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Category management co-creation

By Mark Hubbard |

Procurement organisations, by and large, don’t buy much for themselves. Most category managers time and effort focus on what other people need and finding ways to make that happen.

However, there is a substantial risk in the midst of this, when procurement chooses to work out what to do by itself. This ends in ‘a’ solution, but not one which the rest of the organisation wants to participate in. We see many examples in all sectors where the outcome that procurement would like to deliver is rejected and not implemented by the organisation.

Is there a solution?

There is, and it’s called ‘Co-creation’. In this context, it is about procurement working intently with other parties or stakeholders to develop the business’s focused outcome.

Often, the core of the issues faced are about a lack of trust in procurement in one way or another, often stemming from a previous experience where the outcomes sought by procurement were only price-driven.

Bringing stakeholders into the overall process

How can co-creation be adopted? The first step is to recognise that category management as a process is designed with co-creation at its heart. 

The elements of category management which refer to stakeholder engagement, business requirement development and joint working sessions are all there to encourage a high degree of interaction with stakeholders, to ensure they are drawn into the overall process.

Secondly, we need to approach each of the various moments of working with others as fundamental to ensuring we explore as much co-creation as possible and get into its depths. Each of the specific elements we can engage in needs to be examined appropriately with our stakeholders. We need to plan and act as if it is critical to bring them along on the journey – because it is critical!

This is particularly true when we reach the parts of the process that are about creating the new future. Having done all the data gathering and analysis on the way into the options generation phase, we particularly need to involve stakeholders in the co-creation of these options. Without this activity, we are likely to have a massive problem later on in selling the outcomes back onto the business.

As an aside, we have come across organisations who choose not to do the options generation activity, as they feel all the answers are evident already. The need for engagement and stakeholders’ involvement is a critical part of success, as evidenced in the 2019/20 Category Management Leadership report. We need to make sure that our stakeholders are engaged, particularly when designing the solutions they will adopt later on.

At this stage, rather than looking for a template or checklist, instead, ask yourself if your stakeholder has been engaged sufficiently in the design of the new approaches that they would be prepared to help you sell them into the organisation. If the answer is ‘No’, you may well have a problem arising in the implementation part of the program.

Co-Creation – it is right at the heart of category management, and is critical to our success – we need to make sure it is happening.

Find out more by reading the Global Category Management Leadership report:

Download Report Preview

Further reading

Blog post: Category Strategy Mastery: 10 Expert Tips for Improvement

About Mark Hubbard


30+ years experience in procurement and supplier management, in line and consulting roles
Previous employment: Positive Purchasing Ltd, SITA,
QP Group, BMW, SWWS, Rover
Education: BSc in Engineering Metallurgy, MBA University of Plymouth
CIPS: Current Member