Category Archives: Best Practices

Supply Management Priorities are Hard to Define

As per yesterday’s post, figuring out your priority can be particularly painstaking because the maximum benefit is only realized when certain supporting systems are in the mix.

If we reverse our last post, you might well think that you need the following core modules to benefit from the indicated modules, and you might well be right.

Spend Analysis –> Product Management, Category Management
e-Negotiation –> Spend Analysis, SSDO, Guided Buying
SSDO –> Spend Analysis
Contract Management –> Spend Analysis, Requirements Definition, Product Management
Catalog Management –> Supplier Management, e-Negotiation, Guided Buying
Purchase Order / Invoice Management –> SSDO, Guided Buying, Catalog Management, Supplier Management
Supplier Management –> Opportunity Analysis, e-Negotiation
Risk management –> Opportunity Analysis, Contract Management
Product Management –> Contract Management, Guided Buying

But something interesting falls out of this. You don’t really need anything to get started on supplier management, and the only thing you need to benefit from e-Negotiation is a way to make use of the data (be it spend analysis, optimization, category-management based guided buying, etc.). And when you start on your supplier management journey, it’s supplier information management (followed by data-backed supplier performance management).

What does this tell us? The starting point is a (set of) solution(s) that helps you get your supply management master data under control. After that, the primary buying categories, the market, the internal situation, and a host of other factors will need to be balanced to select your next (set of) priority(ies), but without data, you’re not going anywhere.

What’s Your Supply Management Priority?

Supply Management Mastery is an elusive goal. As SI has been documenting for years, in order to master supply management, you have to manage a slew of Source to Pay processes as well as related Operational, Finance, and Risk processes.

But this is not easy when you consider the many steps involved in even source to pay. Spend Analysis. Opportunity Analysis. Requirements Definition. e-Negotiation. Strategic Sourcing Decision Optimization. Contract Negotiation Management. Catalog Creation. Guided Buying. Purchase Order Management. Invoice Management. Supplier Management. Risk Management. Product Management. And so on.

You have to master all of them, but you can’t work on them all at once. You have to make priorities, and eliminate all but the top three (3). And even then, you might not be able to tackle all three if each would require a separate system.

So what’s your priority?

Spend Analysis gives you insights, but you have to be able to act on them. That requires e-Negotiation, SSDO, contract management, etc.

Opportunity Analysis goes beyond just spend to determine if your opportunities are spend related, supply base related, process related, or otherwise.

Requirements Definition helps crystalize organizational needs and helps the buyer zero in on what really matters. But then it has to create good contracts and statements of work.

e-Negotiation helps capture all of the back-and-forth between both parties so that the organization can build supplier profiles and take advantage of that. Provided the organization has deep supplier master data management.

SSDO can find the optimal cost allocation across suppliers, products, and carriers and delivers an average savings year over year that exceeds 10%. But it requires deep models and lots of data. And where does that data come from? Typically from e-Negotiation.

Contract negotiation management is great for creating great contracts. But you need product details, SOWs, risk management and liability clauses, and other data.

Catalog management software is great, as long as you have a supplier management portal to manage the supplier the catalog comes from.

Guided buying is even better, but only if you have the solutions to guide the buyer to that captures the majority of organizational spend. Guided buying that only works in an incomplete catalog is more of a frustration than a solution.

Purchase Order Management can eliminate a lot of paper, provided there are catalog, sourcing, etc. systems to integrate with to auto-generate those POs on buyer actions.

Invoice Management systems are great, as long as you have POs, contracts, goods receipts, and other documents to m-way match against! Otherwise, they just collect e-paper that still has to be manually reviewed. (And in the average organization, that still typically results in them being printed.)

Supplier Management is great for managing information, relationships, and performance, provided their are networks and portals to collect the data from, and internal systems to create and manage scorecards to define performance improvements on.

Product Management is key to understanding the product and category dynamics, but then you need category management strategies to map to.

And, these days, instantiations and realizations of risk can wipe out the savings from 10 sourcing projects, so risk management is paramount, but detecting and monitoring for risks requires a slew of systems internal and external and lots of data.

