Monthly Archives: June 2016

Best Practices for Agency Evaluations for Strong Client-Agency Relationships

A good agency evaluation process helps marketers improve their return on
marketing investment through better relationship management, which translates into more high-quality work at a faster output and with improved quality results.

Richard Benyon, DecideWare
Surging Ahead, ANA Magazine, June 2016

But what is a good evaluation process?

Let’s start with what marketers do now. When evaluating an agency or a potential agency, marketers collect data and then apply that information to attempt to make better decisions in agency selection using a four-step process.

  1. Identify whether or not the agency has top talent.
  2. Optimize to ensure the talent is working in the most efficient and effective manner.
  3. Then, depending on the situation, fix problems or reward success.
  4. Work to improve their processes to enable the agency to do their best work.

This is a great process, but, as Richard says, before creating a new relationship or extending an existing one, it’s extremely important to have a clear purpose as to why an agency is being evaluated and what the evaluation should achieve. As Richard says, before beginning an evaluation, marketers need to understand:

  • how they will wunderstand agency strengths and areas for improvement,
  • how they will enable the agency to do its best work, and
  • how the evaluation program will be used as a component of incentive compensation.

A good relationship, like a good Procurement Value Engine, is effective (and uses agency strengths), efficient (and enables the agency to do its best work), and sustainable (and incentivizes the agency to continue to do its best work as time goes on).

In addition, it supports the strategic goals of the marketing department — which should be known before the evaluation process begins to make sure the organization knows which strengths and processes will best support the evaluation.

This means that it’s critical to ask the right questions in an evaluation — questions that will deliver actionable information relevant to the assessment at hand. Designing these questionaries is not easy. Not only do the needs of all departments interacting with the agency need to be met, but the questions needs to be focussed with respect to the strategic goals.

So how do you balance the needs with respect to the goals without overloading the agency with meaningless questions and useless work?

As Richard puts it, you need to be

  • lean,
  • impactful,
  • relevant,
  • consistent, and
  • reflective.

And, of course, get the timing right. What does this mean? And how do you do that? That’s the focus of Richard’s latest article by Richard Benyon on Surging Ahead. Check it out.

Don’t Be Fooled. There is no SaaS. Part II

In our last post, we said there is no such thing as Savings-as-a-Service and any organization promising to deliver it (with the exception of the big provider recently valued at 1B) is making a promise they likely won’t keep. The majority of organizations that jump on this new acronym with grandiose claims of SaaS delivery will not meet up to expectations, and many will not deliver any savings at all.

The reason being is that a company is not delivering savings unless they are either delivering a product or service below market average price or delivering a product or service at market average but at a higher value than would normally be obtained (either through enhanced quality, reliability, features, knowledge, etc.). After all, anyone can go to Amazon, Staples, Office Depot, eBay, etc. and figure out a rough market average and get that price if they want to.

For a company to deliver savings, they need to (have a platform that):

  • know what the market average is for a commodity or service, and always provide options that are less or the same with additional value beyond the market norm (which means they need a modern catalog platform)
  • have a way of collecting quotes and bids from potential suppliers that can be compared in a normalized, weighted, apples to apples fashion (which means they need a modern e-Sourcing platform with strong e-Negotiation support capability)
  • have a services team to handle the negotiations and the contract process to make sure that what gets offered gets agreed to
  • have a platform capable of managing the PO, invoice, and goods receipt process (and m-way matching) to make sure that the right products are ordered at the right price, that only invoices at the right price are accepted, and that payments are only made for goods and services received (which means they need a modern e-Procurement platform with strong e-Document management capability)
  • have a platform capable of tracking obligations and supplier performance (to make sure that deliver is on time, quality is up to snuff, etc.) and handling any corrective actions that are needed and supplier development that can improve overall value (which means that a strong SRM platform is needed as well)
  • and have the expertise in the appropriate categories relevant to your business! An engineer from the direct materials world probably know squat about contingent lab or procurement or marketing agency management, which could be where a considerable portion of your unmanaged spend is.

How many providers have a full featured S2P platform with enhanced e-Catalog and SRM functionality, budget integration, analytics that support normalized year-over-year spend reporting, services professionals to support all of this as a true SaaS (Software as a Service) platform *and* the expertise to support the categories you need supported?

The answer is: relative to the number of providers in the Supply Management space, very few. Only this handful of companies can claim that they can deliver Savings-as-a-Service. And, fair warning, their services will come with a hefty price tag. (This is not to say that the price tag will not be worth it, especially since there are providers that can consistently deliver a 5x to 10x ROI year after year, but that you need to be prepared for the price tag up front and willing to work with them and follow their lead in order to realize the savings.)

Because it sounds so awesome, expect a number of companies to jump on this new SaaS acronym, and expect most of them to be stretching the truth at least a little (if not a lot). Do your due diligence and find out what it is they really deliver and what will be expected of your team to realize the ROI they are promising. Then figure out if your team is up to the challenge, can be with training, need (temporary) (GPO) (expert) augmentation, or need a services provider to simply take over part of the Procurement in an outsourcing relationship until they can be brought up to the level (and manpower) needed to realize the ROI themselves.

Everybody wants savings, but simply not paying more than you have to under normal circumstances is not saving, it’s just avoiding clearly unnecessary cost. Savings is going below the baseline, and to realize that, you need a provider that can actually help your organization achieve that consistently across categories.

