But don’t look to e-Auctions to save the day. As per SI’s recent post, the entanglements of e-Auctions could get in the way.
Last fall, e-Sourcing Forum published a two-part series on M&A and e-Auctions, stating that what’s old may be new again (Part I and Part II), which claimed that e-Auctions could be a perfect tool for procurement in post M&A scenarios as they provide a competitive advantage for industries frequently involved in M&A activities. They can, if the situation is right, or they can be as useful as a trap door in a life-boat. There is no one-size fits all sourcing tool, and if you get it in your head to force-fit a sourcing tool to your situation, e-Auctions should be on the bottom of your list because they can bust as bad as they boom.
The rationale presented for their selection as the potential perfect e-Sourcing tool in the post-merger environment is based on the fact that e-Auctions can:
- put negotiations directly into the hands of the suppliers,
- create fair competition between suppliers by creating a level playing field,
- provide suppliers with more direct/immediate feedback on their position in the market, and
- drive “truer” market pricing and justifications for establishing baselines post-merger.
This is all true provided that:
- the majority of suppliers, including those that are currently preferred, are willing to negotiate through the auction,
- the buyer designs the auction in a way that is fair to all suppliers,
- the auction platform can support real-time feedback to all suppliers taking part in the auction, and
- the suppliers don’t collude and don’t make unrealistic bids in an effort to win the auction, hoping to make up the unsustainable loss either in volume or add-on fees or future business.
In order for auctions to work, especially in a post-M&A scenario, a number of conditions need to hold true.
- supply has to at least equal, and preferably exceed, demand as per our post on the entanglements of e-Auctions,
- there has to be enough qualified suppliers to make the auction competitive — if only two suppliers can supply the custom product or service you need, the auction ain’t gonna do squat except offend suppliers who should be your strategic partners,
- there has to be enough volume to make the event worthwhile — saving 1% on 100,000 is not going to be worth the time and effort, and, most importantly,
- there has to be enough categories that meet these requirements that are available to source in the first year, as it will typically be the case that both companies have contracts in place for a large number of their high-spend or high-volume categories, and, furthermore,
- these categories have to be significantly larger than they were before the merger — if the merger does not yield enough common categories that are available to source at volumes that are high enough to be more attractive to the supply base than each company would source on its own, then the merger / acquisition is not going to yield any sourcing quick wins by way of e-Auction.
If neither company has a lot of spend under contract, neither company has a large number of complex products or services that can only be sourced from one or two suppliers, and both companies source a large number of overlapping products and services, then, if the market is ripe, the supply base is willing, and the buying team can design and deliver a fair and professional e-Auction, then e-Auctions can drive M&A success. But if the opposite is true, all e-Auctions will do is get the M&A team into trouble.
As with every sourcing exercise, it must start with a situational, and spend, analysis to see what’s what.