In other words, every system is great, but generally only if you have one or more systems to collect the data it runs on or supplement key functionality.

Which again begs the question, what are your priorities? Otherwise, you’ll never know where to start.

Maybe You Can Be a Procurement Hero!

Everyone wants to be the corporate hero, but at the end of the day, very few people in a company get to be society’s hero, and fewer still without blowing the whistle on criminal activity (and being made the target of a well paid hitman).

But if your company is big enough, and the spend you’re responsible for is large enough, you can sometimes do the right thing for the company and the right thing for society (even if it’s a bit tough at first).

How? You get corporate buy in to use your corporate spending power for good. You get commitment that it’s not just the lowest cost, it’s the lowest sustainable cost that meets minimum ethical guidelines. You get a commitment from the C-Suite to not only do your best to follow what is becoming the law in many jurisdictions and eliminate slave, forced, and child labour from your supply chain but to do it because it’s the right thing. Then, you can also get a commitment to shift at least some supply to suppliers that are making efforts to be more sustainable (and not polluting the local water table) or corporately responsible (and making efforts to improve the quality of life of their workers or the local community). In certain categories (primarily sourced from low-cost countries), each of these options will generally be a bit more expensive in the short term than going with the lowest cost supplier, who likely underpays the workforce or destroys the local environment, but well worth the temporary cost increase.

First of all, your C-Suite won’t have to worry about criminal charges or jail. Secondly, sustainable suppliers tend to be around for the long haul and get more leaner, more productive, and more cost effective over time — especially with your investment (and work with you to contain costs when they start to rise). Third, you can market the heck out of your commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility. While not all consumers will pay more, some will, and those that are willing are those that will stick with you. Plus, when your competition stocks out because their supplier is finally shut down for its poor practices, you won’t have any disruptions.

Now, you’re probably saying one buyer can’t make a difference, but if you are buying a multi-million, or hundred million, category for a Fortune 500 / Global 3000, that’s a lot of money and you can use it to make a huge difference. No supplier wants to lose out on that amount of money, and even current suppliers can be changed.

Plus, if you band together with peers that are part of a trading network (like the Ariba Network that does more commerce annually than Alibaba, Amazon, and eBay combined) and all make a commitment to stop buying from a certain supplier until they adopt certain minimum corporate responsibility and sustainability requirements, you can bet that supplier will turn on a dime.

The reality is that if Procurement gets a Purpose in the Global 3000, and practitioners can garner the resolve to stick to their guns, they are one of the few people who can make a difference in this corporate driven world. It won’t be easy, but is anything worth doing?

For a slightly deeper dive into Procurement With Purpose, check out the doctor‘s two-part series over on Spend Matters (Part I) and for a much deeper dive, check out the public defender‘s new paper on Procurement with a Purpose — Making a Positive Impact on Organisations, Human Rights and Communities, sponsored by Ariba.

Get With the Program!


Sourcing only identifies value. But value is not realized until it is captured. Capturing value requires each purchase to go through the system and be realized as a perfect order — the right product at the right place at the right time for the right person at the right price using the right delivery method, and so on. In order to make this happen, an organization has to do more than source — it also has to execute, track, report, and correct. Otherwise, it will fail to realize 30% to 40% of negotiated value (which is a statistic that has been well known for almost a decade).

However, the only way an organization can properly source, execute, track, report, and correct procurement operations is through proper program management, which is much more than just executing an event, negotiating a contract, and filing it away in the contract management system. It’s taking that e-paper and making an e-process out of it, preferably in an integrated Source-to-Pay platform that can insure each step of the program is followed.

This requires a program-management based platform, something which the average Procurement organization does not have as most first, and even second, generation sourcing platforms did not have any real program management built in.

And when one thinks about what is involved when one tries to consolidate the messy and muddled functionalities scattered across the ERP, analytics, invoice processing, contract management, supplier management, and other supply management platforms across the organization, supply program management can be a difficult and complicated task. The solution of which is an effective program management strategy, backed up by an appropriate platform-based solution.

