Do You Know the Difference Between Strategic Sourcing & Category Management? Recruiting the Best Talent Requires Truth!


Is your organization out there recruiting for Category Managers? OR Are you out there looking for a position as a Category Manager? To start, it would be helpful for both sides of the hiring process to have a clear definition of what Category Management is and where the hiring organization is on the Maturity Model.  It is NOT uncommon for organizations to use Category Management and Strategic Sourcing synonymously when they are, in fact, very different and many organizations that claim to be doing even Strategic Sourcing are not there yet either.  Here are a few models for you to consider:

Category Management


The inability for many Procurement organizations to recognize where they are on the Maturity Model AND the lack of understanding the meaning of Category Management has caused huge issues in recruiting top talent.  Just because an organization posts a job for a Category Manager, it does not guarantee that this is the actual role the candidate will be allowed to play.  I read a great article in HBR, “Stop Lying to Job Candidates About the Role” that warns about the significant issues associated with not being truthful about the organization or the role (even if you are doing it unconscientiously).  The article provides a simple illustration: “Do you think that some 40% of U.S. marriages end up in divorce because brides and grooms intentionally lie to each other? Or is it that most don’t ask themselves enough tough questions about whether they are good long-term fits as spouses?”  

What do you do if you are trying to attract top talent but know your organization is not where it should be?  Be honest!!  There is nothing wrong with describing the challenges your organization faces and how you see the “Category Manager” role helping you meet those challenges.  Then it is up to the individual to decide if they are the right fit for the job.  The worst thing you can do is deceive a candidate because they will eventually realize that the opportunity is NOT what was sold to them and they will leave.  They may also be so disenfranchised that they drag the rest of the group down with them which is not a good thing.    

What do you do if you are the candidate?  How do you determine if the hiring company knows what Category Management IS and / or is being truthful about their current state?  Easy – ask the right questions!  Here are some questions I would ask in that situation:

  1. Can you please define Category Management?
  2. How does the Procurement organization measure success? (If it’s still cost savings then they are probably NOT doing Category Management)
  3. How much time do you expect the Category Manager to spend with their internal business partners? (If its anything less than “joined at the hip” then they are probably NOT doing Category Management)
  4. How much time do you expect the Category Manager to spend with Suppliers? (If the answer is “only when there are issues” then they are probably NOT doing Category Management)
  5. What does the Governance Structure look like? (If there is no Executive Steering Committee with C-Level executives then they are probably NOT doing Category Management)
  6. How much time does the Category Manager spend in processing P.O.s? (If the answer is more than NEVER then they are probably NOT doing Category Management)

By the way, if you don’t get the right answer to #1 above then the rest of the questions are probably a moot point. Understanding WHAT Category Management IS (for both parties) is key to this conundrum.  Consider taking this survey which lays out the differences for you (SURVEY LINK) and join us for our PERT virtual workshop on August 13th “Category Management – Have we Made ANY Progress or is it Still a Vague Concept?”  (REGISTRATION LINK)

Join in the conversation and let us know what you think . . . . 


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