(Supply Chain) Initiative Cost Justification

Last year, over on the e-Sourcing Wiki, I brought you The Quest For Purchasing Fire, a guide on how to develop the internal strategies for selling the procurement tools internally. This process had two key steps that, if not done properly, could be major stumbling blocks in getting your initiative off the ground. These key steps were defining the value proposition and building the business case.

The fact of the matter is, when you get right down to it, often the biggest stumbling block is to secure funding for your initiative. Unless the project happens to be a pet project of the CEO or CFO, chances are you won’t be able to secure funding unless you have a clearly stated and easily understood kick-ass value proposition and a well-researched and documented business case to back it up — preferably one that shows big dollar signs to the company’s favor. Thus, it’s important to zero in on the cost-justification in both of these steps and reduce the decision to one that should be a no-brainer ( especially since we know that, in some companies, it would appear that having a functioning brain is not a requirement for an executive position ). If your CEO and CFO can see a significant ROI, which includes an ROI in the near-term, which they know makes Wall Street and / or the private investors happy, they’re much more likely to find the money you need “in the budget” than if they don’t see a savings opportunity that will make them look good.

That’s why it was nice to see an article last month over on the Supply Chain Digest site that offered up six steps to improved cost justification for supply chain and logistics initiatives. Simply put, when it comes to understanding the best way to put together a cost justification for your project, you can use all the good, free, advice that you can find.

The article offered up six useful guidelines to consider when putting together your value proposition and proposal. At a high level, these guidelines were:

  • Understand your company’s investment analysis model
    What does your CFO care about? IRR (Internal Rate of Return), PP (Payback Period), NPV (Net Present Value), ROIC (Return on Invested Capital), etc? Make sure to use the measures your CFO is comfortable with and wants to see. It will help insure that your proposal makes it to the top of his pile.
  • Link funding requests to key corporate strategies and objectives.
    The CEO wants to further the corporate strategies and objectives outlined by the Board, because, simply put, his success in that area positively impacts his annual review, and bonus. Talk to those strategies. That will make sure your initiative gets his attention.
  • Develop a Strong Summary with a Detailed Back-Up
    Your CEO is busy. Very busy. Probably doing stuff that’s not all that important (but that’s not entirely his fault – boards and wall street like to waste an executive’s time), but stuff that consumes his or her time nonetheless. Therefore, it’s important that you have a strong, straight-to the-point, executive summary that says why the company should do this, and what results it will have … because that’s all he or she might have time to read. However, if your CEO likes what she hears, he or she will ask the CFO or another member of the management team to “dive into it” which is where the detailed calculations and supporting materials come into play.
  • Use the Numbers to tell a story.
    Remember, the CFO likes numbers. So base the story around those numbers. “We will generate a 300% ROI by implementing an e-Procurement system that … “.
  • Review Preliminary Justification with Key Stakeholders
    And make sure to to have them verify every assumption that you make. The last thing you want is for the manager tasked with verifying your submission to find that one of your key assumptions is wrong. Even if the affect is minor on the final ROI calculation, being overworked, he’ll likely assume that the whole plan must be faulty, throw it out, and vote nay without even giving you a chance to correct it. But if you meet with the key stakeholders and everyone agrees, you can get it more-or-less right the first time and not have to worry about your initiative getting killed off before it even has time to begin.
  • Triple Check to Eliminate Math Errors and Risky Assumptions
    A CFO is likely to assume that if you can’t add, since you have a spreadsheet to do it for you, you probably can’t do anything else you say you can do either, and deny your project without even considering it. And CEO’s don’t like risk, so if you can get (almost) the same results with less risky assumptions, you should use them.

Good advice all around.