Don’t Be Fooled. There is NO SaaS! Part I

That’s right — there is no such thing as Savings-as-a-Service and any organization promising to deliver it (with the exception of the big provider recently value at 1B) is making a promise they likely won’t keep. The majority of organizations that jump on this new acronym with grandiose claims of SaaS delivery will not meet up to expectations, and many will not deliver any savings at all.

That doesn’t mean that you will not see reductions in spend, because many of the offerings proclaiming SaaS will lead to reductions in unit price, but this isn’t savings. Paying less than you were spending is not saving. If you were paying more than market average, and you reduce the cost to market average, you are simply realizing a cost reduction you could have realized any time you wanted simply by shifting the spend to a GPO, (an) Amazon (or e-Bay) (reseller), or an e-Catalog provider with punch-out integrations to all the big marketplaces. That “savings” was yours for the taking any time you wanted. And, moreover, once you make the switch, and start paying market average, if you simply stay with that provider, you will never see the “savings” again.

“Savings” is what you realize when you reduce spend below market average or extract value beyond what you typically get at the price point you are paying. Thus, to deliver savings you must deliver a customer a viable option to obtain a product or service they need below market average or to obtain more value (add) when they pay market average. And, thus, to deliver savings as a service you must do this repeatedly on a regular basis.

This is NOT something you can do if all you offer is a catalog. All a catalog allows you to do is determine the market average (range) for a product or service and identify those products that meet the price (range) and document which are of the best quality or the best fit for your organization. This is a valuable “service”, and every organization should be using one for their commodity product and service tail spend, but this is not “savings as a service”. Savings comes from analysis, engagement, negotiation, and relationship management.

If you want a better than market price or value-add features and services, you have to engage a potential supplier, negotiate for delivery (based on guaranteed volume, dollars, or value-delivery — such as co-marketing, lean training, or volume-based raw material purchasing at a better rate on their behalf), and manage the relationship. Thus, obtaining savings is also more than just sending out an RFQ and accepting the lowest bid (because if quality or reliability decreases and you have more returns and stock outs, you are actually paying more), so providers that just offer RFQ/e-Auction technology don’t deliver “Savings as a Service” either. They deliver a platform that you can use as part of a strategic sourcing process to negotiate savings, but as you can see, there’s a lot more to delivering savings than just providing a platform.

And we’ll address this in Part II.

The Direct Procurement Challenge Webinar is TOMORROW!

Hopefully you’ve registered by now. If you haven’t, there is still time to register. It’s free. It gives you one CEH. And, for the first time ever, you can ask questions of both the doctor and the prophet in the same webinar! (Downloading The Direct Procurement Challenge is good, but this is an awesome bonus.)

Remember, the doctor is the expert on Complex Sourcing and Procurement and when he says that you shouldn’t use a Chihuahua to herd sheep and asks why are you trying to use a mouse to herd cats (which is mission improbable anyway), you should know that there is something someone is not telling you. That’s why he’s joining a tag-team to bring you this much needed education for free. But as he doesn’t have time to repeat himself (so much to educate on, so little time), like most webinars, this is a one-shot deal. Show up. Or possibly miss out on that one secret that could help you secure the budget you desperately need. Your call.

As a reminder, in this webinar, the doctor and the prophet will discuss:

  • the direct procurement lifecycle
  • how it is different from the classic indirect procurement lifecycle
    (which was cost-centric perfect for indirect)
  • key requirements to support direct procurement that indirect procurement platforms lack
  • key technological capabilities to truly manage the direct procurement lifecycle
  • 15 ways your platform likely isn’t up to snuff
    (especially if it’s a platform built for indirect)
  • the consequences of using the wrong platform for Procurement platform
    (which can leave a lot of blood on your hands)

Sign up. Join in. And learn the questions you should be asking and not the answers you should be accepting without digging a little deeper.

Remember, what you see on the surface:

Is not always the full picture:

Why Does Tail Spend Take Your Head for a Spin?

In our last post on why you shouldn’t let tail spend take you for a tail spin, we noted that tail spend could be keeping an additional 3% of revenue from hitting the bottom line (and, depending on your industry, and its margins, reducing your profit potential by up to 50%) and severely impacting your organization’s profit potential (and operating budget, which Procurement rarely has enough of).

We told you the answer to that was Sourcing Innovation’s new white paper on An Introduction to Tail Spend — and why you need a technology-based solution (registration required), sponsored by Claritum, because, unlike most papers, it tells you not only what tail spend is, and why not addressing it is costing your organization more than you know, but how to do something about it.

And it’s not just the typical solutions that the paper throws at you, which include:

  • tacking it on to managed spend,
  • using a GPO,
  • e-Catalogs, and
  • optimization-backed sourcing platforms


  • strategic suppliers want to supply high-volume or high-value products, not low-volume or low-value products, and certainly not as a condition for supplying strategic categories
  • GPO pricing is only as strong as their constituents and if the majority of the constituents don’t want the products or services that constitute your organization’s tail spend, their prices won’t be much better
  • tail spend is too unpredictable to be managed through a single catalog, especially since only a portion of tail spend should generally be made as catalog spot-buys
  • as optimization-backed sourcing platforms have the power to source much of tail spend, but don’t provide the guidance, and the strategy is often the most important thing

That’s why the paper provides not a single strategy, but a process for selecting the right strategy for each type of tail spend, as well as guidance on how to choose a platform to support it.

So download Sourcing Innovation’s new white paper on An Introduction to Tail Spend — and why you need a technology-based solution (registration required), sponsored by Claritum, and get your tail spend management on the right track.