Category Archives: Cost Reduction

True Savings Can Only Be Identified through Multi-Factor Optimization

A recent guest post from a vendor-employed guest contributor over on Spend Matters said to Calculate Your True Savings Using Predictive Analytics. While the doctor agrees predictive analytics can often give you a good data point as to projected savings, the reality is that it’s not always as accurate as you would like to believe and typically does not capture your best savings opportunities.

Why? Before we discuss the guest post, which did have some good points, we have to note that most predictive analytics algorithms work on trending and statistics on historical or market data, and while this can be highly accurate (95%+) the majority of the time (95%+), because market data is only historical and typically does not include data points on new (not yet introduced or announced innovations), detailed cost breakdowns on consumer / market prices, or operational insights into hidden inefficiencies whose correction can do more than shaving a few points off the top.

Going back to the post, the author states that if you use a Savings Regression Analysis (SRA) model based on multivariate regression of past-realized savings for a given subcategory to compute the savings potential under current market conditions, the target computed will be realistic, achievable, and likely mirror what you will do (despite the savings targets you set).

And this statistically based model will work if it is the same buyer (group) employing the same strategy on the same market base under similar conditions, but what could happen if a new buyer comes in that totally redefines the demand and the market strategy, or the market conditions have suddenly changed from supply shortage to supply surplus, or new production technologies could revolutionize production and trim overhead 20%? In this situation, this type of model will be significantly off.

Now, anything you can do to better predict savings is a positive, because, as the author points out, this allows for

  • better cash flow management (as you will better know your costs)
  • time to market optimization (as you will know the best time to source if you have leeway)
  • goal setting (as you won’t be trying to achieve the impossible)
  • performance management (as you can track against a realistic goal)

But while predictive analytics give a good data point, the best data point is when you use your market intelligence to build good should cost models, use optimization to minimize transportation and incidental storage and sales (and even taxation) costs (when sourcing globally), and use six sigma analysis to see if there is any opportunity to take cost out of a supplier’s overhead production cost. Going into this level of detail may indicate that while the product cost is likely to increase 1% this year (and explains why the predictive software says only 2% savings should be expected after heavy negotiations), an extensive analysis could show that a transportation network redesign could shave 3% and lean process improvements at your supplier could shave 2%, meaning that a cost reduction of up to 7% could be achieved with the right footwork (which is something the predictive model will never tell you). So use the predictive algorithms to establish a baseline, but never, ever stop there.

Why You Need Mass Adoption Of An Optimization-Backed Sourcing Platform

Last week, in our post on why Higher Adoption is Where the True Value of Optimization Lies, we emphasized the importance on not just having optimization, but an optimization-backed sourcing platform that can be used by the most junior of buyers. We focussed on the efficiency, time savings, and value such a platform would bring, but didn’t give you any hard numbers. While the hard numbers will be hard to come by, SI expects that the savings that hit the bottom line from such a platform will increase by at least 150% over using stand-alone optimization, and more than likely will double what an organization would see if it just used a regular strategic sourcing platform without optimization. We know that 2.5X is not a very impressive number when vendors go around talking about 10X ROI, but the ROI that vendors promise is relative to the cost of the platform, not the ROI relative to the organization’s bottom line, and that’s what really counts.

The reality is that, at the end of the day, after COGS, depreciation, taxes, etc. are factored in, a good Procurement organization might only take 2% off of the bottom line. This doesn’t sound that impressive, unless the organization is a 10B organization where 2% is 200M, in which case it’s knock your socks off impressive. Now imagine if that same Procurement organization could increase the straight to the bottom line savings by 150% and show a bottom line savings of 5.2%. That’s another 320M in annual savings for a total savings of 520M! That’s buy everyone on the Sourcing team a custom made Jaguar savings because no other initiative is going to take that much off the bottom line.

