Robert Rudzki on “Procurement and Supply Chain Transformation: How Fast?”

Today’s guest post is from Robert A. Rudzki, a former Fortune 500 senior executive of supply management who now advises other companies as President of Greybeard Advisors LLC, a strategic management advisory firm. Bob has authored several business books including Beat the Odds: Avoid Corporate Death and Build a Resilient Enterprise and Straight to the Bottom Line. Bob also writes the Transformation Leadership blog for the Supply Chain Management Review. (e-mail Bob at rudzki <at> greybeardadvisors <dot> com.)

How fast can a company transform itself to world-class supply management?

One of the most interesting conversations I participated in recently centered around the subject of how long it takes to transform procurement to become world-class at a large (or medium sized) company. The conversation started with this comment:

“We benchmarked Company X, and learned that it took them 7 years to transform their indirect procurement activities to become world-class.”

That’s a quote from a recent meeting I attended, and the speaker was interested in my reaction. Company X was identified, and is a well-known company in its industry.

My reaction to this statement was, and is, straightforward: lacking an assessment process and a transformation roadmap, it can take a long time to achieve successful transformation of your procurement activities (direct or indirect spend). In fact, without a roadmap and the associated business case, the goal is probably not achievable in any reasonable amount of time.

On the other hand, with a well-constructed roadmap, it is possible to achieve a great deal within 18 to 36 months.

What’s involved in creating a good transformation roadmap? It starts with an independent, candid and comprehensive comparison of the “current state” at your company versus appropriately identified “best practices” in supply management (for your company). That provides input to an opportunity assessment, as well as input to constructing a roadmap that is tailored to your company’s situation — and to your desired speed of progression. In our experience, I can tell you that sequencing the roadmap elements is part art, and part science*. Finally, a credible business case is developed which wraps it all together: what you are proposing to do, the expected $ results over the next few years, and the requested internal and external resources to accomplish the plan.

Done well, this Assessment and Roadmap process creates executive understanding, excitement, and support (budget and otherwise). Believe me, this works. I say that as a former corporate finance guy who became a successful CPO (and obtained all the executive support you could wish for) and as an advisor to clients who I’ve guided in their transformations. (I’ve even helped clients obtain approval to expand their strategic resources while the recession was gaining speed.)

That’s the real litmus test — senior management committed to creating world-class supply management regardless of the economy. That’s an indicator of what is possible if you approach this subject properly.

To read more about building a transformation roadmap, you can download A Leader’s Guide to Supply Management Transformation , which was featured in the Supply Chain Management Review.

Thanks, Bob!

*Editor’s Note: For a discussion of Supply Chain Process: Art or Science, see the linked post.

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