Anwar Ansari: Answering the procurement call
Mr. Ansari has 22+ years of rich and well-rounded, local as well as international experience in Procurement and Supply Chain domain with profound expertise in areas of strategic procurement, supply chain & turnkey contracting, logistics & vendor management. Having led a team of 50+ procurement professionals across country, he managed the procurement portfolio of 68 Materials Group (2700 Materials) from 100+ suppliers locally and globally located in USA, UK, EU, China, Turkey and Gulf countries and handled overall group spend management programs worth US$ 500M+.
His professional prowess, complemented by this powerful leadership persona led to the successful implementation of best practices in strategic sourcing and supply chain, which resulted in a track record of exemplary contributions towards organizational profitability through substantial and sustainable savings, company-wide.
Supply chain transformation expert Anwar Ansari, when asked about the driving force/motivation behind his unwavering resolve to make his latest challenging undertaking successful, replies: “I enjoy the thrill in working with a team of dynamic professionals to analyze challenges, devise innovative solutions/approaches, strategically plan the change management and implement projects which bring visible results to the organizational performance. There is nothing more motivating than the sense of fulfilment that comes from making tangible contributions that add real value to the business. Being entrusted to lead the massive, transformative change itself is very rewarding. No doubt, the responsibility of delivering against challenging timelines is not an easy task but like they say, ‘the best things in life don’t come for free. Even though it is what all Procurement Professionals dream of!’” he says jokingly.
Mr. Ansari also described the three key principles, which he believes, have served as a constant stimulus and driven his work every day. They are the Three F's: Function, Flexibility and Freedom.
Function: being a valued resource and go-to person for all facets of the organization.
Flexibility: able to work methodologically as well as independently/ unconventionally, by coming up with innovative solutions.
Freedom: to perform tasks and responsibilities with complete authority and empowerment.
“What I like best about this role is that it allows for interaction with professionals and subject-matter experts at different levels of the organization and across all functional areas. It provides an opportunity to learn new things about the company, business, market etc., every day, which keeps one striving to search for even better solutions to cater to the business needs.
“It isn’t just about performing hard-core procurement role and allied functions. What makes the role truly meaningful is steering the business by being strategically aligned and serving like a commercial expert who engages all the other business areas day in and day out.”
Formula for a successful strategic shift
While recounting his experiences, Mr. Ansari highlighted the factors which according to him are the most crucial determinants for a successful strategic shift in Procurement and Supply Chain.
The first is, leadership’s vision, mindset and commitment: “This factor in my opinion cannot be emphasized enough,” he says. “A progressive mindset and dynamic approach at the top are the key ingredients for keeping an organization agile and abreast with the transformative advancements and remaining ahead of the competition. Commitment of the top management is critical for paving the path towards a successful reform and has a far-reaching impact.”
The second is strategic partnership. Mr. Ansari continues: “Focusing on revamping the procurement practices and systems is only one part of the transformative effort. What brings real results is creation of a true strategic partnership with the business. Especially when it comes to a function like procurement, which for a very long time had been categorized as merely a support function, it is important to change the perception of procurement’s role by actively participating in the business decisions and supporting the business in achieving its strategic goals by offering unique solutions.
“Procurement needs to be proactive so as to treat its internal customers the same way that the business treats its external customers. We need to be able to preempt the needs of our business partners and keep ourselves updated with the advancements in the industry, so as to offer the best possible solutions to meet their requirements. Instead of just fulfilling orders/requirements, we need to sell our solutions to the business and strengthen our strategic role.”
Another aspect which needs to be focused upon is the relationship with vendors. “Unless we start thinking of vendors as our partners, we can’t gain long-term benefits for the business,” Mr. Ansari states. “It has to be a win-win situation which leads to sustainable success.”
An out-of-the-box approach
Departing from tradition is another strong aspect of Mr. Ansari’s approach to procurement leadership. “I strongly believe that we, as procurement professionals, need to take a revolutionary approach and alter the way we had been traditionally thinking and operating,” he explains. “Enhancing efficiencies of the pre-defined methodologies can only guarantee incremental improvements. If we are to provide the business with a competitive advantage, we need to take a more innovative and long-term approach aligned with the business strategy and future requirements.”
We have seen how technology has revolutionized all fields within business and procurement is no different in this regard. While shifting to automation is a challenging task indeed, yet, it is one of the most important factors which bring great benefits in the longer run.
Mr. Ansari points out that it is not just the efficiency which is improved and enhances the performance, but more so, the valuable insights which the data and information provide for strategic decision making. Whether it is monitoring the inventory levels, gauging the effectiveness of the sourcing channels or supervising the timeliness of the deliveries, technology and data are an absolute necessity, providing actionable business insights.
Asked about the challenges faced as a procurement leader, Mr. Ansari answers: “Heading such a sensitive and strategic function, especially in a sector like Telecom, where the rate of technological advancement is most accelerated and pronounced, is a challenge in itself. Nevertheless, the hardest thing about this role has been sparing and adjusting time for self-initiated projects. You can get so busy with core and other related jobs vis-à-vis targets that often those personal projects having great potential to become a turning point in your practice as well as for the organization are pushed aside. Besides this, at times, understanding all of the interdependent relationships may be challenging, it is definitely one big team effort here; everyone has a role to play.”
Mr. Ansari goes on to describe how he had an opportunity to work for an organization where post-privatization, the management’s priority was to stay abreast of market and business trends and above all, the technological needs.
They started implementing state of the art of SAP-ERP back in 2007 in phases (the biggest ever SAP deployment in the country with core and strategic modules) – the initial one being Material Management, followed by other departments including but not limited to Finance, HR, BI, NLM/ NML and others. This enabled optimum visibility and integration together with managing the business and automating many back office functions related to technology, finances, services, operations and human resources etc.
Aiming for a paperless and hassle free working environment, swift transparent transactions and processes, in-line with best practices and International standards, Mr. Ansari has led and implemented various electronic applications and processes pertaining to procurement.
This, namely, consists of digital documents management system and documents archiving, stores automation (for improved material management; end-to-end/ concurrent visibility of stores), and e-file/ office as well as SAP based e-procurement, covering Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM), Spend Performance Management (SPM), Supplier Lifecycle Management (SLC), Material Data Master (MDM) and other functional modules. This resulted in saving a lot of time and resources in addition to providing the above-mentioned benefits
Supplier relationship management (SRM) consists of managing and planning constructive interactions with the third-party vendors that supply and support your business with goods and services. This is an important part of both supply chain management (SCM) and effective business management.
“When you collaborate effectively with your suppliers, the entire supply chain process, including managing inventory and acquiring goods and services, will run smoother and be more efficient,” Mr. Ansari explains. “Following four steps are a key to building relationships and partnerships with your suppliers, which can boost the performance of the organization.”
• Invest in supplier relationship management software.
• Demonstrate to your suppliers that you’re a good customer.
• Curtail number of vendors/ channels and work with optimum/ consistent performers only.
• Keep lines of communication open.
The future of supply chain
Procurement as a function is on a continuous journey toward greater importance and influence. As it has already evolved beyond its transactional and back-ofﬁce roots, the role is becoming more and more of a strategic player, focused on total value delivered including supporting revenue goals, reducing total cost of ownership and improving quality and integration of supply, taking on increasing enterprise responsibility of the end-to-end, source-to-pay process. “In a nutshell, it’s no more merely a Supply Chain but becoming VALUE CHAIN already,” Mr. Ansari concludes.