But you don’t have to be a 10B organization to see the impact. Imagine you are a small mid-size organization with only 100M in annual spend. Instead of seeing an average year-over-year impact of 2M, you’d see 5.2M. If a fully burdened FTE is 200K and you had a small Procurement department of 5 people managing your spend, the department’s ROI would go from 2X to 5.2X in a single year, and that is quite significant.

So where are these, quite conservative, numbers coming from?

  • A Best In Class Organization has 80% of spend under management (Hackett, Gartner, etc.)
  • A Best in Class Organization will strategically source approximately 1/3 annually (due to resource restrictions) (Crowd Wisdom approximation used by many vendors)
  • A Best In Class Organization with stand-alone or hard-to-use optimization capability will only put the top third of complex, strategic, or high volume spend through the organization (Generous crowd wisdom approximation based upon SI’s interaction with optimization vendors)

As a result, (at most) one-third of one-third of four-fifths of spend gets optimized on an annual basis, or about 9% gets optimized using strategic sourcing decision optimization and the full extent of its capability.

However, if the organization has an optimization-backed sourcing platform that is configured for one-click evaluations and automatic weighted auction awards for low-cost / standard categories,

  • 98% of spend can be under management (as it can flow through the platform as easy as it can flow through an auction or spot buy RFP),
  • one half of that can be sourced annually due to efficiency gains
  • and all of this spend will be subject to optimization.

This means that about one half of organizational spend, or about 48% of spend, can get at least partially optimized on an annual basis. In other words, an organization can subject 5x its spend to optimization on an annual basis.

The net result is that an organization that adopts an optimization-backed sourcing platform that can be used by every buyer will see at least 150% more savings hit the bottom line every year. Why?

If we look at the numbers:

  • the average return from Procurement at a world class organization is 4.7% (Hackett Group)
  • the average return on tail spend (which is never strategically sourced) is 7.1% (Hackett Group)
  • the average return from SSDO on a strategically sourced category where the full power of the solution is enabled is 12% (Aberdeen)

This leads to the following (where we assume 20% of spend is “tail spend”):

09% using SSDO @ 12.0% savings = 1.0% savings
18% using SS   @ 04.7% savings = 1.0% savings
TOTAL = 2.0% savings
SSDO Platform
38% using SSDO @ 12.0% savings = 4.5% savings
10% using SSDO @ 07.1% savings = 0.7% savings
TOTAL = 5.2% savings

Now, mileage will vary among organizations, but this example should make it pretty easy to see that optimization is a huge value driver that will have a significant impact on your bottom line when it is widely deployed.

So if you want to know what to look for in an optimization-backed sourcing platform, download Optimization: Higher Adoption is Where True Value Lies (registration required) today and find out what you need to take optimization from a success to a smashing success in your organization.

Buy, Buy, Buy, Once Bitten Twice Shy

Many procurement functions and executives see price negotiation and reduction as the primary element of their role. In doing so, they run the risk of missing out on the major benefits that can be obtained by focusing on other aspects of the wider value picture.
Full Value Buying: Moving Beyond Price Negotiation, Peter Smith & Jon Milton, 2015

Why? Is it because they think price trumps all? Is it because they don’t think there’s value in non-price factors and services? Is it because they once focussed too much on the bigger picture, didn’t do their homework, greatly overpaid, did not realize any savings, got hung out to dry, and are now once bitten, twice shy? And does it really matter?

As SI has been proclaiming for years, it’s not TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), it’s TVM (Total Value Management). It’s not how much you pay, it’s the return you receive. As Finance will tell you, it’s all about the ROI. Paying a bit more for a value-added service from the supplier that saves you money is a good return. Paying a bit more in a dual-source strategy to large suppliers with high-volume production lines to prevent otherwise likely stock-outs is often the best insurance policy you can buy. And paying a bit more to use a supplier you are certain does not use child labour, does not subject its workers to poor working conditions, and does not use conflict minerals, banned raw materials, or illegally obtained goods and services costs a lot less than the PR nightmare and lost sales that could result from a brand scandal.

