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An empirical taxonomy of purchasing functions
Paul D. Cousins
Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

An empirical taxonomy of purchasing 775

Benn Lawson
School of Management and Economics, The Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK, andBrian Squire
Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the different patterns of purchasing function configuration, and the relationship between such patterns and organisational performance. Design/methodology/approach – Despite considerable attention, there is little evidence showing the currentsituation toward the development of purchasing functions within organisations. Through quantitative data collected from 151 UK purchasing executives, cluster analysis is used to uncover and characterize four purchasing function configurations. Findings – Four configurations, termed strategic, capable, celebrity, and undeveloped, were identified according to the characteristics they possess. Significantdifferences in supplier- and organisational-related performance outcomes were found across these four purchasing function configurations. Purchasing skills were also shown to be a precondition for purchasing to exert influence within the organisation. Research limitations/implications – A cross-sectional survey provides limited longitudinal insight into the evolution of purchasing functions. Futureresearch could examine how firms move between purchasing configurations. This study does, however, improve understanding of the different types of purchasing functions, their performance outcomes, and makes recommendations for potential strategies to be adopted for purchasing function improvement. Practical implications – The findings are useful for practitioners seeking to improve the performance andstanding of the purchasing function through identification of the characteristics and potential limitations faced at each phase. Originality/value – This paper is one of few studies to provide an empirical test of purchasing function configuration, and the implications for organisational performance. Keywords Cluster analysis, Strategic management, Supply chain management Paper type Research paper1. Introduction Over the past decade there has been a growing realisation of the important contribution that purchasing and supply management can have on firm performance. Many organisations have shifted their view of the purchasing function from one of tactical support and toward being a strategic capability (Ellram and Carr, 1994). Whilst both academics and practitioners agree that efficientand effective supply chain
The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support and access given to us to conduct this research by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, UK.

International Journal of Operations & Production Management Vol. 26 No. 7, 2006 pp. 775-794 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0144-3577 DOI 10.1108/01443570610672239

IJOPM 26,7


managementcan lead to sustainable competitive advantage, there appears to have been little empirically based research on what might be the optimal design configuration and level of maturity of purchasing to achieve these benefits. Researchers have produced a range of models and typologies which attempt to identify the various developmental stages of purchasing. These models tend to be conceptual and to lackempirical underpinning; nevertheless they provide a useful background to this study. One of the earliest typologies examining purchasing function configurations was Reck and Long’s (1988) four stages of development, consisting of purchasing configurations ranging from passive, independent, supportive and integrative. Freeman and Cavinato (1990) identified five stages of strategic purchasing: buying,...