Futurists are Still Stuck in the Past! Leave them there!

And the reasons are the same as they have always been.  (And the doctor just wishes they’d stop speaking at the events he has to go to.)

  1. They Have No Knowledge as they come from different backgrounds which offer them no education or experience in Supply Management.
    Just because you can get high, have psychedelic visions, white them down, and spin a good yarn doesn’t mean you can be a futurist. A poet, sure, but not a futurist …
  2. They Have No Vision beyond what the rear view mirror (or the hydrocarbon gas from the bituminous limestone) offers them.
    When Meatloaf said “it was long ago and far away and it was so much better than it is today“, he was referring to newly discovered young love, not business processes identified 30 years ago …
  3. They See Too Many Organizations Stuck in the Past and a few organizations (in the Hackett top 8%) ahead of the pack and they think they can peddle these best practices as future vision.
    This is not 1914 (which was 12 years before the first transatlantic telephone call) where good ideas take years to spread (and the first person to bring a new idea or technology from a different continent can make millions on someone else’s work) and a career can be built on one single improvement — this is 2019 where it only takes a few seconds for a story to be spread around the world. But I guess if you can’t look beyond the rear-view mirror …

So, why are so many organizations still stuck in the past (and fueling the flame that powers these fantasy futurists spinning the same yarns they spun five years ago and driving the doctor mad)? There’s a few reasons, and they include:

  • Lack of Education
    Many Supply Managers were simply thrust into the role, with no training or background for the role. And despite the fact that they have some competence or experience in other areas, they are so ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the role that they might as well have been dropped in The Lost World.
  • Lack of Resources
    Most Supply Managers are overworked (and underpaid, but who isn’t these days) and resource-constrained, with no time for training and no budget even if they had the time (or would sacrifice their few remaining free hours to get better and more efficient so that maybe someday they can take a whole weekend off).
  • Lack of Clarity
    With no formal education, no training, and no resources to make sense of the barrage of BS being thrown at them by futurists and analysts alike, how can they differentiate between current and past processes and technologies and what they need to embark on a path that will ready them for what comes next?

And the third reason is the most crucial. Until they get some clarity, Supply Managers are going to continue to be taken in by modern con-men (who include 2nd rate analysts, consultants, and salesmen of outdated technology) selling them silicon snake oil when they just need modern sourcing and procurement tools that fit their workflow and daily needs.

That’s why SI is here – and why the doctor co-invented (and single-handedly developed the sourcing, supplier management, and analytics) Solution Maps which grade a platform on functional capability only — not subjective vision, market size, arbitrary inclusion parameters, and other factors that are easily embellished or hidden behind a smoke screen.

So if you want a vendor who can help you, chose one based on solid capability.  And if you want an analyst that can help you, choose one that bases recommendations on real data.  Then you will make progress.

Aspects of the Tax Efficient Supply Chain

Many companies overlook function-based tax planning where the supply chain is involved. Considering that tax reductions, or even tax payment delays in Free Trade Zones can save a company millions and millions of dollars, and free up millions more in working capital, tax considerations should play a major role in your supply chain, and in your supply chain finance, efforts — especially now that tariffs are skyrocketing and you need every source of savings you can find.

When you consider that tax-planning affects both supply chain steps (including supply, distribution, retail channels, and customer delivery) and supply chain management processes (including procurement, EDI, merchandising, financing, branding, and asset management) and that it applies both above-the-line (taxes that impact operating income) and below-the-line (taxes that impact income-based taxes), it has far reaching implications. Furthermore tax issues permeate every aspect of identifying, acquiring, importing, transporting, distributing and selling goods and tax planning can impact almost every aspect of the supply chain. This means that tax savings can be almost anywhere. Some of the possibilities that have been noted on this blog in the past include the following:

  • Procurement
    Ownership of the transaction is key as it allows the taxpayer to determine the subject matter, value of each component, and the appropriate jurisdiction, because the right balance can minimize tax.

    • in many states, intangible assets are not subject to property tax — thus, including a warranty cost in a capitalized asset unnecessarily increases a company’s property tax base
    • in many states / jurisdictions, electronically downloaded software is not subject to sales tax
    • disconnecting volume or contract inducement payments from the purchase of the underlying property can cause sales or property taxes to be overstated
    • appropriate planning can often reduce customs and duties
  • Brand Management
    Brand management also has tax implications.

