Category Archives: Best Practices

Why You Need a Master Data Strategy for Proper Supplier Management (Repost)

This post originally ran on June 24, 2013, but seeing as it’s still a relevant message five years later, it is being re-posted to educate newcomers on the importance of Master Data Management strategies in this data-centric era.

Supplier Information Management is more than just buying a Supplier Information Management (SIM) solution and plopping it into your data centre. Much more. But yet, it seems that some people — anxious to deal with the visibility, risk management, and supplier performance issues facing them — believe that merely obtaining a SIM solution will solve their problems. A proper solution properly acquired, properly implemented, and properly used will go a long way to increasing supply chain visibility, enabling risk management and mitigation, and providing a solid foundation for supplier performance management, but the mere presence of such a solution in your supply management application suite is about as useful as a drill in the hands of a carpenter holding a nail.

You see, Supplier Information will never be restricted to the SIM system. Supplier information will always be present in the ERP system used for resource planning and manufacturing, the accounts payable system, the transactional procurement / procure-to-pay system, the sourcing suite, the contract management system, the risk management solution, the performance tracking and scorecard system, the sustainability / CSR solution, and other systems employed in your organizational back-office to manage the different supply management AND business functions. Supplier data is everywhere, and without a strategy, just shoving it into the SIM system won’t help.

In order to get a proper grip on supplier information, the organization needs a master data strategy that dictates the sub-records that define a supplier record and which system holds the master data for each sub-record. What do we mean by this? For example, the ERP may hold the core supplier identifier sub-record that defines the unique supplier number in your system, the supplier name, the supplier’s tax number, and your customer number in the eyes of the supplier and be the system of record for this information. The accounts payable system, referencing the supplier by it’s supplier number, may be the system of record for the headquarters address and payment address. The contract management system may be the system of record for the list of employees authorized to sign contracts on behalf of the supplier. The CSR system may be the system of record for the suppliers’ carbon rating, third party CSR rating, and your internal sustainability rating. And so on.

If this is the case, the SIM system, to truly be a SIM solution for your organization, needs to integrate with all of these systems and encode the proper rules to resolve data conflicts as required. Specifically, three things need to happen. First of all, whenever a system of record updates data, that data must be pulled into the system and overwrite the existing data. Secondly, anytime data is updated in the SIM system for which it is the system of record, that data must be pushed out to all systems that use it. Thirdly, and this part is sometimes overlooked, whenever data is updated in a system of record, the data not only needs to be pulled into the SIM system, but it then needs to be pushed out to any system that also uses that data. The SIM solution is the centre of a hub-and-spoke data architecture — all updates flow in, and all updates flow out.

This can only be properly accomplished with an appropriate Master Data Strategy. Don’t overlook it. Otherwise your SIM solution will turn out to be a Stuck In Muck solution. An SI is not kidding about this.

Make Sure Your Perishables Don’t Perish!

With natural disasters on the rise, and late frosts already minimizing or eliminating the crops that will be available in the fall, it’s more important than ever to minimize food waste throughout the supply chain.

Thus, SI would like to remind you of some important tips that can have a big impact on keeping your perishables from perishing!

  • Do not load produce at night.
    When it’s easy for insects and other pests to get in unnoticed. Not only can a family of spiders ruin the grapes, but they might be banned in the country you’re importing into, which would result in your truck getting stopped at the border and turned around.
  • Always home-source during harvest season.
    Unit prices might be higher, but shipping will be lower, and loss will be lower still as you won’t risk losing product in long shipments, which happens regularly when trucks break down and/or get held up at the border. Plus, many people will pay a slight premium for local produce.
  • Know the seasonality for key staples in every region, not just the ones you generally source from.
    This will make sure you’re always sourcing from the region with the most supply, which will help you to get you the lowest costs as you will be able to negotiate better unit prices and secure transportation in advance when prices are low.
  • If the perishables will be processed, re-optimize the processing network.
    If you’re going to can, freeze, or otherwise process the perishables into a less perishable product, do it as close to the source as possible, even if it means using new suppliers or investing in new manufacturing plants. These refined products, which are typically denser, and which may not even require refrigeration, will be much cheaper to ship and suffer a lesser risk of loss.
  • Have a plan to sell excess perishables once they reach their prime before they perish.
    50% off at the store is not always good enough, especially if they are marked down an hour before closing on a Tuesday night and will not be saleable tomorrow. For example, even overripe, tomatoes are still great for pastes and soups. You could have each store strike a deal with local restaurants that allow them to buy perishables at prime at a discount before they are unuseable, or, if you are socially responsible, setup a donation program with a local shelter or soup kitchen where the shelter can pick up perishing items each day before close before they perish (and take your cash with them). Done right, you could probably even get a charity tax write off (as long as the items were donated while still edible). You may consider these ideas beyond the scope of sourcing, but you shouldn’t when you consider that 1 in 7 people in the world are undernourished and almost 40% of food is wasted in North America. Fix this. You have the power.

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.