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Today’s guest post is from Jason Hekl of Coupa.
Coupa has a unique point of view on expressive bidding, sourcing for best value, hiring and retaining deep category expertise, and multi-variate supplier bidding. It’s just not necessary for most of us.
The future of competitive sourcing won’t be centered on how to buy steel from China; it will be centered on how to buy the everyday goods and services we need to operate and thrive in a knowledge economy dominated by services business – items like IT equipment, office supplies, travel, temp labor and marketing consultants. And success there won’t be determined by supply chain experts with 20 years of category expertise. It will be up to you and me.
The future of sourcing is in CROWDS.
As information proliferates over the web, and more and more markets become increasingly transparent, pricing has become more scientific. Think airline seats. Don’t like the price of your aisle seat? Just wait ten minutes and check again, the price may very well be different this time around.
It’s naive to think a few individuals in the procurement department can single-handedly negotiate contracts that will always ensure the business gets the best price. With a few exceptions, business, and information, moves too fast for that to be realistic. The better strategy is to rely on the wisdom of the crowd to source the best deals and drive savings for the business.
Employees have always looked upon the purchasing department and preferred supplier agreements with suspicion. They know, especially now, that they can beat contract prices very easily doing a basic amount of research online. Let’s face it – the information is out there. And there’s no way to stop it. Spend management initiatives built around a ‘need to know’ mindset that controls the flow of information are doomed to fail. There’s just no way hold back that wave. So don’t.
Ride the wave instead! Don’t limit your people by restricting information flow or artificially controlling the options available to them. Empower your people to use what they know to save the company money. Think of the psychological impact and benefit of a grassroots effort inside the company – every employee has an opportunity to save the company money with every requisition they submit. Even if it’s just pennies at a time, it still adds up.
I’m talking about expanding the responsibility for finding the best deals and saving the company money beyond the procurement department. Afford every employee an opportunity to identify and capture greater savings for the business by making it easy for them to do exactly as they do with their own money – scour the web for deals. Don’t handcuff them to a handful of suppliers with negotiated discounts. Empower them to find deals anywhere on the web, and then pull them into the a purchasing platform that controls and automates the approval and ordering processes. We all buy stuff. Who doesn’t get excited by finding a great deal? Why not put that dynamic to use for the business’s benefit? Let your employees use their expertise, and the web, to find the best deals on the items they need to do their jobs.
A procurement organization, even with decades of collective experience, can’t possibly be expert in every category of spend, and quite frankly, even if it were, how much incentive is in place for the procurement manager to go out of his or her way to find the best price on every ad-hoc purchase? No, let the procurement organization focus on the big initiatives, and empower your employees to get what they need, quickly and easily (it’s got to be easier than the ‘expense it and forget it alternative’ that removes all control and visibility from the purchasing process). Trust the system you put in place to control the purchasing process and ensure the appropriate approvals, but otherwise let the crowd have at it. Don’t be afraid!
For manufacturers, who represent a smaller and smaller percentage of US GDP and the US economy, advanced sourcing techniques and tools are undeniably relevant and can produce competitive advantage.
But for everyone else, the crowds are coming. And they are empowered to save.