There is a Spend Rule of Three

But the Third Spend Savings may not be for thee.

Backing up, I’m referencing a very interesting article published in SIG’s recent newsletter on Spend Management’s New Norm: Uncovering Big Third Spend Savings by Mark Walsh, CEO of FedBid. According to Mark, the best way to slice, dice, and categorize spend is not to get bogged down in category taxonomies, spend thresholds, savings potential, transactional analysis, supply risk, etc. — but to simply categorize spend by the Spend Rule of Three.

Mark defines the “Spend Three” as:

  • Strategic Spend
    the largest category of spend that typically accounts for 80% of organizational spend across 20% of vendors and service providers
  • Catalog Spend
    the smallest category of spend that typically accounts for less than 10% of fixed-price transactions on credit lines, p-cards, and employee expense reports
  • Third Spend
    the middle category of spend that accounts for 10% to 20% of spend that accounts for the bulk of indirect, or tail, spending (in a non-service oriented organization, as indirect and service spend will be much higher in finance and other verticals that don’t produce physical goods)

According to Mark, the greatest savings opportunity will generally be in the Third Spend category as most organizations will have a good grip on strategic spend, where they focus all of their efforts, and catalog spend, where they will have fixed price contracts and where savings opportunities, due to such low volumes, are inconsequential. Specifically, he believes that this category represents an average savings opportunity of 11%, which is not unexpected as it is consistent with recent findings by Aberdeen, AT Kearney, CombineNet, and others over the last few years. But the savings are only there if the spend is not under management, you haven’t spent time strategically negotiating the contract, and the purchase volume is high enough to be attractive to at least one supplier.

The reality is that savings opportunities will not neatly fit into any one category, and will depend on a number of factors. How much you’re paying, the current market price, supply vs. demand, energy prices, requirement flexibility, innovation and creativity, just to name a few factors. For example, that category you’ve strategically sourced five times in the last two years might still be a huge savings opportunity if a new production technology just hit the market that allows a supplier to cut production costs by 20%. You need to do a high level analysis across all categories to identify where the greatest opportunities likely lie, not just focus on the third spend. While there are probably some big savings to be had, the biggest savings lie where you’re spending the most in a manner that’s the most off of optimal. Don’t forget that … and if by some chance you’re not one of the thousands of readers who have already downloaded Spend Visibility: An Implementation Guide a free e-book by Sourcing Innovation and Lexington Analytics that is the definitive book on next level performance, do so today. It’s worth your time.