The taming of the tail is tedious and that’s why it’s overlooked in many organizations beyond whatever a catalog can address. There are only so many strategic sourcing professionals, there are only so many projects they can handle, and only so much spend they can get under strategic management. After that, beyond what’s in the catalog, IF there is a catalog, it’s typically the wild wild west for Procurement — especially if it fits on a credit card or P-card. There just isn’t enough bandwidth to manage more than a measly modicum of the tactical tail in an average organization.
Many organizations believe it’s okay to ignore tail spend because it’s only 20% to 30%, and because they believe that overspend probably can’t be that high on small purchases. They’re wrong on both points. In most organizations, even when the strategic categories are defined to include 80% of spend, because products and services change all the time, organizational buyers and / or overworked sourcerers won’t always catch when new products or services should be included in a strategically managed category; and because p-card/T&E is never included in the initial estimate, tactical/tail spend that’s unmanaged is usually 30% to 40%. If it’s 40% that ends up being unmanaged when the expectation is 20%, that’s a lot. Secondly, spend analysts and tail spend analysts have regularly found that the average overspend in the tail is in excess of 10%, with some categories of spend routinely being in the 15% to 30% window because no one ever looks at it. And if your organization is losing out on 10% of 40%, that’s 4% that could go straight to the bottom line with a good tactical tail spend solution.
To put into perspective just how good 4% straight to the bottom line is, consider the fact that, in direct organizations, strategic events on carefully managed direct categories that are regularly sourced typically only net 2% as the categories have already been squeezed. It’s only the mid-tier categories where you will see higher savings rates, which will typically average in the 5% to 7% range at best as these categories at least go to auction or multi-round RFP regularly. So if you save 2% on the top 30% and 5% on the next 30%, that’s only a savings of 2.1% that hits the bottom line. In other words, if your organization has been actively strategically sourcing top spend for five or six years, your organization has twice the cost avoidance / savings opportunity in the tail. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s the truth. Let that sink in for a moment before you read on.
mysupply is the newest start-up that aims to tackle the Tactical Tail Spend space, which has been historically underserved since the first specialists popped up (and then disappeared) to tackle it in the early 2010s. Even today you can count the true tactical tail spend specialist solutions on one hand without a thumb, compared to the seventy-five plus sourcing providers, but the new generation of providers, and mysupply in particular, understands that no one wants their spend in multiple systems (as you can’t do integrated spend, PO, and invoice management otherwise, key for Procurement success) and are developing their system as an extension to current sourcing systems, not a replacement for.
mysupply, which is even available on the SAP app store for those that use SAP (Ariba) and want a quick-start into tactical tail spend management, was designed to integrate with, and feed into your existing sourcing / procurement platforms — and in the case of Ariba, will fully use the Ariba Catalog and Ariba PO system to manage all spend. mysupply allows for:
- quick event definition for sourcerors short on time (though the App or ProcurementBot)
- roll-out to organizational users who can do their own quick-hit RFPs/Auctions/Catalog buys (also through the app, if needed, or ProcurementBot)
- integration with your intake platform of choice for event push to the sourcing team
While it’s not designed as a full intake (or intake-powered) platform, as it was built for tactical tail spend and not all organizational spend, it was built from the ground up with integration in mind (as their goal is not to replace any platform you might already be using, as they are going after the enterprise market) and has a lot of orchestration capability built in and could even serve as an intake platform if desired (and route requests that should be strategically managed spend to an existing strategic sourcing application or to mysupply, which can also be used for strategic sourcing if desired).
Event creation in mysupply can be super easy. Options include:
- in-house LLM-assisted Event Creation and Management via API-powered ProcurementBot, that can be integrated through existing enterprise collaboration platforms (Microsoft Teams is in Production, further integrations are planned)
- Existing event templates that define all of the items being sourced, data required for bids, and (pre) approved vendors (which can easily be augmented or removed) (any event can be saved as a template to kick off future events)
- events from scratch, where the platform is very adaptive and you only need to specify as much information as is necessary to source the product/service, which, if already defined in the system, can simply be an RFP request and a due date
and, most importantly, all of these strategies can include
- demand bundling, even if different products or services should be sourced using different strategies, which can be across buyers for a given timeframe (i.e. collect all requests for a week or a month and then source)
- pre-selected, custom, or hybrid supplier lists
- customized lots, as the platform allows sourcing by item (price) or lot (price)
- multiple tender/go-to-market approaches (i.e. each lot can be designated for a different [type] of RFX or auction), where the approach doesn’t need to be selected until suppliers have confirmed interest AND initial bids are in (which is very relevant for tactical spend where you don’t know the market dynamics because you haven’t researched the market and/or don’t source the product or service regularly; it’s not like strategic spend where you know there are seven suppliers, and five will show up to a reverse auction)
- automated negotiation via (lot-based) QuickBot or multi-line item QuickBot
- multiple scenarios for negotiation award analysis (where the items can be broken up for further negotiation/award after an initial bid event based on total spend, number responses, etc.)
