Professor Katri Kauppi knows just what it takes to succeed in outsourcing
Just because you understand a clause in a contract, doesn’t mean you know what you are about to buy.
Professor Katri Kauppi, what do you research and why?
My professorship is in the field of logistics, but my research interests are more closely connected to managing procurement processes and supply chains. My doctoral dissertation examined governmental purchasing and I then went on to expand this work to also look at purchasing in the private sector and supply chains more broadly.
I still carry out research into public procurement, especially on outsourcing services in the social and healthcare sector. I’m interested in the ways in which outsourcing processes can be improved and how they have an impact on performance. One of the secrets to success is putting effort in preparing before the tendering process. It’s often the case that due to legislation the tendering process gets too much emphasis in public procurement. This is to a certain extent understandable – a single mistake could result in legal action or needing to start the whole process from scratch.
From the perspective of the buyer, there should be more emphasis on knowing what they want to buy and what the important criteria are for the purchase. The social and healthcare sector is a good example of this. Lawyers are not best placed to determine the right metrics for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of a treatment, for instance. Rather, this requires input from doctors and other health professionals. And this is precisely why a multiprofessional team is needed during the planning stages of outsourcing.
How did you become a researcher?
When I started my studies at the School of Business I really wanted to become a consultant. But while I was working on my master’s thesis, my professors started encouraging me to consider continuing on to doctoral studies. And as soon as I began working on my PhD, I knew that this was the right path for me. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed the research and teaching so much that doing something else hasn’t even crossed my mind.
What have been the high points of your career so far?
I have to say that my doctoral defence was really special – as well as immediately after that getting an assistant professorship at the highly regarded Manchester Business School. Getting to Aalto tenure track and succeeding on it seem to indicate I have been focusing on the correct things in my career.
Naturally, I’m delighted about the recent Academy of Finland research funding I secured, too. Our project looks at the ways asymmetrical information can lead to problems in buyer-supplier relationships. Traditional thinking suggests that strict supervision and contractual strangleholds are how to prevent problems developing when one company contracts another – for product development or manufacturing, for example. Whereas we posit that issues arise when the supplier hasn’t received enough information from the buyer on how they are supposed to respond to things like uncertainty about product demand or changes in technology. Hence, it's often the case that better communication is what’s needed.
What is required from a researcher?
Writing skills are important. You need to be able to construct an argument, to explain what the key issues are, and why they are societally relevant. Otherwise, any results you come up with aren’t going to get the proper attention.
Good reading skills are also essential. In this field, we don’t tend to spend time in labs; rather, we read other’s people's research and conduct interviews. This is why researchers need to be able to quickly process large amounts of data and take it on board.
Above all, though, you need to be genuinely passionate about what you do to get through the daily slog!
What do you expect from the future?
I am really excited about our four-year Academy of Finland research project – the subject is challenging and we have put together an outstanding team. In fact, a British colleague and I were just discussing one of the project’s first publications and we both agreed it’s one the most challenging pieces of writing we've worked on – which is really refreshing.
I am also really looking forward to setting up my own research group. I’m looking for people who really know how to argue their point and are just as enthusiastic about research as I am.
Katri Kauppi is among a host of newly-appointed Aalto University professors presenting their research at the Installation Talks event, to be held on 24th October 2018. We hope to see you there!
See more information here.
Photo: Mortti Saarnia