Navigating the Dynamics of Direct and Indirect Procurement with a Spotlight on Consulting

Businesses are waking up to the fact that a top-notch indirect procurement game can be a differentiator for success. It’s not just a cost center anymore; it’s a strategic player in the company’s victory.

But let’s ditch the old-school thinking of direct versus indirect procurement. It’s time to see it as a choice between strategic and non-strategic buys. Some direct stuff isn’t that strategic, and surprise, some indirect buys are real game-changers.

And if we zoom in on consulting – now that’s the secret weapon. Aligning your consulting spend with the big picture strategy is where the real power lies. It’s not just about hiring consultants; it’s about picking projects that move the needle.

To sum it up, playing the procurement game strategically is a must. It challenges the old rules, pushes for teamwork, embraces tech, nurtures strong supplier ties, and rolls with the punches in this crazy business world. It’s the winning playbook for businesses aiming for long-term success in the modern arena. Don’t miss out on these insights; Helene breaks it all down in this episode – the game-changer you need for a winning strategy!

Key Takeaways

  • Direct procurement focuses on core products, emphasizing quality and long-term supplier relationships. Indirect procurement historically prioritizes cost control, but some categories, like consulting, have strategic importance.
  • Modern indirect procurement involves recognizing investments in services (e.g., consulting) that drive significant value. It goes beyond cost-effectiveness, contributing to broader business objectives like sustainability, innovation, and risk management.
  • Direct procurement receives more attention due to its direct impact on final products and bottom line. Indirect procurement is transitioning from a cost center to a strategic function, with a slow but growing recognition of its importance.
  • Indirect procurement encompasses diverse categories, demanding more senior professionals with market understanding and negotiation skills. Organizations are starting to staff indirect procurement departments more robustly, seeking strategic value beyond cost savings.
  • Previously viewed as less strategic, there is a growing recognition of indirect procurement’s importance. Companies are optimizing processes, seeing it as a strategic function contributing to operational efficiency and cost management.
  • Businesses should adopt a holistic approach, considering both strategic and non-strategic purchases. Collaboration, technology, supplier relationships, and adaptability are essential for effective procurement strategies.
  • Consulting, despite falling under indirect procurement, can be highly strategic, contributing to innovation and market positioning. Aligning consulting spend with strategic goals transforms it into a powerful lever for enhancing project ROI.


Welcome back to Smart Consulting Sourcing, the ideal podcast for insights into the world of consulting procurement. My name is Helene and I’m your host, and today we will be navigating into the dynamics of direct and indirect procurement.

We will look at the key differences, the impact, and how you can make most use of both procurement types. But before we do that, let us take a brief stroll down memory lane and recap what we talked about on last week’s episode which was all about understanding direct and indirect procurement.

Direct and indirect procurement play pivotal roles in shaping business success. Direct procurement involves sourcing raw materials directly contributing to a company’s products, emphasizing quality, cost, and strategic partnerships. In contrast, indirect procurement focuses on acquiring goods and services supporting business operations, extending beyond the product itself.

Indirect procurement, often overlooked, encompasses a diverse range of categories such as office supplies, IT services, and consulting. While not directly tied to the final product, these purchases are essential for smooth business operations, acting as the backbone supporting the entire enterprise.

The strategic nature of indirect procurement requires a nuanced approach, emphasizing smart purchasing decisions aligned with overall business goals. Despite its quieter profile, effective management of indirect procurement is deemed vital for organizational success, demanding attention to detail and a broader understanding of the business context.

The landscape of indirect procurement is evolving with the digital revolution. Emerging categories like cloud computing, e-payments, SaaS, and digital marketing are reshaping traditional perspectives. This transformation presents both challenges and opportunities, necessitating a dynamic and informed approach to procurement. As businesses increasingly embrace remote work and digitalization, cybersecurity becomes a critical concern, highlighting the proactive role of indirect procurement in mitigating risks.

Looking ahead, the integration of AI and machine learning is anticipated to revolutionize indirect procurement processes, enhancing optimization and efficiency. Sustainability also takes center stage as businesses prioritize environmental impact considerations.

The dynamics of procurement are undergoing a significant shift. The strategic importance of both direct and indirect procurement is underscored, urging businesses to adopt informed, adaptive, and forward-thinking strategies to navigate the evolving landscape successfully.

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Alright then! Now back to today’s episode where I will be talking about the dynamics of direct and indirect procurement. Let’s get started.

Key Differences and Impact of Both Direct and Indirect Procurement

Last week, we explored both direct and indirect procurement. Today, let’s dive into what sets them apart and why those differences matter. It’s not just about what you’re buying; it’s about the strategies, attention, and resources these two areas require.

