This is part two of a three-part series.
Yesterday we covered the five — new and improved — predictions of Jason “The Prophet” Bush, the Spend Master of Spend Matters, that he has issued from high (on his soapbox) to the supply management community as part of his fall conference tour. These predictions were:
- Procurement becomes as much about staying out of the headlines as it does about getting results
- Top performers will follow Teddy Roosevelt’s adage: “speak softly and carry a big stick”
- Si hablamos espanol … as the US gets over its love affair with China when it comes to global sourcing
- The management of information becomes the holy grail of all procurement and operations success
- Metaphorically speaking, the procurement combustion engine (and car) has now been invented — now the focus will turn to everything else that must come along with it
Are they correct? Time will tell. I agree with number four wholeheartedly, and mostly agree with the others, with the exception of number five, because, even though we now have a working engine, parts of it are still quite primitive. However, rather than argue their merits, which should be self-evident, I think we instead need to ask “if the Spend Master is right, what should we be doing?”. Prophecies are good, because someone should be thinking about the future, but results are better. That’s why you go to a doctor, and not a seer, when you are sick.
Procurement becomes as much about staying out of the headlines as it does about getting results.
What does this mean? Fundamentally, that supply management has to adopt the old adage that the buck stops here and take ultimate responsibility for quality control. They can’t rely on engineering or R&D or, as has been too often done the past few years, their suppliers to do that for them. They have to make sure that the proper quality control mechanisms are in place and that they are being followed. This means that they either have to perform site visits to the suppliers themselves, or, if they do not have the technical expertise, accompany engineers or third parties to supplier sites and production facilities to ensure that the required quality controls are in place and being followed. After all, it’s one thing if the new plasma TV your customer just forked over two grand for doesn’t work … but it’s another if your company just poisoned someone’s child. All the cost savings in the world aren’t going to matter when the lawsuits hit and you get shut down.
It also means that you have to ensure all of the regulatory compliance requirements are being met. Otherwise, you’re looking at huge fines, inventory destruction, and possibly even sanctions. Just a minor reporting omission alone can result in a fine equal to the total value of your shipment under the new 10+2 requirements. Banned materials can result in seizure and destruction, and repeated violations can result in country (and continent) wide bans.
Top performers will follow Teddy Roosevelt’s adage: “speak softly and carry a big stick”
Modern procurement professionals recognize that there’s more to procurement these days than just the mallet and the carrot and act accordingly. Generally speaking, you get further with collaboration and trust than with an untrusting dictatorship mentality. That being said, a smart procurement professional still keeps his mallet close-by, just in case a supplier strays from the open road and starts to take advantage of the trust placed in it by the buyer.
Si hablamos espanol … as the US gets over its love affair with China when it comes to global sourcing
Smart procurement professionals realize that it’s a combination of best-cost country sourcing and home-cost country sourcing … not low cost country sourcing … especially when the low-cost country is half-way across the globe! Sourcing across the globe adds cost, complexity, and tons of GHGs to your environmental footprint … which is not sustainable when it’s not necessary. And it’s not best-cost or total cost of ownership … it’s best value or total value management from an entire life-cycle perspective. This means that, given the choice between a slightly higher price from the company down the street that will work with you to improve value and decrease costs over time and a slightly lower price from a company in China that only cares about pumping out product today, you go with the solution down the street. And that you look to your neighbors before you look across the globe. Sometimes you have to go across the world, especially for certain food items and raw materials that are only available in quantity in certain areas, but for the vast majority of materials, products, and services, you can usually get them pretty close to home.
The management of information becomes the holy grail of all procurement and operations success
Great procurement professionals realize that great decisions are actionable decisions based on great information, which is their number one asset. They utilize solutions that gives them the data they need, when they need it, in the form that they need it and use all of the external data sources available to them to improve their understanding of market conditions and make better decisions. (They also read Sourcing Innovation daily, but that should be obvious.) To this end, they utilize best of breed technology that is capable of extracting, organizing, and displaying relevant information on a daily basis. And this leads into …
Metaphorically speaking, the procurement combustion engine (and car) has now been invented — now the focus will turn to everything else that must come along with it
In some cases, today’s technology is more like the (in)famous Model T than a new Ferrari, but the Spend Master is right on this point: more-or-less, a procurement professional, who’s willing to open her mind and use multiple best-of-breed solutions in conjunction with traditional ERPs and data warehouses has access to all of the tools she needs. Some will be ugly, others will be a kluge, and others will require some custom development in house (or through a 3rd party custom development house), but when we look at the sourcing and procurement cycle, logistics and transportation, inventory and warehousing, forecasting, PLM, and the other fundamental areas of SCM, we have technologies that, collectively, more-or-less cover the key points of the full cycle. Now, it’s true that it’s still the case that not a single player in the best-of-breed category has, as a whole, a best-of-breed fully-integrated end-to-end e-Sourcing or e-Procurement solution (despite what a few may claim) built on a common platform, but a few have end-to-end solutions that are pretty damn good (and much better than the horse and buggy that many shops are still running on, metaphorically speaking) and the solutions are getting better every year. As Hackett’s research clearly pointed out, the best shops have the best people that make use of the best technology to get the best results. Thus, if you don’t have a good end-to-end solution (which you might have to cobble together from as many as half-a-dozen vendors, depending on your needs) that fully enables your processes and best-practices, you go out and get one. Furthermore, as long as you stick to best-of-breed players who embrace openness and give you open APIs and full import/export capability through XML, you don’t have to worry about being stuck on the same platform for the next ten to twenty years, as many companies that spent eight and nine figures on ERP systems are now stuck on.
In other words, the best procurement professionals:
- Take control of quality.
- Get a handle on compliance.
- Collaborate and trust …
- … but keep a big stick nearby, just in case.
- Don’t jump on a LCCS bandwagon, but focus on best-cost countries …
- … and total value management over a product and / or relationship life-cycle.
- Constantly strive for better information.
- And ensure that they have the right tools and technologies in place to take their processes and best-practices to the next level.
Come back tomorrow for part three.