Daily Archives: June 16, 2014

The (Board) Gamer’s Guide to Supply Management Part XXV: Interlude or Why You Need to Game More to Add More Game To Your Sourcing Skills, Part I

Sourcing, like many facets of Supply Management, is not as easy as it seems. The skills required to identify the products and services required, identify potential suppliers, construct an appropriate RFI, evaluate that RFI, construct an appropriate RFP, evaluate that RFP, identify suppliers for negotiations/RFQ, assess the market, assess the RFQ responses against the market, select one or more finalists, negotiate, define the award, create a contract, and manage the whole process are quite numerous. Especially since that’s just the basic process. A determination of demand, of current market conditions, of expected cost, etc. will require spend analysis, (should-cost) modelling, and (statistical) trend projection. If multiple bids are competitive, and an auction is out of the question, then (strategic sourcing) decision optimization, and the mathematical modelling it entails, is also required. Plus, if the buy is strategic, then multiple stakeholders will be involved and cross-functional team-management skills will also be required. All this, and more, may be required just to get to a contract.

Then comes the actual Procurement. This will involve considerable skills in logistics, inventory, and global trade. When do you place the order? What is the best mode of transportation? Do you cross-dock or not? If the inventory is available too early, do you store it over-seas, before export, or locally, after import. If there are value-add components, do you take them or leave them, as they can considerably increase import or export tariffs? For example, sometimes the difference between shipping a cartridge in a printer and shipping it separately will save a few percentage points off of the total cost. (Check the HTS codes if you don’t agree.)

So, to re-iterate, you need the following skills at a minimum:

  • (Cost) Analysis / Market Analysis
    What are the current market conditions, what is the expected or best cost, etc.
  • Logistics
    What is the best method of transportation and how do you time it to optimize costs and revenues, etc.?
  • Needs Identification
    What do you need, when, and are there alternatives, etc.?
  • Negotiation
    What do you offer? What’s your minimal viable alternative? etc.
  • Project Management
    How do you balance your resources (time, money, talent) to achieve the goal? etc.
  • Resource Management
    What’s the best use of your limited resources? When do you buy and sell? etc.
  • Supplier Identification
    Which suppliers want to supply you? Which suppliers are acceptable to you? etc.
  • Trend Identification / Projection
    Are demands going to increase, decrease, or stay the course? etc.

These skills are not easy to come by and not easy to advance. For example:

  • Analysis
    requires mathematical skills and training
  • Logistics
    requires cost analysis and network modelling skills and training
  • Needs Identification
    requires the ability to elicit details from both analyses and stakeholders
  • Negotiation
    requires training and people skills
  • Project Management
    requires knowledge and training
  • Resource Management
    requires strong analysis skills and an understanding of the inherent value and limitations of each resource
  • Supplier Identification
    requires the ability to assess a supplier across multiple dimensions and know what those dimensions should be
  • Trend Identification
    requires analysis, statistical training, and an instinct for the right questions

But when do you practice them outside the job? About the only time you’ll practice analysis at any level of sophistication outside the job is when you are buying a house or a car, which is a rare occurrence. You don’t practice global logistics at home. Needs identification is limited to you(r family’s) needs, not a multitude of stakeholders across multiple departments. Negotiation is limited to bargaining with your kids to do their chores. Project Management is really time management to fit all the family activities in. Resource Management is practiced daily, but at a much smaller scale. Supplier Identification is limited to (online) store identification when you need something, and trend identification doesn’t really enter into the picture.

But gaming changes the scenario.