What is Necessary to Get a Grip on Risk before You Select a Supplier for Outsourcing?

Outsourcing ain’t going away. The best we can hope for is near-sourcing, but that will depend on the ability to find the needed expertise and scale at competitive rates (at least until oil and transport across large distances becomes so expensive that labour rates don’t matter). So we need a way to select a supplier that won’t increase risk to ridiculous levels and almost guarantee that, at some point, our supply chain will come to a grinding halt when the supplier goes bankrupt, gets cutoff from its supplier, or gets cut off from us.

One way is to get an assessment of risk for the supplier, the city the supplier is located in, and the country the city is located in, build a composite picture, and determine if there is any serious risk of supplier failure, inbound supply chain failure or inaccessibility, or outbound supply chain failure or inaccessibility. But where do we get that risk assessment? And how do we know it’s the right one for us?

Where is external to the organization. We go to an organization like D&B, Resilinc, or Neo Group which has been collecting data on the supplier, city, and country and get their report. But how do we know we’re getting the right report? This is the toughie.

First of all, are they using the right risk model? If you refer back to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks report, you see that, at the very least, you have to consider societal, environmental, geopolitical, economic, and technological factors at the region level, but since you will be conducting business with a supplier at a physical location, business, legal/regulatory, infrastructure, and local quality of life will also play a role. When you start talking about suppliers, you need to look at their financial stability, associations (clients/partners), governance, workforce, and (service) innovation (leadership) capabilities.

But how do you define each of these in a way that can be measured in a standard way? And will such definitions incorporate all that is relevant to your organization? For example, when we’re talking economic we’re talking inflation, currency, fiscal deficit, GDP growth, stock market performance, reserves, etc. However, when we’re talking supplier service capability, we’re talking workforce education level, tools, language proficiency, incentives, etc.

It’s a very tough question. And often what matters is category specific. I’ve reached out to a couple of the big providers of Risk Monitoring solutions. Let’s see if any take me up and provide their viewpoint.