    • the determination of where branding occurs in the supply chain, and thus where value is added, determines the situs of taxability and the value of goods for import, export, and tax purposes
    • the ability to license and protect IP associated with the brand often impacts the jurisdiction of income taxation
    • the situs of where IP is held impacts the tax costs of dispositions
  • Merchandising and Marketing
    Critical in retail operations, they carry their own tax implications.

    • site selection determines property tax
    • capitalization of store design costs have tax implications
  • Finance
    Finance structuring can have significant tax implications.

    • the capital structure of a legal entity can impact its franchise tax profile
    • internal leverage can reduce state income taxes in some jurisdictions
  • Customer Relationship Management
    There are tax implications in building an infrastructure to compile and store customer information.

    • there are state income tax implications wherever such data is stored and maintained.
    • an ability to license and protect IP impacts the jurisdiction of income taxation
    • capitalization of CRM software has property tax implications
  • Distribution of Asset Management
    Distribution management is more than just minimizing logistics costs.

    • an incorrect valuation of inventory can lead to higher taxes
    • some jurisdictions have sales tax exemptions for transportation equipment in inter-state commerce
    • distribution activities that are not separated into separate legal entities can expose a company’s major profit centers to unnecessary multi-state income taxation
  • Retail
    • the employee-intensive nature can lead to process-based payroll tax incompliance and / or unnecessary over-payments
    • state income tax savings can often be found on international distribution assets
    • inefficiently designed gift-card programs can cause unnecessary escheatment of funds

Furthermore, this might just be the tip of the iceberg in tax savings opportunities available to your supply-chain based business. Especially when you consider the numerous benefits of tax-efficient procurement, which include:

  • prevention of incorrect or duplicative taxation
  • matching subsequent rebates or discounts with original purchases to reduce the overall taxable purchase price
  • structuring the transaction to fit within a statutory or regulatory exemption
  • unbundling taxable items from non-taxable items
  • identifying taxes that can be reclaimed

In addition, tax-efficient procurement will:

  • improve the sales tax audit trail and reduce the time required to respond to audits
  • allow for more efficient refund claims when errors have been made or the corporation is entitled to a tax rebate / refund
  • greater certainty regarding tax requirements

So get tax efficient. And maybe you can at least counter all of the duties and tariffs being imposed in the trade war.

Molly Fletcher’s 5 Mistakes Everyone Makes in Negotiations

Yesterday at Jaggaer Rev 2019, the best presentation was the guest keynote speaker. While the vision from Bonavito was interesting, and an overview of the enterprise technology journey to date from Zahiri was illuminating for those who haven’t been in tech for almost three decades, neither were very enlightening with respect to how current and potential customers could do a better job of Procurement right now.

On the other hand, Molly Fletcher’s talk (of the Molly Fletcher Company) really hit home and didn’t overlook the fact that at the end of the day, every strategic engagement will be between people who will put the final touches on a contract that, once signed, will govern a relationship for years to come. Moreover, when you negotiate a good contract, both parties understand up front what the other is looking for — and this usually means that you can literally set and forget the contract until renewal time (but still have confidence and assurance on the off chance something goes wrong).

So what are the mistakes? And how do you overcome them? We’ll get to them. But first, it’s only fair to tell you that we’ll be trying to explain the five mistakes — and corrections — in source-to-pay terms, as opposed to the much more exciting — and real — sports (negotiation) terms that Molly, a sports agent rock star, used. (In other words, her presentation is exciting and engaging … and you really should see it if you get the chance, or, even better, organize it when you get the chance.)

1. Not Knowing Who You Are Negotiating With

Some negotiators think that who you are negotiating with doesn’t matter — it’s all about the negotiation and getting the best deal. And while it can be all about the negotiation and getting the best deal if that’s what both sides want, this is only going to work if both sides are interested in (almost) the (exact) same thing. If both sides only care about the number at the end of the day, it might work. But if one side only cares about the number but the other side cares about the future direction of the organization they are partnering with and how the product, service, or overall relationship is going to improve and grow, then the negotiations aren’t going to go anywhere.

On the other hand, if you know what matters most to the other organization, and what they want at the end of the day, and address that continuously during the negotiation, you have a much better chance at a negotiation that is not only smooth, but truly profitable. If what the other side wants the most is not the most important factor to you, a few concessions on the other party’s wants can lead to more concessions against your wants. If the other side just cares about the price, and you waver a little bit, they might throw in more services or better delivery terms or R&D support.

2. Negotiation is a Transaction

The outcome is a transaction in the form of a contract, but the negotiation itself is not a transaction. The negotiation is a relationship where both parties want to continue the interaction with the goal of coming to an agreement that will see both parties working together for months, to years, to come. If you overlook the relationship, you may never get to the transaction.

