In our last post we noted that inflation is back with a vengeance, anticipated savings is leaking faster than a bald spigot, and most organizations are in a cash crunch as a result of down sales during the pandemic (and now due to a lack of core inventory to sell), and they need to update their procurement tech stack fast.
And they need to do it yesterday! But, due to the four primary (but not the only) reasons I listed in our last post, they can’t do it all at once. Big Bang software implementations always end with a big bang (and some have been responsible for the biggest supply chain disasters of all time, search the archives). So organizations need to start with one or two core modules/capabilities, and work their way outward over time. But where should they start? Which of the 4+ upstream, 3+ downstream, and 3+ cross-stream technologies should they start with?
Everyone you ask will have a different opinion, based on a different (and usually valid) argument, and the doctor can see the rationale for most of them. But not all technologies are created equal, especially when you consider the top four reasons you can’t do it all at once, and numbers alone don’t tell the story, only experience does (which is necessary to see, and understand, the big picture that needs to be considered). For example, what the doctor would have typically recommended a decade ago is not what he’d recommend today. But once you have the right mix of education, experience, and realism, the crystal ball, that was cloudy for so long, finally begins to clear.
Let’s start with cross-stream.
Inventory Management: very important; if critical inputs are not available for production, not only are end products not available to sell for the life-blood cash of the company, but production lines can shut-down (which can amount to massive losses in industries where re-start costs are high, or where a large work-force scheduled for the shift and/or on salary have to be paid regardless); if critical MRO products are not available when needed, some people in the company won’t do their job; if backup parts aren’t available, internal servers can go down and anyone who needs them to do their daily jobs (let’s face it, not everything is SaaS, and not everything should be!), will be ground to a halt; that being said, inventory optimization only saves so much in a TCO calculation, and if you can’t get the goods in, who cares, so you should not start here
GHG/Carbon Tracking: important if you have reporting needs, or sustainability goals, but lets face it, as long as your purchase data is somewhere, you can always hire a consultancy once a year to Git-R-Done if you need to, and this doesn’t do much to control your procurement costs or your risks … so you do it when you have core procurement capabilities under control
Risk Management: this is becoming critical with so much uncertainty around everything these days; we’ve went from the probability of a major disruption occurring at least once a year in one major category being almost 100% to everything being uncertain thanks to the ongoing turmoil caused by the pandemic; this capability obviously has to be high on any list, but, the reality is, if you can’t even find the goods to order, it’s probably secondary … but this doesn’t mean we know the answer of where to start yet …
So let’s move to upstream since we probably have to secure the goods first, and that’s usually upstream, right?
Contract Lifecycle Management: now, considering you should have a good contract for any high dollar or strategic category, this sounds like a fairly important starting point, especially since a contract theoretically secures supply, but the reality is, not everything needs a contract, and if you need the goods, you’ll spot buy on the open market if you can get the goods, so while it should be very high on the list, it is still a secondary need
Supplier X Management: goods come from suppliers, so strong supplier management should reduce your risk and accelerate your delivery, and, moreover, you don’t get goods at all unless you can find a supplier, so discovery is probably high on the list if you don’t have a sufficiently strong supplier base — but you don’t need a solution for discovery, there are still marketplaces, GPOs, your own database, consultancies, etc. so this is mid-weight priority (at most, possibly even lower if you have a lot of internal process problems to fix)
Spend Analysis: you need cost control, and fast, and nothing finds opportunities for cost reduction (by identifying overspend, opportunities for supply base amalgamation for potential economies of scale, by identifying unused contracts/opportunities, etc. etc. etc.) faster, but, again, identifying opportunities doesn’t realize them, so … it sounds like it might be Strategic Sourcing but first …
Let’s visit downstream to see if we’re missing something there.
e-Payment: this obviously isn’t high on the list, first you get the good or service you need, then you pay for it … so this definitely should not be high on the list, especially since you already have an AP solution, even if not optimal and considerably more manual than it should be
Order / Invoice Management: this should be a bit higher on the list than e-Payment, but, again, first you need to place the order, then you manage it, accept the invoice, and process it for payment, so you should not start here either
This takes us to …
e-Procurement: and this could be it, this could be the starting point, because, whereas strategic sourcing identifies the supplier, e-Procurement is where you place the order for the good or service you need …
To be continued … in Part III .