“Buying for business” – book review

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First published in 2004, Christopher Barret and Mark Whitehead’s “Buying For Business” provides a comprehensive look at the issues facing purchasing and supply management professionals. The book is not meant as a definitive guide to the area but rather as an introduction or “refresher”, aimed at new entrants to the profession and curious outsiders.The first part of the book focuses on the practical aspect of the profession, and covers topics such as managing purchasing people and customers, relating to suppliers and negotiation. The second part of Buying For Business tackles some of the wider issues affecting purchasing professionals, including measuring performance, outsourcing and E-commerce. Whitehead and Barrat provide advice on the key topics, as well as in depth insight, sourced from their collective experience and many contributing experts. Information is presented clearly and with helpful diagrams, analysis tools and pro-formas. Case studies and bench-marking exercises illustrate and reinforce all points.The next section examines some of the ethical issues which can arise within the profession. Examples considered range from ceasing to work with a supplier due to child labour law violations, to suppliers requesting a “facilitation fee” for their services. Finally, Barret and Whitehead look at the changing role of purchasing departments and how future developments will affect customer relations, supply chains and what is expected from the profession as a whole.With “Buying For Business”, Barrat and Whitehead have succeeded in creating an accessible and highly engaging read which not only covers the practicalities behind purchasing and supply but also the less discussed ethical issues. However, given the fact it was first published eight years ago, some of the areas discussed, such as eProcurement, P2P and business transformation, have since changed substantially and readers should look elsewhere for up-to-date information.In the words of Mark Scott, a director of the Ashridge Strategic Management Centre, UK, “Purchasing is too often overlooked by executives as a dull hygiene factor. As Barrat and Whitehead argue very effectively, purchasing can in fact be a strategic weapon, and the skill with which a company deploys it can make all the difference to both their bottom line and customer impact. I would recommend this introduction to the area.”

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