3. Getting Offensive

All offensiveness does is cause the other party to become defensive. And defensiveness never results in an open dialogue where the other party is looking for a way to overcome the disconnect between the desired outcomes of both parties and cross whatever perceived impasse has been reached. The solution here is to instead get curious, ask questions about possibilities, or orthogonal opportunities, that will instead get the other party to open up about what they really want or what they might be able to do if they can’t meet your need in a direct fashion.

4. Everything Has to Happen Now

Presuming you are starting a negotiation before you need the product or service, or a contract renewal before the contract ends, you have time — and usually more than you think (even if you have to expedite a shipment). Just because your timeline says you should finish in a week, that doesn’t mean you have to. Sometimes the other party just needs time and a little time can make all the difference — and the more strategic the negotiation, sometimes the more time you need. And even if it means you are without an agreement for a month or two, or buying from the spot market, it’s not always the right thing to rush a strategic negotiation. If the negotiation could result in a 5 year long-term deal that is more valuable than any extra costs you’d pay in the short term as a result of a short delay, especially if the supplier or partner could be strategic and bring innovation and value to your organization you could not get otherwise, can often be more than worth it.

5. Not Asking with Confidence

Always ask with confidence. Do your research. Know your facts. Know what you are asking for is reasonable. And then ask with confidence. Not only will you not get what you don’t ask for, but you won’t get what you do ask for if the other party has any sense at all that you expect you might not get it. Be confident … always. (But don’t be foolish. It doesn’t matter how confident you are, you won’t get a price below the supplier’s cost of goods, for example. But it never hurts to challenge the margin.)

7 Sourcing Secrets Everyone Should Know By Now … Part II

… but don’t, because if they did, Source-to-Pay would be ubiquitous across the space.

As we noted yesterday, if you’re a long-time reader of SI, you can skip this post because you already know it all. But if you are a new reader, and haven’t scoured the archives yet, this post is for you — to help get you up to speed fast on what you may not yet have discovered in the extensive archives you can find right here on SI.

Yesterday we covered the first four “secrets” that shouldn’t be secrets anymore. Today we cover the last three.


5. Contract Management is just a new name for document management with integrated monitoring, it’s not a replacement for contract managers — and definitely NOT a replacement for lawyers!

Lately I’ve noticed how contract management is coming into vogue … again. And while that’s a good thing, it’s important to understand what contract management is and isn’t because it seems that some vendors, and some publications, are promoting the new offerings, with automatic clause identification and suggestion, as the latest and greatest tools to solve all your contract woes when the reality is that these tools are nothing more than document management tools with monitors, alerts, and contract templates that can swap out versions of a clause based on industry, geography, spend level, and identified risk.

We won’t deny the importance of having a good contract management tool that can monitor expiration dates, contract pricing, and, most importantly, invoiced pricing against contracted rates, but these tools, even if they contain sophisticated contract creation and clause identification capabilities, can’t replace a contract expert, a master negotiator, a trained legal professional, or a good spend analysis tool that can uncover devious work-arounds by less-than-reputable vendors looking for a way to make back that buck they gave up in negotiations. (For example, we still hear from consultants to this day who tell us how, ten years later, they find that some office supply management vendors still regularly changed SKUs to bill you twice as much for that pen as it’s really worth — as most of their customers still haven’t caught on.)


6. e-Procurement is tactical, and not a substitute for e-Sourcing

There’s still a lot of confusion in the marketplace between what is e-Procurement (and how it relates to I2P, P2P, EIPP, and the other new acronyms old players are coining to differentiate their new, streamlined, offering) and what is e-Sourcing, even though it should be fairly clear cut (as the doctor outlined over a decade ago in this post on why it’s sourcing and procurement). A few of the e-Procurement vendors are even claiming that you don’t need sourcing at all if you use the wisdom of crowds (which is not the case because there’s a big difference between a great deal on a commodity office supply and a great deal on raw cocoa or custom circuit boards, which are not commodities), market intelligence, and automation. Sourcing is the strategic part of the purchasing cycle, procurement is the tactical. You need both, and one is not a substitute for the other.


7. It’s not what you know, it’s what you can learn!

Plain and simple,

  • it doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing it that way for 20 years if it’s not optimal,
  • shift happens, and
  • whatever happens, the world of tomorrow will not be the world of today.

You have to keep learning. That’s why this blog is here to help you.

