Daily Archives: August 19, 2010

Unscrupulous Supplier Reverse Auction Tactics

Are you prepared for them?

The best part of a recent ChainLink Research piece on Contract Management: Negotiating, Creating, and Monitoring Compliance was actually the sidebar on supplier reverse auction tactics that presented some of the less-than-scrupulous strategies sophisticated suppliers will employ in an attempt to win, or deflect, your business. If you are not prepared for them, they could derail your event. They include:

  • bidding to purposely come in second with less aggressive price, counting on advantages in non-price areas
  • bidding low on the auction in an attempt to capitalize on lock-in to sell un-auctioned related services and materials at high margins
  • “Sniping” in “hard-ending” auctions
  • Deliberately no-bidding auctions when they calculate it is not in their interest to participate

So what can you do?

  • if you are using a total weighting, be very careful in your weighting of non-price factors and indicate, up-front, that there will be significant (and serious) financial penalties (which must be enforced) for not adhering to any promises on lead-time/delivery time, defect rate, or quality (or other relevant factors)
  • make sure you also bid out all related and associated services
  • don’t do hard-ends — always do short extensions
  • create a policy that suppliers who do not bid do not get business, period

While some suppliers might still attempt to ply their dirty tricks even if you take these steps, once they see what it costs them, they’ll stop. Or you’ll get better suppliers. Either way, you win.

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Has Coupa Settled on a Coupe? Part III

In our first post, we discussed how, when Davie ran The Coupa Factory, their strategy was innovation focussed and they were constantly charging ahead in their efforts to bring Procurement Independence to the masses but that, lately, it seems that their strategy has shifted to putting customer acquisition first and building a better platform second. In our last post, we reviewed what they have accomplished over the past eighteen months, which isn’t too shabby to say the least (especially compared to some of their peers which do not appear to have innovated at all), but noted that there’s nothing to really shake your foundations … which is a shame considering that had Coupa taken benchmarking and supplier ratings to the next level, they could have knocked your Procurement socks off. This is the subject of this post.

In order for benchmarks to be useful, they have to be meaningful. In order for a comparison to be meaningful, it has to be against like items. And while you can compare apples to oranges, unless you’re comparing the spectra of dried samples in powdered form, it doesn’t make sense. The reality is that savings, request, order, and invoice metrics only make sense if the comparison is against a similar company of a similar size in a similar vertical buying similar products. Consider free-form requests … depending on company size that’s going to range from hundreds per year to tens of thousands per year. Frequency of self-approval … that’s not only going to depend on corporate policies but the types of goods being purchased. If the system is mainly used to purchase office supplies, who’s going to waste time approving every small order? But if the system is being used to buy high priced electronics, different story. PO value will not only vary widely between companies, but within a company. A purchase order for a weekly office supplies order in a small company will be a fraction of a purchase order for a new set of servers. Active suppliers will vary widely depending upon the size of the company and how many different types of products are being bought. Had Coupa defined appropriate verticals, segmented the verticals into appropriate sizes, and insured that the metrics were meaningful (even if that meant waiting until there were more customers in some verticals), this could have been extremely useful. However, right now, it’s interesting at best, and could be dangerous if misunderstood.

In order for supplier rankings to be useful, they have to be against meaningful metrics, and those rankings need to be defined by a majority of affected users. If they are random rankings defined by random users against random products, they are not very useful, especially if they are done by users who have only used the supplier’s products once and not users who have to work with the supplier and its products every day. In order to truly rank a supplier, a company needs to insure that all of the relevant users who use the supplier’s products or services regularly or who interact with the supplier as part of their role rank the supplier. This means that the buyer needs to send out mandatory surveys to these users. While a buyer can easily send out a survey through your standard SIM or e-Negotiation tool, what a buyer normally can’t do through these tools is figure out which organizational users are in the best position to rate the supplier. However, as Coupa enables all spend related to a supplier to be captured in the system, it’s a pretty easy query to figure out which buyers are the biggest user’s of a supplier’s products and which buyers should be ranking the suppliers. If Coupa had enabled the construction of supplier performance surveys which could be sent to the regular users of the supplier’s products in a single click, and then made it impossible for a buyer to requisition anything until the mandatory survey was completed, think of how useful it could be. However, right now, like benchmarking, it’s interesting, but not very useful.

Hopefully these oversights are just the result of Coupa going through the growing pains associated with a brand new management team and rapid customer acquisition. When you consider that The Coupa Sunflower was only starting to blossom, it would be nice to see Coupa return to the days when its releases were much more than coupacetic. After all, why should they settle for a coupe when they can build a dragster? It only takes a little bit of innovation in the right direction to bring back the excitement to Coupa Time.

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