The Category Sourcing Scorecard – An Essential Tool for Collaborative Category Sourcing

Collaborative Category Sourcing is the foundation for eSourcing 3.0, whatever that happens to be. Why? As pointed out on SI, it is the only way to achieve savings above and beyond the limits of spend analysis and/or decision optimization, which max out at an average of 11% and 12% respectively, and this is especially true when the category has been strategically sourced (repeatedly). And the savings can be substantial. As pointed out in SI’s recent white-paper (sponsored by BravoSolution) on the Top 10 Technologies for Supply Management Savings Today (registration required), if the right combination of technologies are applied in the right way, they can often deliver 15%, 20%, 30%, and even 40% savings on hundred-million plus categories which were heavily scrutinized in the past and where little or no savings are expected. That’s why collaborative sourcing — which works best when it’s category focussed — is needed.

But how do you select the right category to start with? It’s certainly not as simple as selecting the category with the largest spend, the category with the least recent sourcing exercise, or the category coming up for renewal in six months. There are a number of internal, market, supplier, buyer, and category-specific factors that need to be taken into account — and this recent post on The Category Sourcing Scorecard over on CPO Rising did a great job of summarizing the vast majority of them.

Internally, the right category is the one with a contract maturing at the right time (which is typically three to nine months in the future, depending on the time it will take to do the sourcing project right), a documented sourcing history, a number of concerned stakeholders — who are willing to be engaged, and an accessible spend history (which, although not clear from the summary, should also contain usage, return, and inventory history).

From a market perspective, there should be enough competition to make an event worthwhile, the availability of one or more substitutes (if the current product has one or more patented, single-source, components), some bargaining power for the buyer, and barriers to market entry for both the product the buyer is producing and the capabilities offered by the suppliers (as, otherwise, new suppliers could set up shop overnight, sell to new buyers at cut-rates to establish business, and hurt your entire supply chain). In addition, the supply/demand (im)balance, which factors into the buyer’s bargaining power, should be known and relatively predictable.

From a supplier perspective, it should require some specialization (that the supplier can use to set itself apart), provide for profit margins, contain value-add components (valuable to the supplier and your customers), and a level of technical excellence. In addition, there should be suppliers who are financially stable, innovative, and willing to work with you to find substitute raw materials, components, designs, or production processes that will take costs down and push quality up.

From a buying perspective, there should be the potential to achieve some supply assurance, minimize production impact, save money, and require a production volume that will be attractive to the suppliers. In addition, there should be some signs that costs and risks can be reduced significantly enough to make the project worthwhile. This could take the form of falling raw material prices, the recent introduction of innovative new manufacturing technologies, or increased market competition.

From a category perspective, impact, complexity, and lead time will definitely be key factors, as noted by the post, but so could organizational importance, sustainability, and C-suite support. This will often be the hardest category to judge and score.

Which brings us to the following question – how do you score the scorecard? Do all the categories have equal weight, or are some more important than others? Making them all equal is certainly a valid starting point, as it will let you quickly eliminate categories that are really bad (with low scores in multiple categories), but may not be enough to let you choose between a category which scores great except for market factors, another which scores great except for supplier factors, and a third which scores great except for category factors.

In reality, the right scoring framework will be dependent upon the ultimate goal. If the ultimate goal is (still) to reduce cost, then the market factors should get the most weight. If supply assurance is the most important goal, then the buying factors should get the most weight. And if innovation is the desired outcome, the supplier factors should likely get the most weight. While it’s hard to make a hard and fast rul, here’s a good starting point for weighting.

To Focus On: Put a Higher Weight On:
Cost Market Factors
Supply Assurance / Risk Mitigation Buying Factors
Innovation / Value-Add Supplier Factors
Stakeholder Inclusion Internal Factors
Organizational Strategy Category-Specific Factors