The ISM and BravoSolution (who want to align Sourcing with the rest of the organization) recently released the 2013 ISM Survey of Procurement Executives on Procurement & Sourcing: Moving from Tactical to Strategic which summarized the responses from 545 Supply Management executives at the Director level and above to a detailed survey created by BravoSolution and administered by ISM last July and August.
These executives were given a list of 24 topics identified to be of recent concern to procurement and sourcing executives and asked to identify their top organizational priorities in 2013. The top priority of improving cost reduction and savings should not be a surprise to anyone since most companies have been laser-focussed on cost-reduction and savings since the major financial crisis in 2007-2008, to the detriment of just about every other important goal. However, what should be surprising is that cost reduction and savings is not only the top priority in 60% of companies but still twice as important as the second most common business priority of revenue growth and profit improvements despite the fact that most organizations expect their cost reduction efforts to yield less than 10%!
The time of near-zero inflation is at an end and with hyper-inflation a strong possibility in many commodity markets and a few countries, and, despite the opinion of some experts, we could be looking at a return of stagflation in some global economies. And even if we don’t see stagflation, the rapid rise in costs across a number of raw material and commodity categories should be enough to convince the average Supply Management professional that savings will not be possible in many categories and the best one can hope for is cost avoidance — unless other opportunities for savings are identified. Opportunities that revolve around process improvement, raw material substitution, value-add, and non-value add service removal. This means that more effort should be spent on supplier collaboration and innovation, supplier performance and sustainability management, and raw materials, but the first two of these options were only listed as priorities by 19% and 23% of the respondents, respectively, and the third option didn’t even make the list of the 9 topics that were selected by more than 10% of respondents.
It was nice to see that 30% of respondents recognized that a key capability of properly performed Procurement is the delivery of revenue growth and profit improvement, but this doesn’t happen without the proper focus on efforts that can lead to revenue growth and profit improvement, which include efforts like the Procurement Perfect Order (which will make your organization a more attractive supplier), improvement of working capital (which will allow Finance to reduce interest and penalty payments, take advantage of early payment discounts, and possibly even earn money on short term investments), improving customer loyalty (as it costs less to keep a customer than to acquire a new one), improving the strategic nature of trading partner relationships (as this can lead to joint efforts to take cost out of products and services and increase sales), and more spend under management (which permits better spend and opportunity analysis). However, from this set up of options, only two — getting more spend under management and improving working capital — were selected as priorities by more than 10% of respondents. Without appropriate priorities, profit and revenue goals are just pipe dreams.
There’s a fair amount of analysis in the 23 page report, but the bottom line is that Supply Management has a long way to go to become the strategic powerhouse it should be. It’s just like Angus, Malcolm, and Bon said back in 1975 — It’s a Long Way To the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll). A long, long way …