Making Procurement More Dynamic

Pfizer’s Lisa Martin has transformed procurement into a working capital asset while managing the risks involved.

Procurement transcends disparate industry sectors such as entertainment and pharmaceuticals. Lisa Martin, chief procurement officer at Pfizer, worked early in her career as a buyer and expeditor at NBC when the network was acquired by General Electric, which she says highly values the procurement and sourcing function.

“It was a very good training ground,” Martin says, adding that working in the entertainment business, with its creative personalities and greater flexibility, gave her another important strength. “I definitely grew a thick skin,” she says.

And it’s one that requires bringing “internal stakeholders” into the fold. “You have to make sure you’re carving out enough time to properly align with the business unit leaders and other functional leaders in the company,” Martin says.

In making the argument for change, it’s essential to have a well-developed business case, and at least as important to have the courage to engage colleagues in “tough” conversations, she says. That’s where a thick skin can come in handy.

Ultimately, understanding when and how to deploy teams comes down to managing risk. Martin says a recent roundtable discussion organized by the Institute of Supply Management, where she is chairperson emeritus, revealed procurement executives view risk as their biggest challenge.

The heightened focus on risk means procurement must work ever more closely with treasury to determine suppliers’ vulnerabilities. Pfizer has, of course, been working to manage these risks for a long time, but the steady stream of man-made and natural crises over the past several years has added new urgency.

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