But these are just some ways to increase the value of a purchase. In Mr. Milton and Mr. Smith’s latest paper on Full Value Buying they describe techniques, such as specification improvement and demand management that can generate returns above the 10%+ that an organization can typically save through skillful spend analysis or decision optimization (which are the only two traditional sourcing techniques that generate consistent year-over-year savings in the double digit percentages).

In the paper they address four major mechanisms that can affect the cost of a buy and the upper bound on cost savings that each factor can traditionally bring:


Mechanism Saving Potential
Purchase Price (TCO model) 20%
Specifications 30%
Whole-Life Factors 50%
Demand 50%


These numbers may seem high, but consider the following. Changing the specifications slightly to allow a lower cost material to be used which can also be used in a more efficient (and cost effective) production process can easily shave 50% to 90% off of 40% (or more) of the cost if a (rare earth) metal that costs $50 an ounce is replaced with a metal that costs $10 an ounce. Changing the design that allows the product to be easily disassembled and valuable metals recovered (upon forced recovery subject to environmental disposal laws) can turn a losing collection business into profitable recovery one. Buying Accounts Payable and Marketing extra monitors so they don’t have to print PDF invoices to enter them or documents they need to reference when composing project specifications can cut organization paper demand by over 50%. And these are just a few examples.

the doctor strongly encourages you to check out Mr. Smith’s (co-authored) latest piece for more details on how these mechanisms can be applied across a range of categories to not only bring costs down, but even value up to the organization. After all, he went to Washington. (Figuratively and literally.)

Addressing Tail-End Spend Management

Today’s guest post, which is part two of a two-part series, is from Gonzague de Thieulloy, a Managing Director at Xchanging Procurement who manages tail-end spend management programs at Xchanging’s largest European customers.

In yesterday’s post, we defined tail-end spend, which is the 20% or so of spend with the organization’s non-strategic suppliers that, due to its complexity, is typically left unmanaged and which, unaddressed, presents the company with significant risks of the financial and brand variety. In today’s post, we discuss the solution for tail-end spend management which will address the complexity, reduce the risk, and present the organization with an additional savings opportunity.

The Tail-End Spend Solution

Because of the high degree of complexity and risk involved with tail-end spend, companies are increasingly looking at support from specialist external providers to manage their 20%. It’s more efficient to subcontract the management of this tail-end spend rather than to manage it internally and, due to economies of scale, it makes more financial sense.

Key Success Factors when Managing Tail-End Spend

There are several success factors to consider when managing your tail-end spend. Here are three primary ones to consider:

  1. C-suite buy-in — Senior buy in and support is imperative to the successful implementation of a tail spend management program;
  2. Visibility and collaboration — The team responsible for implementing the change management process needs to ensure the new strategy is communicated clearly to the rest of the business, as well as ensuring the team is visible and on-site at least 50% of the time to help with any queries. In order to increase the success and adoption of the new processes put in place, they need to advocate it;
  3. Utilizing procurement expertise and technology solutions as an integrated and managed service — The level of procurement support given to customers throughout the change management process is critical to ensure procurement and processes are fully connected.

Reaping the Benefits

When rolled out properly, a tail-end spend management solution can generate 15-17% savings, which can make a huge addition to the 5-10% savings typically generated from managing traditional spend. But the benefits go much further than just cost savings. Tail-end spend solutions typically:

  • Improve supplier management – A large supply base can be paired down to a few approved suppliers, with improved terms and associated cost savings, as well as reduced risk of working with unknown companies;
  • Increase spend visibility – Expanding the range of spend under management helps to create transparency around where the money is spent and what it is spent on, and results in new spend rules that strengthen the overall business;
  • Enhance spend efficiencies – Although categories of tail-end spend are often low value/high frequency transactions, they also always include high value transactions; managing this spend creates opportunities for companies to effectively allocate and control budget spend from previously unmanaged areas;
  • Streamline procurement processes – The key value-add of a tail-end spend management solution is it streamlines the entire tactical buying process associated with low-value spend.

