources of flexibility?

By Brice Malm, Purchasing Practice and Supply Chain Director, Grant Alexander, expert in human capital and purchasing transformation




In order to create favourable conditions for sustainable change, you must first be open and honest with your teams: discuss reasons for pride with them, certainly, but also broach any problems encountered, and what impact they may have on change. Your people must understand where the transformation is leading and be encouraged to be more flexible.

In this respect, successful purchasing managers have made agility a strength. Trained in the ‘agile method’, every sprint brings its own batch of decisions and the necessary adjustments, including in terms of human resources, in order to achieve the desired goals. When all is said and done, they focus more on the results and the ability to exploit temporary market circumstances than on the number of team members. Indeed, they simplify the reporting structures and prefer teams that can be built and unbuilt at great speed.




Relying on in-house teams is undeniably a very good thing. However, to achieve sustainable results you no longer have to have an in-house resource for every skill. By taking advantage of the operational expertise of freelance or interim experts and managers, you can become more agile.

As a first example, let’s take the director of a medium-sized healthcare company who, having done some skills mapping, has come to the conclusion that his team was spending 85% of its time on traditional purchasing activities. Only 15% of their time was being devoted to new projects. So he decided that for every one of these new missions, he would assign an in-house project leader who would be supported by outsourced expertise.

Another example would be a company listed on the SBF 120 stock exchange that needed to fill in for a happy event. They decided to make use of an interim purchasing director, whose initial goal would be to take over the management of a dozen buyers and ensure the continuity of operational projects. Thanks to this naturally overqualified interim manager, it was possible to analyse the synergy between commodity purchasing and regional purchasing departments… Which an in-house team member would perhaps not have been in a position to do and especially in such a short space of time. 

In general, the flexibility achieved through the use of freelancers generates a higher ROI for public companies and organisations who thus see their projects accelerate and achieve results faster.

In France, this new source of skills began emerging a little over a decade ago, with some rather highly skilled people initially destined to take on crisis management. Today, the use of such interim managers and freelance experts is growing at the same pace as the increasing need for flexibility in business. These rigorously selected independent experts, very often former operational staff, bring a highly complementary approach to the work of in-house teams. They offer companies agility and are particularly committed to ensuring the success of their missions. Given that many of them are able to pick and choose the missions they want to invest in, they focus more on the goals and the execution of the defined plan than on political and personal career aspects. They enjoy sharing their knowledge and enriching the experience of the people working in hybrid teams. And as a result, those teams will be inspired to emulate the experts in the pursuit of the company’s projects.

The essential thing to bear in mind: it is very complex for one single company to have all the skills they need available at any given time. Today’s companies have understood the need to turn business agility into a competitive advantage by having a network of outsourced expertise at their disposal to complement their in-house skills sets.

Article by Brice Malm, Purchasing Practice and Supply Chain Director, for the Conseil National des Achats’ Profession Achats Magazine.