Category management teams - laptop image


Category management teams – How do we get the best from them?

By Simon Brown |

Procurement leaders have become adept at remotely managing their category teams. This “new normal” is likely to stay with us post-pandemic as companies reflect on their organisations working practice. When working with a remote team, it helps massively to plan and implement in a structured way.

So, how do we get the best from our category management teams in a virtual world? Here are some of the things to focus on:

1. Clear goals and deliverables – have clear goals and deliverables for the category strategy programme at an individual level and align these with the individual’s personal development needs. Each category manager should have a pipeline plan of category strategies they are to develop during the year.

2. Programme management – developing category strategies should be run as a programme with a well-documented schedule of activities and meetings closely aligned to the category management process. It is preferable to align most interactions with key decision gates or milestones

3. Category strategy set up – each category strategy should have a signed-off charter that documents the purpose, objectives, challenges, governance, team roles and milestone timing plan. This is the baseline against which all deliverables will be measured.

4. Cross-functional participation – ensure that the category managers engage with their core team stakeholder members. There needs to be regular communication and properly organised key meetings such as kick-off meeting, research analysis meeting and an options meeting. Make these meetings concise and to the point.

5. Schedule meetings – set up an agreed schedule of interface sessions via phone, video conference sessions and email. Managing teams from different regions and time zones need even more care to decide on times of the day that suit both parties.

6. Set the agenda – agree with each category manager an agenda of the topics you need to cover in each session, such as:

  • Update on actions from the previous call, meeting or interface.
  • Review of category strategy progress against decision gate criteria with specific reference to completion of relevant templates, models and strategy tools.
  • Review current issues and obstacles.
  • Agree on the next steps and critical actions.

7. Virtual sessions – make sure you use the time as productively as possible:

  • Ensure the necessary preparation work is completed before the session.
  • Find time to appraise the individual’s efforts and outputs objectively.
  • Create an open culture of communication with the individual. As always, ask for reflective feedback from the individual, followed by the coach or line manager’s considered feedback.
  • Confirm in writing on agreed actions and follow up activities.
  • Be creative with the sessions by using role-play sessions to re-create a difficult stakeholder or supplier meeting. Ask the individual to rehearse a presentation to management on their project status. These offer the individual the opportunity to demonstrate interpersonal skills and discuss challenging issues for them.

To talk to Future Purchasing about getting the best from your category management teams in a virtual world please give us a call on +44 (0)1483 243520 or click the “Lets Talk” button below.

Further reading

Blog post: Lessons for Category Managers from 2021

About Simon Brown


30 years procurement experience in line management and
consulting roles.
Previous employment: British Aerospace, British Airways, QP Group
Education: MBA, London Business School. BA (Hons) Business Studies.
CIPS: member