To find out how to get started, download the doctor‘s latest white paper on The Importance of Program Management For Savings and Value Realization”, sponsored by SynerTrade. The read will be worth your time.

Of Course Catalogs Can’t Be Trusted to Manage Low Value Spend!

They’re a tool in a machine. Saying you trust a catalog to manage your spend is saying you trust a hammer to pound that loose roundhead nail back into the wall stud. It can, but only in the hands of a reasonably skilled laborer who can hit the nail on the head at an appropriate angle to drive it back in (and not bend it, knock it out, put a hole in the wall or knock himself unconscious on the recoil.

Similarly, a catalog is only going to serve its purpose and deliver value in the hands of an appropriately trained buyer or employee who knows how, and when, to use it.

And the fact that a spend management company had to pay Spend Matters to run an article that made clear 3 reasons catalogs can’t be trusted to manage low-value spend shows that, despite all this talk about strategic sourcing, category management, digitization (or any other flavour of this overused, always misunderstood buzzword you care to imagine), and cognitive procurement, Procurement, overall, is still in a sorry state of affairs overall.

Not only are we in the situation where at least a third of mid-size and larger organizations don’t have any modern solutions at all, and of those that do, a majority are still on what we’ll call legacy first-generation solutions which are cumbersome to use and low on power, but this also puts us in a situation where those un-enabled organizations don’t have the platforms to improve processes, reduce workloads, and allow the Procurement team to execute, and get comfortable with, more advanced and strategic sourcing methods.

To these organizations, a catalog looks like an answer to tail-spend prayers. Get a few master contracts for common low-value, low-dollar purchases, load them all into a modern, single search, single view, federated catalog, and allow people to buy whatever they need through the catalog. And while this is a valid strategy for some purchases, and can really take a huge workload off of an overworked Procurement team’s plates, it doesn’t solve all the problems.

As the article noted:

  • Catalogs can Waste Time

    Unless it is always-on, up-to-date (which could require a dedicated catalog manager), federated single view, capable of filtering to in-stock items only, and guided (showing the mosts popular or typically best choice when there are multiple options), an employee will spend way more time looking for the item then she might spend using it! Catalogs are not set and forget. They must be managed! Vendors don’t focus on this, especially if they don’t have a modern solution with strong vendor self-update capabilities (where a buyer only has to review vs. doing all the work), and a buying organization that chooses the wrong catalog solution can end up worse off than they were before they acquired a solution.

  • Catalogs can Miss Savings

    Procurement can always get a better deal on volume or discontinued items (and when its an internal item for consumption, sometimes it just doesn’t matter; such as pens that get lost before they are used, cleaning suppliers where packaging doesn’t matter, etc.) and when an item is getting purchased frequently enough, it’s best just to do a bulk order and put it in the store room. A catalog will never alert you when the time is right to take something out and do a bulk-buy.

    And this is fine, as long as an organization knows that just like you can’t set and forget a catalog, you can’t forget to run the analytics on the purchases on a(t least) a quarterly basis, preferably monthly, to make sure the right purchases are going through the catalog and, at the same time, review the non-catalog P-card and T&E spend and see if other types of purchases should be put in the catalog.

  • Catalogs can Introduce Hidden Risks

    As the article notes, uninformed employees will sometimes bulk buy thinking they are saving money (even if the savings per unit is negligable), when in fact they are tying up capital when the item is low use and the other 10, or 100, will sit in the storeroom for months (or years). Sometimes they will scroll three pages in to find an in-catalog, non-preferred, item that they prefer (and costs twice as much, but because all inventory from office supplies vendor A is in the catalog at a flat 10% discount off of MSRP, just in case something else is needed than formally specified in the contract, they can do it). And so on. And if we’re talking electronics, and the organization doesn’t know how to secure certain non-standard devices, this could be very, very, bad from a data security and privacy standpoint.

Catalogs are a tool to manage tail-spend, but only one tool, and they need to be part of a larger tail-spend strategy to deliver value. Never forget that.