… but don’t, because if they did, Source-to-Pay would be ubiquitous across the space.
If you’re a long-time reader of SI, you can skip these posts because you already know it all. But if you are a new reader, and haven’t scoured the archives yet, these posts are for you.
Even though most of the time the doctor gets to interact with people who’ve been there, done that, probably failed because they were using an older, insufficient, product, sometimes someone comes along who’s never really had real tech in one or more areas and the obvious is new. And since new readers still stumble on SI, it’s important to get them up to speed … fast. So, here goes — because you really really really should know the following “secrets” that, after more than a decade, should not be secrets anymore.
1. e-RFX is electronic support for the full information and quote gathering cycle, not just bid collection
If all your e-RFX does is allow you to collect bids, it’s not e-RFX. It’s e-RFQ, and a poor e-RFQ at that. It should allow you to create questionnaires, surveys, and entire RFX packages with closed and open-ended questions, allow you to compare responses side by side, and allow you to collect not only all of the pricing, but all of the discounts, rebates, and promotions the supplier offers. It should help you manage the process, guide you through it, engage with your entire team, and support data import and export in open formats so that you can also use analysis, optimization, and contract management tools.
2. A Reverse Auction is simply an online auction event, it’s not a substitute for proper sourcing project management
We follow the space closely and not a month goes by where we don’t see an article on how Company XYZ is now refusing to participate in online auctions or company ABC no longer wants to use them because they got poor results or inflated costs after the award. When you dig down, this is because the supplier had a horrible experience or the buyer didn’t properly qualify the supplier or the product/service requirements. When you dig deeper still, you find out it is typically either because Company ABC simply threw an auction tool at the supplier and told they had to bid through the tool or lose all their business or Company ABC threw up an auction tool and said they’d award to the lowest bidder and either bought a product that wasn’t qualified to meet their needs or ended up ignoring the auction result and going with a different supplier, usually the incumbent, after the auction closed.
We find this appalling, because e-Auctions, like e-RFX, are not only a great time saver, but a great way to bring parties together from around the globe and allow them to participate in an e-Sourcing event that, when run right, is more transparent, educational, and profitable for all parties concerned than traditional methods of sourcing where you get bids by phone and fax until you find three bids you like and then meet in a room to “negotiate” until a deal is struck with a winner – especially for a commodity, low-dollar, and/or non-strategic category. (And we use the term “negotiate” loosely because old style purchasing methods usually boil down to the party with the most leverage beating up the party with the least leverage.) But this is only true if the event is run right. This takes proper project planning and management. Tools can facilitate the process, but they can’t replace it.
3. (Strategic Sourcing) Decision Optimization is for everyone, not just for math geeks!
We’ll admit this is the doctor‘s personal bandwagon, but having seen savings of over 40% and ROIs of over 400 on a number of projects, and average savings in the 10% to 20% range and average ROIs of 5X to 10X or more, the doctor knows he has a good reason for riding it. Despite the fact that true self-service decision optimization for sourcing has now been around for almost two decades, it’s still the “black sheep” that almost no one uses — and it’s a real shame because now is the time you need it most. Furthermore, the new tools coming out of the leading providers are not only a lot more usable than the first generation tools, but they are also more usable then second generation tools, and can be easily used not only by an college graduate who can build a cost model and specify some business constraints but by any high-school drop-out that can follow a workflow (as they allow the college graduates to build category and event specific templates that anyone can easily follow). In other words, if you have the pre-requisites for strategic sourcing, you can use these tools to save time, to save money, and make better, more informed, decisions.
4. Spend Analysis is flexible Data Analysis, not canned reports on a data warehouse populated via automated classification
Real spend analysis is the ability to dive into your data and find out not just where your true spend is higher than it should be, but why. This requires you to have the ability to slice, dice, and cube your data on any dimension you can think of, because you’re never going to know where the losses are until you find them. (After all, if you knew where your holes were, wouldn’t you have plugged them already?) Canned reports on a static data warehouse can only tell you how fixes you’ve already implemented are working, not where the holes are. Furthermore, “automated classification” (which is not the same as automatic classification rule suggestion) just doesn’t work. Any good consultant worth his salt can load your data into a real data analysis product and find two dozen mistakes in twelve minutes. You need the ability to define and redefine mapping rules on the fly as all automated classification can do is fix previously identified mistakes. It can’t identify new ones. Software isn’t intelligent (despite all the voodoo claims out there). People are (at least until we blindly trust the machine).
Come back tomorrow for Part II!