Give Your Procurement Practice Some Backbone! Part II

Today’s guest post is from Torey Guingrich, a Project Manager at Source One Management Services, who focuses on helping global companies drive greater value from their Procurement expenditures.

In Part I, we discussed how as an organization moves from decentralized/departmental procurement decisions to a centralized procurement and strategic sourcing department, there are bound to be some growing pains when it comes to working with departmental stakeholders and that transitioning to an effective central procurement and sourcing model will require changes. We discussed two preventable gaps that undermine the transformation process and in today’s post we discuss two more.

  • Lack of management tools or processes.

    Procurement needs to be equipped so that once spend and suppliers come under purview, they can effectively manage each component. This doesn’t have to be a full software solution, but Procurement should be setting up some standards so that stakeholders can feel comfortable with handing off pieces of contract and supplier management to Procurement. This may start as a simple Excel sheet tracking contract notice and term dates, and can evolve to full contract management and compliance departments. With Procurement handling these components, stakeholders can reallocate their time to accomplishing departmental goals as opposed to tracking performance and dealing with contracts, SLA, and pricing issues. Having Procurement involved in supplier management can actually help the working relationship between suppliers and end users as stakeholders can rely on Procurement to play “bad cop” and push where necessary without putting the day-to-day relationships in jeopardy.

  • No clear way to provide feedback.

    When a business moves to a centralized model, there are sure to be some bumps in the road. It is key to have two-way communication between Procurement and other business units to continually improve and refine the process. Positive communication (e.g. sharing success stories) is a great to share how Procurement is benefiting the company and other departments (e.g. reducing costs, improving service, etc.), but be sure to also open a forum for constructive feedback. I have seen positive feedback shared through company announcements, newsletters or quick “blurbs” in departmental bulletins. Procurement departments can solicit feedback from something as simple as a quick email survey when projects close or by establishing more formal project debriefs to talk about what went right and what could have been improved with the stakeholders involved.

As Procurement professionals, it is key understand from a stakeholder perspective the challenges with letting go of control and autonomy for project and purchasing decisions. Procurement and executive-level management need to ensure that the Procurement department is being set up for success by establishing company policies and processes that will give Procurement the authority and standing it needs to be truly effective.

Thanks Torey!

Give Your Procurement Practice Some Backbone! Part I

Today’s guest post is from Torey Guingrich, a Project Manager at Source One Management Services, who focuses on helping global companies drive greater value from their Procurement expenditures.

As an organization moves from decentralized/departmental procurement decisions to a centralized procurement and strategic sourcing department, there are bound to be some growing pains when it comes to working with departmental stakeholders.

Two of the main drivers for this are that:

  • Stakeholders are used to making decisions.

    End users and department personnel feel they know what is best to support their needs and may have had free reign in the past to make purchasing decisions for department-specific needs as well as more general categories (e.g. office suppliers, laptops and desktops, IT accessories, etc.).

  • Stakeholders are used to managing relationships with the suppliers with whom they work.

    Because stakeholders are making their own purchasing decisions, they are also typically managing the negotiation, contracting, and ongoing relationship with the supplier.

To transition to an effective central procurement and sourcing model, changes will be necessary within the organization to support the new structure. As someone who has helped clients transform (or build) their procurement operations, I have some seen some preventable gaps that undermine the transformation process and cause frustration for Procurement and the business units they support.

  • No standard procurement process.

    One of the first steps for establishing a central procurement department in an organization is to ensure that those in Procurement are singing from the same sheet when it comes to process. If you have a mix of past (or no) experience, each person is likely to come to their role in Procurement based on their past processes (or lack of processes) in mind. Begin by defining what the standard sourcing process looks like for your company and communicate that process to the organization as a whole. Reiterate Procurement’s role and the stakeholders’ role within that process; the goal is ensure end users are familiar with and are able to embrace the process, not to cut them out of it. Certainly not every project and/or purchase may follow the same process, but having a standard and communicating this to end users provides a familiarity with how procurement works and what the stakeholders can expect. Having a standard process allows stakeholders to feel comfortable working alongside Procurement and not feel as if decision-making is being stripped.

  • No defined (or enforced) Procurement and Contracting policies.

    Many times I have seen organizations start pushing centralized purchasing decisions and procurement support without any organizational policies that establish this new standard within the company. Without clear organization policies (and management support of those policies) for where, when, and how Procurement should be involved in departmental purchasing decisions, stakeholders are bound to continue to work in a vacuum.Any policies put in place should cover at a minimum the procurement process, how and when procurement needs to be notified of a purchasing need, and authorization levels (e.g. who can sign for what, spend levels that require certain level of sign off). Many times, part of that process includes a legal component in terms of who is actually authorized to sign agreements, purchase orders, etc. Many companies employ a checklist or agreement cover sheet that requires multiple sign-offs that may include review by the stakeholder, legal, procurement, and others before the final signature on the agreement is completed by the authorized party. Without a clear and communicated (and backed by management) policy, contracts typically continue to be signed by business units without any Procurement knowledge or oversight. While this may threaten the autonomy of some stakeholders, Procurement and management should be explaining the benefits of this oversight, especially for high value agreements or purchases, and the pitfalls these policies help prevent.

