One thing SI has always endeavoured to do is speak the truth. (That’s why there’s an ever-growing list of e-CHAOS vendors who will not have anything to do with SI and it’s no NDA, no play and no demo, no blog memo policy.) So SI is going to be the first blog to speak the truth and the truth is that, despite the ever growing importance of Procurement in a world where up to 80% of organizational spend is outside of its four walls, Procurement organizations still don’t get no respect. Whether they realize it or not, the average CPO is the Rodney Dangerfield of the C-Suite, except not nearly as popular. And that’s in the 9% of organizations lucky enough to have a CPO or a head of Procurement that sits at the table. Of the remaining 91% of organizations, only 51% have a CPO (or VP-level head of Procurement) and in the remaining 40% of organizations, there isn’t even a real Procurement organization with a real leader.
If Procurement organizations got the respect they deserved, not only would we have more than 9% of organizations with CPOs at the table, but 100% of these CPOs, instead of a mere 40%, would report to the CEO! While there are a few exceptions, they are as rare as a brass monkey’s red bollocks and even many of the situations where it looks like it is an exception, it’s not and the head of Procurement is probably walking around with a “kick-me” sign taped to her back.
But no respect is just the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to a day in the life of an average Procurement Professional, if that was all they had to deal with, life would be relatively easy. From the time they get up in the morning until the time they pass out, it’s one emergency after another, one demand after another, and one impossible goal after another. The shipment, that was never ordered, is late. Engineering needs more JIT configuration options. The C-Suite is demanding 8% savings on a category where the cost of the primary raw material, that constitutes 40% of the category cost, has risen 20% in the last year. (So even if there was 8% savings a year ago, that savings opportunity has now been cancelled out.)
And that’s just the internal stress. There are also dozens upon dozens of external economic, infrastructure, environmental, sustainability, geopolitical, regulatory, societal, customer, technological, and market stresses beating down on the Procurement organization on a daily basis. Currency strength is becoming unpredictable. Postal Services are deep in debt and would fail if not propped up by the government. Waste is becoming a serious problem and legislations are cropping up around the globe banning certain substances that lead to dangerous and toxic waste. Natural and man-made disasters are increasing at a rampant pace (and expected to increase five-fold over the next fifty years) and causing supply chain disruptions left, right, and centre. Governments are enacting new trade legislation and embargoes overnight. Tariff codes, updated weekly in some countries, are becoming nearly impossible to comprehend. Brand value is becoming more important than product quality. Technologies are changing faster than an organization can adapt. The market is in a constant state of flux. And the organization is united against you.
And even though proper Procurement is the one saving grace an organization has amidst the chaos of the modern global marketplace, Procurement professionals in many organizations have been relegated to hell. While Engineering, which only has to deal with Phil, The Prince of Insufficient Light, has it made, Procurement is still locked in the boiler room, and that’s only because the average organization runs out of an office building. (If businesses were run out of castles, Procurement would be in the dungeon.)
To prove my point, if Procurement got the respect it deserved in many organizations, it wouldn’t be fighting hopeless battles for budgets of less than 100K to get started on its e-Sourcing or e-Procurement journey, to bring in category experts who can often save ten times their fee on a large category, to get its team the training it needs, or to hire enough man-power to make sure that even if there isn’t enough time to strategically source the top 80% of the spend under its purview, that spend would at least be under management and tracked for future analysis and strategic sourcing. But most Procurement organizations are under-staffed, under-trained, and under-funded and expected to deliver miracles with faxes, spreadsheets, and a copy of the Wall Street Journal.
It’s hell. And we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t admit that it’s going to stay that way. But all is not lost. As the saying goes, it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven — and there’s no better time to make it happen than now, the 443rd year (20156). Not only is 443 a very special year as it is a rare prime (Eisenstein, Chen and Sophe-Germaine), but it’s the port number for HTTPS. It’s geeky, but so are the big brains we use to do our jobs. So in this, the 443rd, we’re going to learn what we need to in order to secure our rightful place in the organization.
So how are we going to rule in hell? First we’re going to learn to conquer every seemingly impossible task that our enemies throw our way. Then we’re going to use their own sins against them to take control. How are we going to do that? We’re going to start by studying the internal and external stresses that plague our existence so that we may learn to overcome them. Once we understand what we’re up against, we can formulate a game plan to come out on top. And once we’ve conquered all that is thrown at us, we can learn how to exploit the weaknesses of those who would stand against us. Only then will the days of the mad men be numbered and only then will we, by hook or by crook, begin to take our rightful place as the left hand of the CEO while the COO, CIO, and CMO cower at our feet (as the importance of all but the CFO, who will be fully dependent on our success, and the CEO, who will be forever in our debt, will be minimized).
However, this won’t be an easy task. Our enemies are many and the challenges they throw at us appear to be without end. But while there is infinite variety in their assaults, the enemies we have are aligned into only a dozen or so factions and the challenges they devise are usually variations on a dozen themes. It’s a long list, but, at least for the time being, a numerable one.
So, starting next week, we are going to enumerate this list, one by one, in our ground breaking, illuminating, blog series: 101 Damnations. (Because 50 Shades of Pay doesn’t even tell half of the story!)
It’s time to get started. LOLCat is waiting for us to complete our journey.