7 Sourcing Secrets Everyone Should Know By Now … Part I

… but don’t, because if they did, Source-to-Pay would be ubiquitous across the space.

If you’re a long-time reader of SI, you can skip these posts because you already know it all. But if you are a new reader, and haven’t scoured the archives yet, these posts are for you.

Even though most of the time the doctor gets to interact with people who’ve been there, done that, probably failed because they were using an older, insufficient, product, sometimes someone comes along who’s never really had real tech in one or more areas and the obvious is new. And since new readers still stumble on SI, it’s important to get them up to speed … fast. So, here goes — because you really really really should know the following “secrets” that, after more than a decade, should not be secrets anymore.


1. e-RFX is electronic support for the full information and quote gathering cycle, not just bid collection

If all your e-RFX does is allow you to collect bids, it’s not e-RFX. It’s e-RFQ, and a poor e-RFQ at that. It should allow you to create questionnaires, surveys, and entire RFX packages with closed and open-ended questions, allow you to compare responses side by side, and allow you to collect not only all of the pricing, but all of the discounts, rebates, and promotions the supplier offers. It should help you manage the process, guide you through it, engage with your entire team, and support data import and export in open formats so that you can also use analysis, optimization, and contract management tools.


2. A Reverse Auction is simply an online auction event, it’s not a substitute for proper sourcing project management

We follow the space closely and not a month goes by where we don’t see an article on how Company XYZ is now refusing to participate in online auctions or company ABC no longer wants to use them because they got poor results or inflated costs after the award. When you dig down, this is because the supplier had a horrible experience or the buyer didn’t properly qualify the supplier or the product/service requirements. When you dig deeper still, you find out it is typically either because Company ABC simply threw an auction tool at the supplier and told they had to bid through the tool or lose all their business or Company ABC threw up an auction tool and said they’d award to the lowest bidder and either bought a product that wasn’t qualified to meet their needs or ended up ignoring the auction result and going with a different supplier, usually the incumbent, after the auction closed.

We find this appalling, because e-Auctions, like e-RFX, are not only a great time saver, but a great way to bring parties together from around the globe and allow them to participate in an e-Sourcing event that, when run right, is more transparent, educational, and profitable for all parties concerned than traditional methods of sourcing where you get bids by phone and fax until you find three bids you like and then meet in a room to “negotiate” until a deal is struck with a winner – especially for a commodity, low-dollar, and/or non-strategic category. (And we use the term “negotiate” loosely because old style purchasing methods usually boil down to the party with the most leverage beating up the party with the least leverage.) But this is only true if the event is run right. This takes proper project planning and management. Tools can facilitate the process, but they can’t replace it.


3. (Strategic Sourcing) Decision Optimization is for everyone, not just for math geeks!

We’ll admit this is the doctor‘s personal bandwagon, but having seen savings of over 40% and ROIs of over 400 on a number of projects, and average savings in the 10% to 20% range and average ROIs of 5X to 10X or more, the doctor knows he has a good reason for riding it. Despite the fact that true self-service decision optimization for sourcing has now been around for almost two decades, it’s still the “black sheep” that almost no one uses — and it’s a real shame because now is the time you need it most. Furthermore, the new tools coming out of the leading providers are not only a lot more usable than the first generation tools, but they are also more usable then second generation tools, and can be easily used not only by an college graduate who can build a cost model and specify some business constraints but by any high-school drop-out that can follow a workflow (as they allow the college graduates to build category and event specific templates that anyone can easily follow). In other words, if you have the pre-requisites for strategic sourcing, you can use these tools to save time, to save money, and make better, more informed, decisions.


4. Spend Analysis is flexible Data Analysis, not canned reports on a data warehouse populated via automated classification

Real spend analysis is the ability to dive into your data and find out not just where your true spend is higher than it should be, but why. This requires you to have the ability to slice, dice, and cube your data on any dimension you can think of, because you’re never going to know where the losses are until you find them. (After all, if you knew where your holes were, wouldn’t you have plugged them already?) Canned reports on a static data warehouse can only tell you how fixes you’ve already implemented are working, not where the holes are. Furthermore, “automated classification” (which is not the same as automatic classification rule suggestion) just doesn’t work. Any good consultant worth his salt can load your data into a real data analysis product and find two dozen mistakes in twelve minutes. You need the ability to define and redefine mapping rules on the fly as all automated classification can do is fix previously identified mistakes. It can’t identify new ones. Software isn’t intelligent (despite all the voodoo claims out there). People are (at least until we blindly trust the machine).

Come back tomorrow for Part II!