If only these were all of the gaps. These are just the beginning, In part II, we will discuss two more gaps that need to be prevented.

Thanks Torey!

Societal Damnation 47: XaaS

This is a damnation so damning that it was one of only two damnations that required two entire posts just to overview (and one of the few damnations the doctor could literally write an entire book on)! So just what is XaaS?

XaaS, short for Everything as a Service, is the latest craze that is going to cause your Supply Management organization nothing but suffering and pain. While it sounds really cool, because, historically, the transformation of a non-core but essential function (legal, accounting, etc.) or utility (water, electricity, waste disposal, etc.) into a service made your life easier. But, as with any good thing, it’s always possible to have too much … and with XaaS, to have too much forced down your throat even if you’re already choking on your own regurgitations.

And while the right services can provide an organization with advantages that include, but are not limited to,

  • expertise,
  • cost reduction, and
  • efficiency

for an organization that does not have the dedicated personnel, or expertise, to perform the function as good as a third party, if the wrong services (or service providers) are provided (or selected), the organization will instead be burdened with a number of considerable disadvantages that included, but are not limited to:

  • cost increase,
  • efficiency decrease,
  • loss of control, and a
  • 3rd Party Management (3PM) nightmare.

And if different business units decide to start outsourcing what they perceive as non-core functions (which are in fact core to the business or which should be managed by Supply Management or a different business unit), functions for which the service provider cannot achieve economy of scale, or functions that have not been optimized for outsourcing (which will result in an efficiency decrease as a best-practice provider will not be able to optimize inefficient workflows) willy-nilly, Supply Management will have quite a third party management mess to deal with.

In a nutshell, services are good, but, as clearly illustrated in our second damnation post on the subject, Everything-as-a-Service is a ridiculous concept and any organization that buys into it is just asking for trouble.

So what can you do when you are pushed to buy into this latest outsourcing craze?

1. Get an organizational policy in place that all services spending goes through Procurement.

This will be very hard, but unless Procurement knows about an outsourcing initiative or a XaaS buy, it can’t make sure that the organization makes the right buy, if a buy is even required at all!

2. Do your homework on each request.

Why is the service being requested. What does it do and what processes or services does it replace. Why could a third party do it better and are the third parties being considered capable of doing it better. If the process is outsourced, will the organization lose important skills or knowledge. Should a traditional product to enhance in-house be considered instead?

3. Figure out what processes are truly strategic and what process are just tactical.

Strategic processes should be kept, or at least managed, in house while tactical processes are the prime candidates for XaaS providers. From the list of tactical processes, identify those that would be best suited for outsourcing through efficiency gains or cost savings.

In other words, the key to sustentation is not jumping on the bandwagon and doing everything you can to prevent the rest of the organization from jumping on when you’re not looking.

Happy One Hundred and Thirty Second Birthday, Prime Meridian

Without you, we’d never know where zero longitude was, and that could make geolocation very difficult without a reference point.

… and the eastern border of the Texas panhandle with Oklahama would not be so easy to find … (look it up).

Historical fact, it took a whole International Meridian Conference, at the request of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, to select this!

Just What Is A Next Generation Supplier Network?

Just about every vendor with a supplier network these days that is doing any development at all is claiming to have a next generation supplier network, but just what is a next generation supplier network?

To answer this, we first need to define what was a first generation supplier network. But this is easier said then done.

According to the procurement dynamo, in his post on how marketplaces transformed into next generation supplier networks that was posted earlier this year, last generation supplier networks were marketplaces. And that’s more less accurate.

By definition, a marketplace is where suppliers can list their wares, buyers can search and review wares of interest, and contact the supplier to place an order. And that’s pretty much what first generation networks, which weren’t that much more powerful than craigslist or e-Bay, could do.

But that doesn’t a network make. Once these “marketplaces” began to allow buyers and sellers to transmit electronic documents, manage their offerings on a public and private basis (for current customers), and securely collaborate they became networks. And this is all many networks do.

So what is a next generation supplier network? According to the procurement dynamo, first and foremost a supplier network is a collaboration framework where both parties exchange business information in order to perform better together. And the doctor agrees. But any secure messaging portal fits this description, so we need to elaborate.

Secondly, a next generation supplier network is one that allows for seamless e-document exchange in EDI, XML, and other standard, accepted, and (government and regulatory body) approved e-format between buyer and supplier supply management systems. It must provide an open API for integration into these systems because if a buyer or supplier has to log in to send or receive a document, it’s first generation.

Thirdly, a next generation supplier network is one that allows suppliers to manage public and private catalogs, with multiple price tiers on the private side, to allow potential customers to find and browse their ways, and current customers to buy, buy, buy. Similarly, it allows buyers to announce tenders, define their typical needs, and be discovered by suppliers they might miss in their searches.

And fourthly, and this is the biggie, a next generation supplier network must support the development of custom apps that allow a supplier to access a supplier portal or capability on a buyer’s platform (to do VMI, for example) or a buyer to access a buyer portal or capability on the supplier’s (sales) platform to access shipment and status information or query factory stock levels. It must not only be the “glue” that allows people to connect, but processes and platforms to connect as well. We’re not really seeing much of this yet, but this will truly distinguish a next generation platform from a current generation one.