We chatted with Amy Fong for our next Procurement Leader Spotlight blog series. She told us about how she used her knowledge and experience as a practitioner earlier on in her career to land a role in procurement consulting. Amy has over twenty years of experience in consulting, research and advisory with a focus on sourcing, supplier management, and supply chain. Currently, Amy is the Vice President of Everest Group where she helps grow their offerings for sourcing leaders.
After college, I started out in human resources and ended up at a fast-growing plant, spending a lot more time on the factory floor than in my office. When I went back to school for my MBA, I knew I wanted to transition to operations, to be in the middle of things, so I concentrated on strategy, operations and e-commerce. E-commerce was a special thing back then, and B2B was just an emerging segment (it was the very early days of S2P tech).
I knew I wanted to work in consulting, but because of the economic downturn, I stuck with an industry job and went to HP to work in supply chain. My role was managing the business side of outsourced design and manufacturing relationships, specifically for the Asia-Pacific region. I learned a lot in that time and gained a lot of international experience. Later, I shifted to working as the supply-chain lead on a team designing emerging consumer products—it was a lot of fun.
After several years, I finally transitioned into consulting with a focus on sourcing, supplier management, and supply chain. Five years later, right after I had my first child and was ready to ramp down travel, my firm was acquired by The Hackett Group. I moved over to Hackett’s Procurement Advisory practice where I worked on research and membership programs covering world-class procurement. In my almost 10 years with Hackett, I worked with a few hundred procurement teams, published a lot of research, and saw the function really evolve. I knew the research/analyst world was the right place for me to really make a difference.
In 2019, I moved to Everest Group to help grow our offerings for sourcing leaders. We now have two core programs—Outsourcing Excellence is all about market intelligence for the services market and Pricing Analytics as a Service delivers on-demand price benchmarking. It's been an exciting transition to go deep and focus at the category level, develop new offerings, and grow the team. The best part is I really get to think about what procurement leaders need from us, how we can best help them, and structure our research and programs around that vision.
While my current role is a bit more focused on services categories, I still try to stay engaged with the broader procurement community. There is always more to learn from each other, and I personally get a lot out of collaborating with peers and mentoring.
Although we’re still in the middle of it, I think the shift from cost savings focus to business value focus is the most impactful change most procurement organizations will go through. When savings is the only, or primary, measure on the scorecard we are viewed as a gatekeeper and cost-cutter. As teams broaden their objectives to align with their stakeholders’ needs, the function becomes more valued. When you think about it, a lot of the capabilities we value now are driven by this shift: category management, better user experience in the buying process, and supplier driven innovation, for instance.
There are so many interesting things going on with technology I can think of a lot of potential developments we’ll have five years from now. In my area specifically, I think better management of strategic suppliers is long overdue. Supplier management systems are starting to mature and that will help, but ultimately the shift to category management will drive us to focus more on the value we are getting from existing supplier relationships. We can’t RFP our way to excellence, we need to build high value, stable supplier relationships. That’s not as new and sexy as blockchain or artificial intelligence, but I think those tools are most valuable when they help us to focus our human capacity on the things that really matter to the business.
I think the best practitioners need a combination of “soft” skills like supplier and stakeholder management, and a high level of comfort with and curiosity about technology. Leaders need to be able to build a balanced and diverse team, and enable them with the tools to meet the needs of the business.
For anyone looking to move into a role like mine, I think the starting point is to really find ways to stand out in their current role. I really think the best analysts and consultants are those with a practitioner background, so learn what you can by being open to new areas and projects. Work on your own brand by presenting your successes, networking with peers, and developing thought leadership. Reading and watching different analysts and firms out there will give you a feel of the various voices in the market and help to learn standard frameworks of the function. Taking a mid-way step through consulting can be a smart move to learn client management, business development, and broaden your exposure across industries. I’ve seen a lot of paths to bring people into a procurement advisor role, but these are the traits I would most look for in someone entering mid-career.
Going back to my point about value—I think there are still a lot of people laser-focused on that savings number, while their stakeholders really care about getting the latest technology, talent availability, risk, quality, or myriad other things. We need to be thinking broader about how we help. It doesn’t mean we let savings go altogether—we should be focused on getting the most value for the spend.