Procurement 2024 or Procurement’s Greatest Hits? McKinsey’s on the money, but … Part 1

… in some cases this is money you should have been on a decade ago!

Let’s backtrack. McKinsey ended Q1 by publishing a piece on Procurement 2024: The next ten CPO actions to meet today’s toughest challenges which had some great advice, but in some cases these were actions that your Procurement organization should have been taking five, if not ten years ago. And, if your organization was doing so in these cases, should be moving on to true next actions the article didn’t even address.

So, as you probably guessed, we’re going to discuss each one, give credit where credit is due (they are pretty good at strategy after all), and indicate where they missed a bit and tell you what to do next if you are already doing the actions you should have been doing years ago. And, just like we did to THE PROPHET‘s predictions, grade them. In this first installment, we’ll tackle the first three actions, which they group under the heading of:

End-to-End Value Capture

1. Utilize New Frontier Analytics and AI. B

Even though you should have been doing this since the introduction of spend analysis over 20 years ago, the recommendation to employ advanced analytics to extract valuable insights from procurement data is definitely A+ because analytics gets better every year, knowledge of which analytics to apply to a vertical and category gets better every year, and the constant increases in computing power makes it an increasingly powerful tool at your disposal.

However, the “AI” part is a B- at best. Using predictive analytics for commodity and market forecasting, risk prediction, and performance optimization is good, but AI can’t predict talent and you definitely should NOT use a Gen-AI bot to develop strategic decisions! Remember Gen stands for Generative which is defined as “make sh!t up” and there is a strong likelihood that it will hallucinate and the hallucination will sound more reliable than the non-hallucinatory recommendation it gives in very similar situations. Properly used, traditional, predictable, and, most importantly, deterministic (or at least verifiable) techniques can provide great value … but new, generative, unproven AI technology (which could have embedded sleeper behaviour) is NOT the answer.

2. Create a Request for Proposal (RFP) Engine. B

The article notes that you should develop … an approach for prioritizing categories and suppliers based on market development, spend analysis, and supplier leverage. This is something you should have been doing since the day you first implemented a strategic sourcing program. And you definitely should have been prioritizing spending with the highest potential to drive value for the organization, while deprioritizing categories or suppliers where value will be more challenging to obtain. In 2024 what you should be doing as part of this RFP engine is prioritizing categories and suppliers based on potential return from the strategic effort at this time (not potential for future value, potential for immediate value to meet the organization’s #1 priority of cost control) and then shifting all of the other categories to semi-automated sourcing events most likely to generate the best return. (i.e. well designed events, not an event for every request, you don’t want the squirrels thinking you are nuts)

The organization should have a platform that supports multi-round RFX-based events and multiple templates, reverse auctions (of various types), and the intermixing thereof. It should also support supplier onboarding, API-based verification with third parties, business/insurance/certification verification where possible, and so on. A buyer should be able to select a template for a single or multi-round event, define a timeframe, define a volume, click go, and the platform should automate an entire sourcing event until it’s time to verify an award (as the the platform should also recommend the award based on the bids and RFP responses). That’s the key to cost control — everything is sourced, but the effort made is relative to the potential return on that effort. Small return potential, semi-automate everything using the right technologies and processes. Large return, put in full manual effort in to maximize the value.

3. Redesign Value Creation with Key Suppliers. A

While this is something that needs to be done on a regular basis, given that rapid inflation is back, logistics is still unstable (we went from COVID to disruptions in the red sea at the same time as Panamanian droughts, forcing a return to long, dangerous, ocean routes around the capes), consumer demand is down, relations with China are deteriorating, and so on. Furthermore, not only is cost control paramount, so is value creation to increase not only value capture, but to also maintain, and maybe even slightly increase, consumer share in a down economy.

Come back for Part 2!