Influential Sustentation 96: Consortiums

Consortiums, better known as Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs), will be one of your biggest organizational conundrums of the decade. Regardless of whether your organization is currently using a GPO or not, with the need to save money in every category in your tail spend, the next few years will be the years that you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.

GPOs are going to be pushed upon you by under-informed CFOs because the believe that a GPO will be able to leverage economies of scale, in the form of more volume and more efficiencies, then the organization can achieve on its own.
For example, a supplier might offer price reductions at 1,000 units, 10,000 units, and 100,000 units and offer 2%, 3%, and 6% discounts at each price level. On its own, an organization that only buys 20,000 units would only be able to obtain the 3% discount but if it banded with five other organizations that required a similar amount of units, each organization could obtain the 6% discount. In addition, if only one contract needed to be negotiated and cut, each organization could reduce the amount of negotiation and administration overhead required to negotiate the contract and save even more. Theoretically.

But all of this comes at a cost. First of all, the GPO has to be funded — so, either the organization has to pay a fixed membership cost every year or a percentage of each transaction. Secondly, the GPO has to be managed just like every business processing outsourcing (BPO) provider. This isn’t always easy because not only does the organization have to manage the relationship and insure that the GPO is working on categories that are important to the organization, but it has to make sure that the GPO is taking the organization’s needs into account. And, the double edged sword, the best deals materialize when the combined volume allows a supplier to hit peak production (which allows them to produce the product at the lowest possible cost) and offer their customers the lowest possible cost. However, getting to peak production often requires combining the needs of a dozen or so different organizations, each of which has its own viewpoints and goals for each category. In other words, while you might prefer Supplier A’s products, because your Engineering department feels that they are of superior quality, the other GPO participants might prefer Supplier X — the least favoured supplier of your organization.

So what do you do?

1. Categorize all of your unmanaged spend.

You need to understand how much spend is each category, how much savings is likely available from (better) management, how much savings you could get if you began to manage it yourself, and how that would compare, using market average GPO statistics on savings and GPO overhead, to having a third party manage it. If you could save 2%, but the overhead to save that is 30%, that’s 1.4% savings at the end of the day. If the GPO can save 3%, and the amortization of the fixed and transaction fees work out to 40% of that, that’s a 1.8% savings, and throwing it over the wall might not be worth it. But if the GPO can save 5%, and they are really efficient on that category and their fees work out to 20% of the savings, that’s a 4% savings and you strongly consider throwing it over the wall.

2. Identify the Candidate GPO spend.

Identify all categories that the GPO could save enough on to make it worthwhile, then remove any categories too strategic to the business to hand over to a third party, and then remove any categories where they are primarily being sourced from a strategic or high-volume supplier and where they could be added on to an existing or renewal contract.

3. Estimate the Realizeable Savings from the Candidate GPO Spend

How much is being spent? How much of that could be saved based on industry average statistics? What would it cost to obtain that savings in total fees and overhead? What would really be saved? What is the real ROI?

4. Determine if the ROI is worth it.

If the ROI is not at least a factor of three, by the time you factor in all the change management, learning headaches, and delayed savings, it’s probably not worth the GPO. If it is, it probably is. Make your decision, and then present the detailed calculation to defend your position, and don’t waffle. If you can save, do it, and evaluate in 3 years. If you can’t, just get the best damn tail spend management you can and do better. But you can’t be constantly evaluating, reevaluating, and bickering about it. Do it. Or don’t. No in-between.

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