Daily Archives: September 1, 2017

Is There an Objective Reality to Procurement?

Recently, the public defender penned a post that asked should Procurement be more specific? where he asked if we have an ‘objective reality’ of how procurement works. Are we like scientists; trying to develop more understanding, willing to be challenged, looking for objective ways of proving what works and what doesn’t? Or are we more like the journalists and politicos who express a point of view and get upset if anyone argues strongly and objectively against us?

We think, for the most part, the answer is, unfortunately, a sad no. Why do we think this? Is it because we agree with the public defender in his observations that you never hear “I don’t agree with you” or “I don’t think that’s the best way of doing that” when you go to Procurement event and that you never see an academic paper that objectively measures the success of a particular procurement approach, strategy, or process. No. It’s because, as pointed out in yesterday’s post, there’s still too much magical thinking in Procurement, born in arrogance and self-conceit. Too many people who think that just because they’ve been doing it for 20 years, they’ve been doing it right and all they need is a few more resources and a little more time.

As a result, we wholeheartedly agree with the public defender when he says:

Procurement is THE least scientific of all major business disciplines.

– and that this is the result of –

the lack of clear and objective understanding and
the lack of clear metrics that measure the success of procurement.

As the public defender points out savings are pretty much impossible to measure, and most of the “true” savings is just cost avoidance anyway, and any reduction in cost that was spend above market average can never be counted as savings. If you were paying 10% more than you would in a spot buy, a reduction to market average is not even true cost avoidance that comes from demand management or product redesign, it’s just spending what you should have been in the first place. And other common metrics are equally abhorrent.

And we are still trying to get most organizations from landed cost (which is just one step up from unit cost) to total cost of ownership, which is not the right metric — it should be total value management — the cost relative to the performance (or profit if you want to be so narrow minded) of the buy.

So, no, in the average organization, there is no objective reality to Procurement. And, as it stands now, only the true leaders (the Hackett Group 8%) are even close to getting there (or at least trying). However, like the public defender, we will continue to educate you to the best of our ability so that someday, there may be an objective reality. (But not necessarily the one that will allow a senior buyer to be replaced by a bot. Assisted by, but not replaced.)