Category Archives: Procurement Innovation

The Key to Successful Supply Management? No MoBAs, no PiMPs, and no Paper Pushers!

SI has said it before (back in our post on the key for a successful supply management center of excellence? No M(o)BAs and no P(i)MPs!), and will say it again. Successful Supply Management relies on supply management expertise and experience, not on meaningless business models and knowledge-free project management frameworks. (SI believes that individuals who only have MBAs are just Master of Business Annihilation!)

Remember, not only is it the case that you can’t manage what you can’t understand, but all you can do if you try is make it worse! Supply Managers are overworked and under-resourced, and any misstep has a ripple effect throughout the supply chain — one that can go from a minor delay to a major catastrophe. Management knowledge and project management skills are good things, but whereas supply chain is concerned, only if this knowledge and skill is added to a fundamental understanding of the supply management process that needs to be performed.

But simply eliminating the unknowledgeable MoBAs and PiMPs is not enough anymore. You must eliminate the paper pushers as well. You see, in a modern fast moving supply chain, there is no time for tactical people who only receive, process, and send e-paper. Especially when the majority of this work can be automated by modern machine learning / automated reasoning systems. In a modern supply management organization, personnel need to be educated and experienced in their roles and focus on making sound, strategic decisions. They need to identify potential problems as soon as they arise and resolve them. They need to identify a changing market landscape as the change begins and the potential impact on the supply chain and the organization. They need to assure supply and regulatory compliance. And so on.

And they need to be able to identify, implement, and make use of modern cognitive systems that can help them identify what needs to be analyzed, what needs to be addressed, what needs to be done, and the best ways to potentially go about it. The individuals who can do this are not PO paper pushers or AP invoice processors. They are knowledgeable and capable sourcing, procurement, and supply management experts who know their domain, and the tools, first and the business and project management second.

Will this be the year we traverse the supply chain plateau? Part II

In yesterday’s post, we noted that five years ago we covered a piece by the Supply Chain Shaman who believed we had reached the supply chain plateau. And while SI did not agree, SI agreed that progress had completely stalled. And SI believed that the root cause of the issue was manpower capability. Precisely, the fact that most executives do not understand the supply chain from a holistic perspective, treating each step as its own function (and disassociating NPD/Design from Sourcing (a manufactured product) from Logistics and Distribution, when they all have to be examine and managed as part of an integrated supply chain. And the fact that neither do the function managers. Moreover, these function managers often do not even understand the best practices associated with their job.

And SI believed the root cause of this was a lack of education — most Supply Chain / Supply Management / Sourcing / Procurement / etc. managers don’t leave college or university with a solid supply chain background, as few institutions offer such programs, and they haven’t been properly trained. Add this to the fact that year over year training budgets are slashed and leaders are run ragged fighting fires and dealing with tactical issues instead of being given time to focus on long-term strategy, how the supply chain works, and how it should work for optimal performance and optimal corporate gain.

Now, it’s true that the education issue hasn’t improved much in the last few years, but what has improved is the technology to provide executives and function managers both with a more holistic view and guidance as to directions they can take. Modern cognitive technologies backed by machine learning and automated reasoning, which can process millions of data records in near real time, identify trends, identify outliers, identify normal behaviour, identify typical responses, and so on, can present executives and managers with holistic views that let them understand not only what their options are, but what impact it has on the immediate problem and the supply chain as a whole. Ripple effects through the organization and the chain can be predicted and an informed decision made with the known impacts in mind.

Companies will know not only the impact of a delayed payment, but the benefit of an early payment as well as the trade-offs between JIT delivery and maintaining raw material inventory or the benefits of combining volume with a single supplier for more cost-effective shipments from a closer supplier. And so on.

If we can’t fix the education, at least we can fix the holistic understanding of the impact of a decision. And while we don’t have systems for all situations yet, you can bet they are in development. Maybe 2020 will indeed bring 2020 vision to some supply chain areas!

Will this be the year we traverse the supply chain plateau? Part I

Five years ago today we commented on a piece by the Supply Chain Shaman who believed we had reached the supply chain plateau. While SI always believed there is innovation to come, the Shaman presented some pretty damning evidence. Analyzing the balance sheets of process companies over the course of a decade, she found that the average process manufacturing company has reached a plateau in supply chain performance. As she stated:

Growth has stalled. To compensate and stimulate revenue, the companies increased SG&A margin by 1%. However, the conditions were more complex; the average company, over the last ten years, experienced a decline of 1% in operating margin, and an increase in the days of inventory of 5%. While cycle times have improved, the majority of the progress has come from lengthening of days of payables and squeezing suppliers.

And it’s certainly the case that delaying payments and squeezing suppliers is NOT progress!

And while SI believed, at the time, that we had not reached the plateau, SI certainly believed that growth had stalled. But why?

The Shaman conjectured that while complexity has increased, many well-intentioned executives lack the understanding of the supply chain’s potential or how to manage the supply chain as a system. So, while individual projects are getting great results, departments as a whole are not performing as well, and being managed even worse. SI had to agree.

