CASME Facilitator Profile: Five minutes with Jeff Devon

Thursday, March 7, 2019

CASME RoundTables are hosted by a worldwide team of senior procurement professionals, all experts in their field, who draw upon their corporate procurement experience to develop and facilitate the wide range of category-based discussions in the annual RoundTable programme.

Jeff Devon has had a distinguished career during which he has held several senior directorships, at both start-up ventures and global brands. He has a wide breadth of procurement category experience that includes marketing, real estate, human resources, technology and business services, and has been responsible for developing many successful sourcing strategies. On retiring from corporate life in mid-2017, he joined CASME as a RoundTable facilitator and continues to work as a coach and mentor in his home state of Arizona. We caught up with Jeff to find out more about his career in procurement.

What do you love about working in Procurement?  
I spent much of my career as a marketer, where the results I delivered to the business could be influenced by any number of factors, many of which I had no control over. As a procurement professional, however, when I completed a major negotiation and sealed the deal with a fully-executed contract, there was never a question about the value the deal delivered. Having more control and a direct line of sight from effort to results was very satisfying.

What has been your biggest challenge? 
When leading a global team, I found it was often challenging to have my team members grow into a more strategic relationship with their business partners. Migrating our role from the old-school purchasing function to being a true strategic partner with a seat at the table was sometimes daunting. To address the challenge, we focussed on building business knowledge – understanding the challenges and objectives of the business – and learning that we needed to speak the language of the business, not procurement-speak.

What successes are you most proud of?
I am frequently rewarded when I read postings on LinkedIn.com to see my former colleagues moving up in their careers. Throughout my working life I have always searched out a mentor or coach to help me grow and navigate the typical career challenges. I also worked hard, and still do, as a coach and mentor to others. When I see those I have had the good fortune to work with grow in their careers, either through promotions or landing new exciting opportunities, I celebrate their success and hope that in some small way I may have helped them. My business successes were made possible by surrounding myself with terrific teammates and very supportive leaders.

You recently talked about the transactional side of procurement being taken over by machine learning and AI.  Are you seeing any evidence of this right now?
Adoption of AI seems to be gaining some momentum. It will be important for procurement teams to quickly accept and adopt the benefits of AI such that the energy we formerly spent in transactional work can be redirected into the strategic roles we want to play.

What advice would you give to a procurement category manager starting out on their career? 
Above all, learn the business of those you support. Far too many procurement folks understand the seven-step procurement process, and how to create a binding contract, but fail to truly understand the aims and issues of the businesses we support. When you sit across the table with someone who has spent their career as a marketing professional, for example, and you have only been in that category for six months, who is bringing the value to the discussion? Only when we can speak the language of the business, understand their challenges and offer viable solutions, will we be able to truly deliver the value of procurement.

What plans or objectives do you have for 2019?
I have been invited to be a judge at the EPIC Awards and will be a panellist at the upcoming ProcureCon Indirect East conference in Florida in March. I look forward to facilitating several CASME RoundTable and Virtual RoundTable sessions this year and contributing where I can to the growth of CASME’s community and the success of our members!  On a personal level, my wife and I are very much looking forward to travelling in Europe with friends and spending valuable time with our family. 

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