What are the Key Ingredients to a Successful e-Sourcing Strategy? Part II.2

In part II.1, we addressed the first four steps of our eight-step generic sourcing cycle and noted that we definitely know what we need to do and how to get started. However, we have yet to address the burning question as to whether or not we know what we need to do to get (each step of) the process right and achieve success. But before we can address that question, we have to first discuss the last four steps of the process (in bold):

  • Spend Analysis
  • Project Selection
  • Strategy Development
  • Supplier Identification
  • Bid Collection
  • Bid Analysis and Supplier Selection(s)
  • Contract Negotiation and Award
  • Post-Award Contract Management

Bid Collection is mainly collecting the supplier quotes and RFX responses for analysis. It can be done through an (e-)RFX tool, auction tool, or even spreadsheets. Whatever suits the strategy and floats the analysts’ boat.

Bid Analysis is simply analyzing the responses with respect to the project requirements and organizational strategy. Once all the suppliers who cannot meet the organization’s needs are weeded out and a short(er)-list of those suppliers who can meet the cost, time to value, and alignment threshold, all of the bids are put through, depending on the strategy and the tools at hand, a weighted cost or optimization analysis and a final ranking is generated. Then, depending on the strategy (sole vs. dual source, lowest TCO by category etc.), the top supplier or suppliers are selected and the project proceeds to the next phase.

Negotiation is the age old art of trying to get more for less. You want to pay less, your preferred supplier wants more, and you go back and forth until you cut a deal or walk away from the table (in which case you return to the previous step, identify the next supplier on the list, and start the process all over again). (Remember to haggle properly or risk insulting the supplier.) When the negotiation succeeds, a contract is awarded and the procurement part of the sourcing-procurement cycle begins.

Post-Award Contract Management is where Procurement takes over. This is where you implement an easy-to-use organization wide e-Procurement system that everyone can use to place their goods and services requisitions and orders and that will tell them if something is inventory, if there is a product or service under contract that meets their need, and, if neither, if there are preferred suppliers or buying policies that must be adhered to for a fast approval or refund on your expense report. You implement a no-refund policy outside of the system without senior manager approval (one level above your boss), a no-PO no-pay policy across all suppliers, make it many times easier to use the system than to bypass it, and implement end-to-end automated invoice management with m-way matching . Then your spend is under management, your policies are followed, and off-contract purchases and expedited shipments are only made when there is a real need due to an emergency or unexpected surge in demand (against your forecast) and its more profitable to pay more than stock-out.

So yes, we, more-or-less, know how to do it — and we know that when we properly apply spend analysis and spend optimization techniques, we can expect year-over-year double-digit savings. But do we really know what we need to do it right and achieve success every time? Here the answer isn’t as crystal clear. In each phase, we know what we need — good, clean, fine-grained mapped data that we can cube, drill, and enrich until we find the savings opportunity in spend analysis, alignment measures for product selection, market intelligence for strategy development and supplier identification, etc. But what does good, clean, fine-grained mapped data look like, what capabilities must the spend analysis / visibility / reporting tool have, and, most importantly, how do we use the tool and read the reports? How do we determine which of our opportunities is most aligned to our current goals with an acceptable TTV and estimated savings? Where is the market intelligence we need, how do we access it, and how do we integrate it with our data to do a full analysis for project selection and supplier identification? Etc.

For an average organization getting started on the path, just knowing the process and having an e-Sourcing suite is not enough. The organization also needs actionable intelligence to help make the key decisions in each stage, and, in most cases, even if there was up-front training, help using the tool to use just the right functionality to extract the information required to generate actionable intelligence, because no training is complete and no one retains everything the first time through.

So how can the average organization successfully start an e-Sourcing journey? One way is to hire a seasoned pro who is knowledgeable in your key category markets and who has been through the journey before to act as your Sourcing Sensei. But given the high demand for such a sensei, as there are so few, this isn’t an option for everyone. So, if you can’t find, or afford to lure, such a sensei what can you do? Stay tuned!