First up, strategy. With direct procurement, the strategy is closely tied to the company’s core products and services. It’s all about finding the right quality at the right price to produce something that stands out in the market. The focus is on building strong, long-term relationships with suppliers that are almost like partnerships.

Indirect procurement, on the other hand, has a different strategic flavor. Traditionally, the focus here has been on cost control and efficiency. This is because these purchases, like office supplies or janitorial services, don’t directly impact the product. However, it’s a mistake to overlook the strategic importance of certain types of indirect procurement, especially services like consulting.

Let’s take a deeper look at this. While it’s true that not all indirect procurement categories directly affect your company’s valuation or product quality, some, like consulting services, play a pivotal role in shaping strategic decisions. Consulting, though categorized under indirect procurement, can be a game-changer. It has the potential to provide insights, strategies, and innovations that give your organization a competitive edge.

This brings us to a more modern approach to indirect procurement. It’s not just about finding cost-effective solutions; it’s also about recognizing and investing in services that can drive significant value. Consulting services, in this context, are not just another line item in the budget. They are investments in the company’s future, with the power to transform operations, guide strategic shifts, and even redefine market positions.

Then there’s management attention. Direct procurement tends to get more of the spotlight because it directly affects the company’s final products – and therefore, its bottom line. It’s a high-stakes game where every decision can have a significant impact.

Indirect procurement, while equally important, has historically been in the shadow of its direct counterpart in terms of attention and resources. However, there’s a shift happening in how businesses perceive and manage indirect procurement. It’s no longer just seen as a cost center but as a strategic function that can add significant value to the organization.

This change in perspective is crucial. In the past, the focus was primarily on achieving cost savings – which, don’t get me wrong, is still important. But now, forward-thinking companies are looking beyond just savings. They’re exploring how indirect procurement can contribute to broader business objectives, such as sustainability, innovation, and risk management.

Let’s go back to consulting. While they fall under indirect procurement, their impact on the company can be profound. Investing in high-quality consulting services can lead to innovative strategies, improved processes, and, ultimately, a stronger competitive position in the market.

So, it’s not just about getting more value from every dollar spent; it’s about understanding the broader impact of these expenditures on the company’s overall health and future. Smart management of indirect procurement now involves making strategic choices that align with the company’s long-term goals and vision.

Resource allocation is another area where we see differences. Historically, direct procurement has been the star of the show, often receiving more dedicated resources. This makes sense, given its direct impact on production and revenue. But what about indirect procurement?

Traditionally, indirect procurement might not have been in the limelight, operating more in the background. And while it’s true that purchasing office supplies may not seem as glamorous as procuring raw materials for product manufacturing, the role of indirect procurement is expanding rapidly. The range of categories it encompasses – like consulting, IT services, and beyond – is exploding.

This expansion isn’t just about volume; it’s about complexity and strategic importance. As a result, there’s a growing need for more senior, experienced professionals in the field of indirect procurement. We’re talking about individuals with a deep understanding of market dynamics, negotiation skills, and strategic sourcing capabilities.

Organizations are starting to recognize the value that a well-managed indirect procurement function can bring. They’re beginning to staff these departments more robustly, looking for people who can bring strategic value beyond just cost savings. However, the shift remains slow and heterogeneous across different industries and companies.

These differences significantly influence a company’s procurement policies and overall business strategy. It’s not just about categorizing expenses; it’s about understanding the role each type of procurement plays in the broader business objectives and allocating attention and resources accordingly.

And let’s talk perception. Indirect procurement has often been viewed as less strategic, but that’s an outdated notion. Today, there’s a growing recognition of its importance. Companies increasingly focus on optimizing their indirect procurement processes and recognizing the value it brings to operational efficiency and cost management.

As the business world evolves, so does the role of indirect procurement. It’s becoming more strategic, more integrated with overall business goals, and more recognized for contributing to a company’s success.

Making the Most of Both Procurement Types

Now, it’s time to shift gears and talk strategy. How can businesses optimize their procurement processes, and what’s the key to striking the right balance? Time to explore.

First off, it’s essential to recognize the distinct values of direct and indirect procurement. Direct procurement is the lifeblood of your production line, dealing with materials and services that directly feed into your products. Indirect procurement, though not directly contributing to the product, is the backbone supporting your business operations, ensuring everything runs like clockwork.

