Daily Archives: April 7, 2014

Stagnant Sourcing, Part I

Today’s guest post is from Joe Payne, Vice President of Professional Services at Source One Management Services, LLC and co-author of Managing Indirect Spend: Enhancing Profitability Through Strategic Sourcing.

Late last year, I wrote about the “evolution” of procurement — how the department’s practices have moved from simple purchasing, to strategic sourcing, to category management, and to a level of control and strategic involvement that I called “change management”. In the conversations that stemmed from the article, both on- and off-line, I heard from many people out there that organizations don’t need to worry about “change management”, or even “category management”, yet. Many purchasing groups still struggle with implementing any strategic change at all.

This is troubling. If you have read anything related to procurement/supply chain in the last decade, you know that procurement’s ongoing success is tied to strategic improvements. Not only has this been preached, but it has been realized at best in class companies like Apple and Toshiba, where procurement took on a strategic role, optimized supply chain operations to the extreme benefit of the company, and saw executive leadership incorporate procurement leaders more openly. As you are probably aware, both Apple and Toshiba’s current CEOs were formerly CPOs at their respective organizations.

So with a clear path laid out before them — the path of “take a strategic approach, see positive results” — why are so many procurement groups falling behind and failing to do this? The reality is the situation is different for every organization, but over time I have seen a few trends that weigh more heavily than others.

They Think They Are

One of the most common objections lobbied from stakeholders when Source One is brought in to pitch our services is “We are already doing that” or, worse, “We tried that already and it didn’t work”. If brought out early into the pitch, it is clear that the objections are being lobbied by someone protecting their turf, or who sees our being there as an indication of their poor performance. As you drill in on these concerns, you will normally find they are an indication that there is a fundamental confusion regarding what strategic endeavors actually entail.

So, to clarify: A three-bid process is not strategic sourcing. Subscribing to an index on its own is not sufficient market intelligence to make informed decisions. As I have stated previously here on SI, supplier management software is not strategic supplier relationship management.

It is inefficient to continue to dedicate resources to an issue if you believe it is resolved. Procurement groups that mistakenly believe they are engaging strategically are not going to commit resources to actual strategic endeavors, and their failure to act is to their detriment.

Lack of Resources

If a procurement group is cognizant of the tactical nature of their current practices, they still face an obvious hurdle. Despite the numerous ads and pitches from software and service providers, strategic initiatives require significant resources to design, implement, and carry out. These are resources that most procurement groups simply do not have.

We did a survey of procurement professionals a little over a year ago and released the results throughout the spring and summer of last year. The first paper was on resource shortages, and the big number was that 30% of all procurement groups feel they are understaffed. Digging deeper for statistics more relevant to strategic endeavors, 34% of all polled procurement groups have zero resources dedicated to strategic activities, and 52% of all polled groups have less than half of their resources working on strategic endeavors.

While the need for strategic action may be evident, many procurement groups simply do not have the resources available to commit to the development of these long-term strategic initiatives.

      “Engineers who can’t add, operators who can’t run their equipment, and accountants who can’t foot numbers become purchasing professionals”
  — Jack Welch

Thanks, Joe! I bet our readers can’t wait for Part II tomorrow!