You’re Understaffed. And You’re Not Alone. Now What? Part I (Updated)

This series originally posted in June of 2014. Since nothing has changed, it’s being updated and reposted as it is still ever so timely.

Five years ago, Source One Management Services ran a survey that they summarized in a 4-part series on how Companies Face Limited Procurement Resources that demonstrated the dark state of affairs in Procurement at the time. They found that 1 of 3 Procurement departments were understaffed, and this was not a good thing as costs were climbing, GDP growth was flattening, and availability of supply in certain key raw materials and rare earth metals was diminishing and it took a talented Supply Management team to navigate these chaotic waters.

Fast forward five years, and not only are many Procurement organizations still understaffed, but 51% of Procurement Leaders believe they do not have the capability in their terms to deliver their procurement strategy. But despite this, 72% of Procurement Leaders are spending less than 2% of their budgets on training. Add this to the fact that a survey by DHL in 2017 found that not only is the supply chain talent pool is not keeping up with the changing requirements as technology reshapes the industry, but that demand for supply chain professionals will soon exceed supply by a ratio of 6:1, if it hasn’t already, and the situation is bleak indeed. In summary, Procurement organizations are, and will be, under-staffed, under-equipped, an with not doing anything about it. Not good.

But often your only option for growth in today’s marketplace with increasing costs, increasing competition, and increasing consumer demands is cost control — only available through Supply Management. So what does this mean for you? What do you need to do to survive?

More Analysis
But real, effective, analysis that identifies new opportunities takes time. More time than just dumping your AP and P-Card databases into a spend analysis tool and running the canned top-n spend reports by supplier, category, department, etc. As per our classic, but still highly relevant, post on Spend Analysis – How Do You Get It Right, real savings comes from real insight which requires real analysis, which takes time, effort, and focus.

More Category Sourcing
If you’re short-staffed, you’re going to focus on the top n suppliers, categories, departments, etc. spit out by the canned reports from your spend analysis reporting tool. Some of these will have opportunities, but since you’ll already know most of these opportunities, you’ll miss many of your biggest opportunities, which are typically found in the high-opportunity tier-2 categories that never get addressed due to lack of resources. And you’ll also miss mid-tier opportunities that could be captured with new automation technologies and tactical procurement approaches, as identified in our recent post on how your tail spend should be vanishingly small and the typical losses associated with it negligible.

Identify New Sources of Value
The future of Supply Management, in an inflationary economy, is value-generation. Cost control is a good start, and in an organization overspending by 5% to 15%, it will make a big impact in the beginning. But once all of the fat is trimmed, the best you can do is reign in costs. This means that the next round of savings is going to come from identifying value-generation opportunities. Bundling and unbundling the right value added services for your organization; helping engineering identify more cost-effective alternate materials and production processes that are also more environmentally friendly, and may let you charge a sustainability premium; and identifying new market opportunities based on products and services your strategic suppliers could provide you with can all bring value to your organization.

What next? Stay tuned for Part II.