And while SI also had to agree with the Shaman that there is a discontinuity and we need to declare the APS and ERP systems of the 1990s obsolete and start again, SI did not believe it was the core problem. SI believed the core problem was manpower capability. Not only do most executives not understand the supply chain from a holistic perspective, treating each step as its own function (and disassociating NPD/Design from Sourcing (a manufactured product) from Logistics and Distribution, when they all have to be examine and managed as part of an integrated supply chain, but neither do the function managers. Moreover, these function managers often do not even understand the best practices associated with their job.

SI conjectured the manpower capability issue was a lack of education, and hasn’t changed it’s belief. But even though little has changed on this front, there is a light in the sky now … we can see the day when we cross the plateau and see the peak ahead. How?

Scared of AI? Just Start with Auto-Buy.

Specifically, start with auto-buy on your tail-spend and non-strategic spend.

Seriously. If you’re a relatively mature organization using SSDO (Strategic Sourcing Decision Optimization) on your higher dollar or strategic categories, using auctions and RFX for mid-dollar and somewhat strategic categories, and GPOs or catalogs for significant spend categories, there’s still one category of spend that’s costing your organization a small fortune. That spend is tail spend. Up to 30% in some organizations, the average overspend is typically 15% or more (and can be up to 20% or 30%). Do the math in the typical case. Fifteen percent of thirty percent is 4.5%. If you’ve tackled your strategic sourcing categories two or three times now, chances are you’re trying to eek out 6% savings on the top 33% of spend. That’s about 2% savings.

What’s costing you more? If you’re an advanced or leading organization – the tail spend. But it’s not something you can do much about — it’s tail spend because you don’t have the manpower to deal with it. Yes, you can put a GPO or catalog in place, but it only works if you can force buyer to not only use it, but always select the right product when there are multiple options — not something most platforms can do (well). Especially if the preferred option is temporarily out of stock and something is needed tomorrow. (And the what’s the second preferred option? The third? And if it’s common, shouldn’t it be in inventory?)

And, more importantly, since most tail spend consists of individual requests, some of which should be aggregated, if the requests are directed to different buyers, how will they ever know if there are requests that should be aggregated? (They won’t. And that’s how it is.)

So why are your people even trying to manage parts of the tail-spend when, in fact, a modern AI platform can do it much better. It can amalgamate all similar requests, analyze usage trends, gather market prices, scour and compare options in your catalog and your GPO’s master contract, identify third party options available on the network, analyze usage and feedback reviews and data, determine the options that best meet your users’ needs, and select the one that offers the best value (lowest cost against reliability against organizational need) at a cost that doesn’t exceed market cost. So even if it doesn’t get the best deal, it at least ensures you don’t pay more than market price across your tail spend, which is 15% better than you are doing today.

So now that we have systems — including, but not limited to, Dhatim, LevaData, and Xeeva — that can auto-buy, it’s time to find one that works for you and get the tail spend under control. (And use them to recommend options for higher-value and more-strategic buys that you might not come up with on your own.)

What’s Procurement’s Role for 2018?

Watchdog.

As we enter the new year, the predictions and prognostications are going to get crazy again. And, like always, they are going to be of the obvious variety or, as the public defender points out, of the wild guesses.

But the reality is that from a process, power and performance perspective, not much will change … it will be the continual slow prod forward that it has been for the last decade. However, as the past few years have shown us, one thing is constant. Suppliers will fail. Disruptions and Disasters will happen. And your technology vendors will get acquired.

We’ll start with this last point first. Over the past year, Jaggaer and Coupa tried to outdo each other in an acquisition frenzy. Spend360 and Pool4Tool and Trade Extensions and BravoSolution all scooped up by Procurement space giants trying to get bigger. No matter how big, how successful, how stable, or how much they indicate a desire to remain independent, they could literally be scooped up tomorrow. Everyone has their price, and if it’s a PE firm, the company is flipped as soon as that price is met. And as we discussed in our recent post on M&A on how The Mania Continues, if this means there is solution duplication, at some point, you can be pretty much assured someone’s solution is going away. M&A’s are done to enhance synergy of offering or enhance profit through synergy of operation where you can reduce staff and product footprint against a larger customer base.

This means that Procurement has to expect that, at some point, at least one of its preferred platforms is going up in smoke, and has to be on the ball to identify what platform may be at risk, when, and what steps will have to be taken to mitigate that risk.

Similarly, it will have to insure it is keeping an eye on all critical suppliers — which, as the best know, is not just the 20% of suppliers who get 80% of the spend, but any sole-source or dual-source supplier that supplies a product or service critical to the organization’s primary product lines. If the product line could not be offered, or not offered to the full extent, without that supplier, any impending issues need to be detected early. This will mean keeping an eye on the organization’s credit risk, timeliness (if shipments get later and later, that could be an indication of trouble), sustainability ratings, negative mentions in the news, and so on. (An SRM solution that integrates with risk watchdogs will be critical.)

And, finally, it has to be on the alert for natural or man-made disasters that can pose a risk to parts of its global supply chains. It not only needs to know when an event happens that could affect a critical part of its supply base, but what suppliers in particular will be effected.

It has to be a watchdog on constant alert. Just sourcing and negotiating great deals is not enough. They have to be realized. And, for that, Procurement must be the best watchdog there is.