Technological Sustentation 86: Template Mania

While template mania isn’t nearly as bad of a damnation as Big Data, Cyberattacks, Spreadsheets, Dashboards, and The Cloud, it’s a damnation nonetheless. Why?

Let’s start with the definition of a template. A template is defined using, well, any one of a dozen different definitions, including the following found on Wikipedia:

  • a pre-developed page layout in electronic or paper media used to make new pages with a similar design, pattern, or style;
  • a standardized non-executable file type used by computer software as a pre-formatted example on which to base other files, especially documents; and
  • a master page on which you can globally edit and format graphic elements and text common to each page of a document.

But none of these help Supply Management. Consider the definitions of templates commonly used by Supply Management vendors, which include, but are not limited to:

  • RFX templates to quick start sourcing projects for common or previously sourced categories
  • Strategic Souring Decision Optimization templates for pre-defining models
  • Data collection templates for analyzing surveys using BI tools
  • Scorecard templates for supplier performance monitoring
  • Workflow templates for setting up a sourcing project
  • Workflow templates for (automatically) approving invoices

And, by now, you should be thoroughly confused. And that’s the point. Extreme proliferation makes it hard to even identify what a template is. Even if we can define what a template is, it’s hard to know when it can be used. And even if we know when a template can be used, we don’t often know the right one. So how can we overcome this damnation and get through it.

1. Identify Where Templates Can Be Used

Templates can be used in spend analysis, sourcing events, contract creation, procurement monitoring, supplier monitoring, and related tasks. Start here.

2. Have Experts Identify the Right Templates for Each Instance

Have the experts in the organization identify the right templates for each area. For example, there are “canned reports” that can be used to jump-start any spend analysis effort, standard workflows / RFIs / lot structures for sourcing events that have been repeatedly found to work well, standard templates that legal starts with for templates, well known KPI-scorecards that effectively monitor Procurement progress, and best-practice supplier scorecards for strategic and tactical suppliers by vertical. Create and adopt these where needed.

3. Adopt Platforms that Embed the Templates into the Process

Now, considering that some platforms have customers with 1000+ spot-buy templates, 100+ category templates, and 200+ RFIs tied to verticals and supplier type and category, the number of templates the organization will have after step 2 will be overwhelming unless they are embedded into a platform that, using known data, guides the user to the rather small set of templates appropriate to the situation at hand, possibly by way of a few supplementary questions embedded in a wizard-guided workflow. The user should not have to search for a template, the platform should present the right template(s) based on the situation. Only then do templates become a blessing rather then the curse they have historically proven themselves to be.

One thought on “Technological Sustentation 86: Template Mania

  1. Nic Martin

    Very interesting article which got me thinking.

    #3 is particularly relevant to me, as someone who is involved int he design of an esourcing platform.
    Technology providers must to think carefully about how their platforms will be used in the real world. This has a major impact in design decisions which make or break the usability of software.

    For example, the decision on whether to use a list and or a search box depends on the amount of data (e.g. templates) which the user will create. This becomes more challenging when you realize that no two people will use the feature in exactly the same way.


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