For strategic sourcing managers, procurement is about more than simply finding the lowest price. It’s about seeing the big picture. In addition to understanding how each procurement project can create a ripple effect with a far-reaching impact.

Strategic sourcing, as an approach to procurement, has been around since the 1980s. However, roles dedicated to the practice are relatively new. In fact, the strategic sourcing manager title has steadily been gaining prominence over the last decade. Consequently, I’ve noticed more of these titles in my day-to-day work, as I talk with procurement professionals looking for RFP software to improve their processes. 

Throughout this post, we’ll explore the strategic sourcing manager job description and their role in the procurement team. In addition, I’ll offer an overview of the responsibilities and skills of the role so you can decide if you’re a good fit. And finally, I’ll conclude with helpful tools and resources to hone your skills.

What is a strategic sourcing manager?

    • Definition: Strategic sourcing manager job description
    • Role within the procurement team

Strategic sourcing manager responsibilities and skills

    • Primary responsibilities
    • Hard and soft skills for success

Key procurement tools and resources

What is a strategic sourcing manager?

Definition: Strategic sourcing manager job description

A strategic sourcing manager selects, evaluates and manages vendor partnerships. They use these relationships, along with data analytics, to solve problems and achieve business goals. 

As you might expect, the role focuses on using strategic sourcing principles in the procurement process. Accordingly, they consider each factor that influences a vendor’s overall value. For example, in addition to the cost and quality of a product or service, they take into account the benefit or risk of partnering with a vendor, their reliability, the long-term compatibility, intangible value and much more. Ultimately, the goal is to maximize value and minimize risk.

Business case for RFP software cost

Strategic sourcing manager vs. procurement manager

So, what’s the difference between a strategic sourcing manager and a procurement manager? The answer will depend on the size of the business and maturity of their procurement team. Today, the strategic sourcing manager role is most often found in large enterprise businesses. In this situation, it is a mid-level management position. The role manages processes and policies while guiding the work of procurement managers.

However, I have also found a growing number of small- and medium-sized businesses use the title synonymously with the traditional procurement manager title. The shift in terminology is significant because it speaks to the individual organization’s priorities. At the same time, the change may show an industry trend ⁠— the move from tactical to strategic sourcing.

Role within the procurement team

Generally, strategic sourcing managers are a part of the procurement team within the finance and operations department. However, as mentioned above, the specific hierarchy of roles varies greatly from one business to another. 

Typically, strategic sourcing managers report to the director or vice president of procurement, supply chain director or the chief procurement officer. In addition, depending on the size of the business, they may work alone or manage a team of direct reports.

Strategic sourcing career path

Most strategic sourcing managers move into the position after at least three years in another procurement role. For instance, many start their career as a category manager, procurement manager, sourcing specialist or supply chain manager before growing into the strategic sourcing role.

Opportunities to advance abound for successful strategic sourcing managers. By definition, the role develops an understanding of big-picture objectives and business strategy. Likewise, they benefit from close, collaborative relationships with executives and stakeholders. The experience and visibility naturally lead to advancement. Indeed, many move on to become a senior strategic sourcing manager, director of sourcing strategy or vice president of strategic sourcing.

Strategic sourcing manager responsibilities and skills

Primary responsibilities

Develop procurement policies
Establish, analyze and optimize the business’s procurement strategy ensuring alignment with business goals. Oversee e-procurement and digital transformation initiatives.

Lead collaboration with stakeholders and internal teams
Partner with stakeholders, executive leaders and department heads to understand business needs. Then, establish requirements, scope and criteria for procurement projects.

Manage vendor selection
Leverage RFx tools to facilitate strategic sourcing and manage the RFP timeline. Lead initial market research and vendor profiles to aid supplier selection. Create, issue and manage RFPs in a digital RFP management system. Manage proposal evaluation and final vendor selection.

Explore the RFP process in more detail: Download the RFP process guide.

Build ongoing vendor relationships
Use vendor management best practices throughout negotiation, contracting, onboarding and renewal. Then, conduct regular vendor performance evaluations and supplier risk assessments.

Analyze procurement data
Collect and interpret procurement data including cost analysis reporting, benchmarking spend, RFP data and return on investment.

Optimize procurement processes
Perform regular reviews of established procurement processes to ensure continual improvement. Subsequently refining policies, due diligence questionnaires and RFP templates.

Crucial skills for success

A wide range of skills are required to fulfill the responsibilities of the strategic sourcing role. Certainly, there are many traditional, straight-forward hard skills involved, but there are also a number of nuanced, but still crucial, soft skills needed for success.

Hard skills

  • Contracting and negotiation
  • Risk management
  • Strategic sourcing software experience
  • Business ethics and transparency 
  • Forecasting and planning
  • Category management
  • Project management
  • Data analysis
  • ROI evaluations

Soft skills

  • Relationship and conflict management
    Working with vendors isn’t always easy. Often, it will seem like you’re at odds. However, navigating these tricky situations with tact and respect will yield positive results.
  • Adaptability
    Unfortunately, business needs aren’t always predictable and are often urgent. Consequently, flexibility is essential to success.
  • Strategic thinking and creative problem solving
    Along with being adaptable, creativity is key. Sometimes you can solve problems with existing resources and vendors. Sometimes an unconventional solution is also the most cost effective.

Knowledge network

  • Communication and collaboration
    You need to know how to ask the right questions to get the most useful responses. First, as you work with internal stakeholders to determine what they need. Then, in RFPs issued to vendors.
  • Thought leadership and application of industry concepts
    Procurement is constantly evolving. Strategies change frequently and you must be able to interpret trends and understand how they can be leveraged to benefit your business.
  • Detail oriented
    As anyone who works with contracts knows, the devil is in the details. You must be able to navigate dense, complex documents and then advocate for your business.
  • Time management
    There will always be a list of competing priorities for strategic sourcing managers. From new procurement projects and optimizing processes to vendor evaluation and compliance initiatives, you must strike the right balance.

Key procurement tools and resources

Strategic sourcing managers rely on a number of tools and resources. Accordingly, familiarity with these tools will give you a leg up as you seek strategic sourcing manager opportunities.

Procurement tools and templates

Networking and news

Professional development resources

Many strategic sourcing manager job descriptions list a preference for candidates with project management and procurement certifications. Explore more about the most common certifications with these resources.

In the future, the practice of strategic sourcing will continue to grow as businesses prioritize more meaningful vendor relationships and long-term value. Consequently, strategic sourcing roles are here to stay. 

To learn more about the future of procurement and RFPs, explore insights from experts in the Future of RFPs ebook.