But here’s a critical angle to consider – moving beyond the traditional view of direct versus indirect procurement. It’s about looking at procurement through the lens of strategic versus non-strategic purchases. This approach recognizes that not all direct categories are strategic, and similarly, not all indirect categories are non-strategic.

For example, a raw material crucial for your product might be a strategic direct purchase. On the flip side, a service like consulting, falling under indirect procurement, could be equally strategic, offering insights and value that shape your business’s direction.

So, how do businesses manage this? One key strategy is developing a holistic procurement approach, considering both strategic and non-strategic purchases. This involves looking at procurement as a strategic function aligned with your business goals, not just a series of transactions.

Let’s break it down. Start by fostering collaboration between your procurement teams, regardless of whether they’re handling direct or indirect categories. Encourage the sharing of insights and strategies. They might have different focuses, but their ultimate goal is the same – the business’s success.

Investing in technology and data analytics is crucial too. These tools can offer deep insights into your procurement processes, helping you make informed decisions, forecast needs, and spot opportunities for savings and value creation.

Don’t overlook supplier relationships. Whether it’s a supplier of a strategic direct material or a key indirect service provider, building strong, collaborative relationships is vital. It’s not just about negotiating prices; it’s about forging partnerships that bring mutual value.

Adaptability is another essential element. The business landscape is ever-changing. Your procurement strategies must be agile enough to adapt to market shifts and technological advancements.

And finally, align your procurement strategies with your broader company goals, be it sustainability, innovation, or customer satisfaction. Ensure that your procurement decisions, whether they’re strategic or non-strategic, direct or indirect, support these objectives.

Zooming in on the Consulting Category

And now, if we zoom in specifically on the consulting category, we uncover a powerful lever to enhance the ROI of your projects. It all boils down to aligning your consulting spend with your company’s broader strategy.

This means investing in the right projects directly contributing to your strategic goals. It’s not just about hiring consultants; it’s about hiring them for the right reasons and the right projects. Whether it’s driving innovation, spearheading a digital transformation, or navigating market shifts, your consulting investments should be a direct reflection of your strategic priorities.

This alignment is where the true power lies. When your consulting spend is closely tied to your strategic objectives, every dollar spent on consulting brings you a step closer to those goals. It’s about making informed, strategic choices in your consulting procurement – choices that propel your business forward in meaningful ways.

Let’s take an example. Say your company is looking to expand into a new market. Investing in consulting services for market analysis, entry strategy, and risk assessment aligns perfectly with this strategic move. This isn’t just an expenditure; it’s a strategic investment that can pave the way for successful market entry and long-term growth.

So, as you develop and refine your procurement strategies, especially in areas like consulting, keep this alignment front and center. It’s about ensuring that every consulting project you undertake is not just a cost but a strategic move, one that adds tangible value and drives your business toward its key objectives.


Concluding our exploration of direct and indirect procurement dynamics, the key takeaway is their shared strategic importance. Direct procurement focuses on building partnerships to enhance product quality and market presence, while indirect procurement, particularly categories like consulting, is shifting from a cost-centric to a strategic function.

The evolving perception acknowledges the complexity and strategic significance of indirect procurement, demanding experienced professionals for effective management. This shift challenges the traditional spotlight on direct procurement, recognizing the expanding role of categories like consulting within the indirect realm.

Strategic management of both direct and indirect procurement is crucial for aligning expenditures with long-term business goals. A strategic versus non-strategic approach challenges conventional dichotomies, emphasizing collaboration, technology utilization, robust supplier relationships, and adaptability in a dynamic business landscape.

Zooming in on consulting reveals its potential as a powerful lever for enhancing project ROI. Aligning consulting spend with overarching business strategies transforms expenditures into strategic investments. Crafting procurement strategies, especially in areas like consulting, should prioritize alignment—ensuring each expenditure is a strategic move contributing tangible value.

As the business landscape evolves, our approach to procurement must adapt, embracing its strategic potential across the entire supply chain. The focus should shift from outdated perceptions to recognizing the strategic importance of both direct and indirect procurement, optimizing processes for sustained business success.

Alright then! So, join us next time on Smart Consulting Sourcing as we will go on a historical exploration. We will look into the evolutionary journey of consulting. We will dig deep and dive into the layers of consulting’s rich history as well as reveal some intriguing insights. So, make sure you join me for that next week!

Thanks again for joining me on this episode which was all about direct and indirect procurement. Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome, so feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or drop an email at You know I am always up for a chat.

Until next time, stay safe and keep up the smart consulting sourcing game. Au revoir for now, and happy sourcing!

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Helene Laffitte

Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting. To find out more, visit the blog or contact her directly.

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