Taking inspiration from "Corner Office: conversations about leadership and management" from the New York Times and Inc. Magazine's "The Way I Work", DocuSign is featuring Procurement/Supply Chain leaders in this blog series.

I’m pleased to introduce Dave Hearn, Sr. Dir. Global Supplier Management-Internal Goods and Services at Juniper Networks, a prominent Procurement leader in the Bay Area. I have known Dave for many years. He is both a colleague and friend. It was great to follow his professional journey into becoming a Procurement leader and get his thoughts on how the role has evolved. 

Key Stats

Location: Sunnyvale, CA

Current Role: Responsible for global purchasing, and indirect procurement at Juniper Networks

Background: 20+ years in direct and indirect Sourcing; BSEE Electrical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; MBA- University of Michigan

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  My cell phone and tablet that keep me connected to every aspect of running our business.

What are you currently reading?  Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith

Q: How did you get started in Procurement?

Actually Procurement found me. My classic background is in engineering where I worked closely with suppliers and vendors. This was always interesting to me.  Not only could we focus on objectives inside the company, but we looked externally – outside the company’s walls. There was always an excitement about finding supply from all over the world. We could visit, evaluate, and build relationships with suppliers and new business partners globally. I really enjoyed this.

Today it’s even better. There are fantastic schools that help students develop early in the field of supply chain management. There are formal collegiate tracks that give higher prominence to Procurement than ever before. My professional career may have started as an engineer, but I lucked into becoming a procurement executive.

Q:  So your observation is that procurement’s role has become more prominent over time?

Yes. There’s definitely a move for procurement to play a more strategic and important role in every company. It’s common for enterprises to invest heavily in the function and achieve great results.

Q: Give us an example of how technology plays a role in helping procurement pros be more effective.

Advanced procurement tools are available everywhere. The industry has moved from basic requisition and purchase order practices. These have been transformed by high-tech, user friendly tools. As professional buyers we can create catalogs as easily as a shopping cart in Amazon. It’s amazing! Procurement Managers spend less time on the mechanics and focus more on higher value add sourcing practices. I love that technology has taken a lot of the mundane off our hands

Q: Would you say that procurement pros are getting closer to business decisions than ever before?

Yes. I’m also saying this makes the job more rewarding. And greater talent is attracted to our field when the work is more interesting. We feel like we can bring more value. And suddenly that value is more observable to the enterprise.

Q:   How is the CPO role evolving when it comes to technology?

The more we can automate the tactical through great tools, the more we can manage throughput – meaning our ability to do a larger quantity of deals. We can also see what’s happening in the organization more quickly. As a result we make strategic decisions more easily. 

For example.  I can assess how we well are using electronic RFP’s, dynamic bidding tools, electronic signature solutions, and other investments. A CPO can more easily assess if the organization is maturing towards best practices. Technology helps CPOs brings value to the enterprise more rapidly and with greater force.

Q: What role does culture play in the success of an organization and procurement?

Culture is huge. Technical skills are critical and we can talk about them until we’re blue in the face. But value is not realized until there’s a strong partnership with the business.  How receptive a company’s culture is to procurement will determine how quickly results are realized and to what extent. At Juniper the culture is very receptive to supply chain practices and supplier management. 

In environments where this is less the case, procurement team spends more time selling its value. This means it takes longer to solve real business problems. Eventually all companies get there one way or another, it’s just a matter of speed.  In many ways the role of the CPO is to help accelerate and enable to rate of adoption of procurement services.

Q: What’s closest to your heart as a procurement leader? 

A couple things come to mind. The first is to be clear about what results we want to drive and how we’re going to measure it. I try to spend less time being prescriptive about how we get there even though I’m highly focused on achieving outcomes. Striking a balance between clarity of what we are going to achieve and how we get there is an art. It’s one of the most important journeys to me as a leader. 

Thank you Dave for sharing your insights and passion for Procurement!

Readers – Share your thoughts and questions for Dave in the comments below!

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A little about Doug Seward:  He is the Senior Manager of Sourcing at DocuSign.  He is responsible for strategic sourcing of all major categories and vendor management. Prior to DocuSign, Doug held Supply Chain and Strategic Sourcing roles at Kaiser Permanente and The Walt Disney Company. 

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