It took more than ten years for leading companies to get the majority of their strategic 80% spend fully under control. We’re just in the early days with tail-end spend management, but by understanding the unique challenges of this 20%, it will take far less than ten years to have 100% of external spend under management.

More information on Tail-End Spend Management can be found on Xchanging’s Tail-End Spend Management page.

Thanks, Gonzague!

The Importance of Tail-End Spend Management

Today’s guest post, which is part one of a two-part series, is from Gonzague de Thieulloy, a Managing Director at Xchanging Procurement who manages tail-end spend management programs at Xchanging’s largest European customers.

Tail-end spend management is finally becoming a procurement priority, and for good reason. Historically, procurement organizations have been focused on trying to manage their strategic spend, the 80% of spend that represents around 20% of their suppliers. While companies have been striving to manage those strategic suppliers, they’ve left the myriad of smaller suppliers — the ‘tail-end’ of the spend — unmanaged. But that is starting to change.

Until recently, you would have been hard pressed to find any company managing their full strategic spend properly. Ten years ago, most organizations were only confidently managing 40-60% of that spend, at best. Now, due to procurement’s increased visibility and greater strategic role, many companies are managing their entire strategic spend effectively — the full 80%. This has left more than a few companies wondering what they can do with the remaining 20%, not least because of the financial benefits. Everest Group suggests that inclusion of tail-end spend increases procurement outsourcing savings potential by 1.5 times. But this is just one reason to manage tail-end spend.

Complexities of Tail-End Spend

However companies are discovering that they can’t use the same procurement methodologies for tail-end spend as they have for their strategic spend. For one thing, tail-end spend is far more complex than strategic spend: there are many more suppliers, the spend is very fragmented, and there are a lot more individuals buying. Tail-end spend “buyers” are end-users: people in HR, marketing, finance, IT, and so on — ordering goods and services as needed. They are not professional buyers, in the traditional procurement sense, which means trying to manage this spend requires change management — an added layer of process. As long as the total cost is less than the agreed threshold for tail-end spend, then these “buyers” can place orders with whomever and however they want.

Tail-End Spend Risks

Not only is the 20% tail-end spend complex, it can also be very risky, which is another reason organizations are now starting to pay attention to it. With the 80% spend, companies typically have an experienced buyer managing key suppliers and auditing those suppliers on a number of different aspects. The company that is on the ball knows everything there is to know about their strategic suppliers: whom they work with, their values, their practices, their working conditions, who their suppliers are, etc. With unmanaged tail-end spend, nobody is looking after these suppliers. Companies have no idea who they are buying from, making them susceptible to a number of risks.

One such risk is the potential damage to a company’s reputation. With all of the corporate sustainability issues now in the spotlight, unmanaged spend means companies may be doing business with suppliers that violate their own CSR principles. Imagine the harm it would do to your brand if it were discovered that one of your suppliers was using child labor or heavily polluting the environment. The damage could be irreparable. Beyond brand damage, you would also be responsible for supporting companies carrying out these practices. The reputational impact alone could put your company into a tail-spin.

Another type of risk that is common of unmanaged tail-end spend is a best practice risk. When companies let people from across the business buy from whomever they want, there is a chance that they will just buy from a personal connection, or from a supplier with whom they have a historic relationship. This often results in individuals overpaying for what they are buying which is, of course, financially damaging to the company. But more seriously, they may be in breach of fair practice regulations, putting the company at risk of being sued.

Companies that fail to address this complexity and risk are leaving a lot more on the table than they think. In tomorrow’s post, we will discuss the tail-end spend solution.

More information on Tail-End Spend Management can be found on Xchanging’s Tail-End Spend Management page.

Thanks, Gonzague!