For the requester, integrated LLMs through ProcurementBot help the requester:
- identify the product or service being requested
- capture demand and critical requirements
- select the category
- be presented with the appropriate sourcing approach: catalog, self-service, or central sourcing (team)
- for catalog, immediately make the buy by presenting the user with the available catalog options and allowing them to select one and complete the purchase (and then the bot completes the process in the source system)
- for self service, flesh out tender specifics and select (pre-approved) suppliers and then ProcurementBot sends out the tenders and, when they are all returned, or a certain time has passed (as configured by the category manager in the mysupply platform) returns the quotes to the buyer through the initial chat channel (where they can select one)
- for central sourcing, it collects the request and, if appropriate, bundles it with others that are then rolled up into a managed tender that is then put into a central buyer’s queue for management, which may happen before or after initial quote requests are sent to suppliers (if an event template has already been pre-configured)
Let’s dive into some key sections / capabilities for the sourcing professional.
Demand Management / Bundling
As above, the system can be pre-configured to bundle demand over a period of time for all requests for the same product or products in a pre-defined lot, but for the rest of the requests that come in, there is the demand management/bundling section. In this section, the buyer can see all of the requests, have mysupply suggest a bundling, and either pick a suggested bundle or create her own bundle. She can quickly search and filter to create custom sourcing project bundles and then immediately kick off a workflow to define a new sourcing project bundle.
When a new sourcing project is kicked off, the user is taken to a screen where they can select starting pre-defined supplier groupings that are relevant for each item requested in the demand bundle (and, of course, the system will not include duplicate invites if the supplier is in multiple supplier groups, so the sourcing organization doesn’t have to create intersection groups, just groups for each commonly requested item).
Standard Sourcing Process
Once the buyer defines a basic event through one of the workflows (kicked off from a single request or request bundle), the platform takes the user to the event summary. From there they can:
- define the automation and starting strategy — the event can be setup to automatically select all approved suppliers, send the request out at a certain time, remind suppliers, automatically advance to evaluation when all starting bids are in or the deadline is reached, kick off automated negotiation rounds (where suppliers are given a chance to update bids based on rank information and built-in game theory negotiation strategies), and basically free the buyer until it’s time to evaluate the first round of bids and either award, or kick off another round — at this point, the buyer can change the negotiation strategy, and even split the event up into multiple parts; this is different from most platforms where the entire event structure, and strategy (single round, multi round, Dutch action, etc.) has to be defined up-front and cannot be changed — something which makes no sense in tactical tail spend sourcing where you don’t know the supplier interest or current market dynamics; note that the starting strategy can be multi-pronged based on event value (if the award can be done under 10,000, then just award the lot to the current lowest bidder; if under 25,000 use autonomous QuickBot negotiation and award to the lowest bidder on an item basis; if over 25,000, do a 2nd round RFP with the three best suppliers and more negotiation/bundling to motivate better pricing; etc.)
- flesh out the request — quote breakdown (while it is tactical tail spend, you may still want shipping, handling, taxes, service fees, etc. broken out), basic information required, documents required, delivery and payment details that must be accepted, compliance requirements, etc.
- invitation of the selected suppliers (where you can add or remove suppliers that were pre-populated from supplier groups appropriate to the items in the request)
- the evaluation of the bids that come back – manually, autonomously, or a combination thereof;
the platform supports best price strategies, threshold strategies (which allow the strategy to be dependent on the amount of the bid, i.e user-driven negotiation above a range, best price negotiation within a range, and best-price auto-award below a range), QuickBot single lot auto-negotiation, Multi-Item QuickBot, English auction, Dutch auction, ranking (based on weighted responses and costs), buyer awards (no auction/negotiation); it supports lot strategies (best distribution by single-item award or all split); it also supports multiple rounds if desired with pre-scheduled negotiation windows (for RFQs and auctions); and, finally, it supports automated awarding if strategies that permit automated awarding are selected (subject to conditions that can restrict auto-award based on LDO — Least Desirable Outcome — or MDO — Most Desirable Outcome — scenarios; however, note that this is just the starting strategy;
- select one or more bids for negotiation and make an award (unassigned/unawarded items are summarized and the user can see, through color coding, the lowest cost among all offers, select one, and send it to the e-Procurement system; the user can even dynamically kick-off new rounds of the RFP/auction, which may have a smaller supplier set or introduce new suppliers if the responses weren’t acceptable )
- manage Q&A with the suppliers
A great feature of mysupply is it is not built to replace your current strategic sourcing platform (which most organizations have), your existing catalogs and catalog management applications (they integrate with them through their extensive API support), or your ERP/MRP/AP system which manages your purchase orders (as they integrate with those too). It’s meant to fill the tactical / tail spend sourcing hole in most organizations and, in particular, help organizations with tactical sourcing teams and help desks become considerably more efficient so overall savings can be increased though effective category management practices that capture and encode organizational knowledge so the end users can make the right buys on their own as often as possible, ensuring that the tactical team can focus on higher spend tail spend categories and new categories (and develop the right strategies to manage those going forward).
If your organization does a lot of tactical / tail spend sourcing, mysupply is definitely a platform you might want to check out, especially since its ProcurementBot allows it to do intake through third party platforms organizational users are already familiar with (such as Microsoft Teams).