Category Archives: Services

Societal Damnation 47: XaaS

This is a damnation so damning that it was one of only two damnations that required two entire posts just to overview (and one of the few damnations the doctor could literally write an entire book on)! So just what is XaaS?

XaaS, short for Everything as a Service, is the latest craze that is going to cause your Supply Management organization nothing but suffering and pain. While it sounds really cool, because, historically, the transformation of a non-core but essential function (legal, accounting, etc.) or utility (water, electricity, waste disposal, etc.) into a service made your life easier. But, as with any good thing, it’s always possible to have too much … and with XaaS, to have too much forced down your throat even if you’re already choking on your own regurgitations.

And while the right services can provide an organization with advantages that include, but are not limited to,

  • expertise,
  • cost reduction, and
  • efficiency

for an organization that does not have the dedicated personnel, or expertise, to perform the function as good as a third party, if the wrong services (or service providers) are provided (or selected), the organization will instead be burdened with a number of considerable disadvantages that included, but are not limited to:

  • cost increase,
  • efficiency decrease,
  • loss of control, and a
  • 3rd Party Management (3PM) nightmare.

And if different business units decide to start outsourcing what they perceive as non-core functions (which are in fact core to the business or which should be managed by Supply Management or a different business unit), functions for which the service provider cannot achieve economy of scale, or functions that have not been optimized for outsourcing (which will result in an efficiency decrease as a best-practice provider will not be able to optimize inefficient workflows) willy-nilly, Supply Management will have quite a third party management mess to deal with.

In a nutshell, services are good, but, as clearly illustrated in our second damnation post on the subject, Everything-as-a-Service is a ridiculous concept and any organization that buys into it is just asking for trouble.

So what can you do when you are pushed to buy into this latest outsourcing craze?

1. Get an organizational policy in place that all services spending goes through Procurement.

This will be very hard, but unless Procurement knows about an outsourcing initiative or a XaaS buy, it can’t make sure that the organization makes the right buy, if a buy is even required at all!

2. Do your homework on each request.

Why is the service being requested. What does it do and what processes or services does it replace. Why could a third party do it better and are the third parties being considered capable of doing it better. If the process is outsourced, will the organization lose important skills or knowledge. Should a traditional product to enhance in-house be considered instead?

3. Figure out what processes are truly strategic and what process are just tactical.

Strategic processes should be kept, or at least managed, in house while tactical processes are the prime candidates for XaaS providers. From the list of tactical processes, identify those that would be best suited for outsourcing through efficiency gains or cost savings.

In other words, the key to sustentation is not jumping on the bandwagon and doing everything you can to prevent the rest of the organization from jumping on when you’re not looking.

BlueCart – Bringing Restaurants into the Modern Era!

BlueCart is an online ordering platform for small (and even mid-size) restaurant buyers in the food service industry, the distributors who serve them, and the sales representatives that manage the relationships. BlueCart is different than most offerings in that it is a hybrid freemium CRM/SRM platform designed not to help buyers identify the lowest cost, which doesn’t make much difference if you’re only ordering 10 units of something, but maximize their efficiency, allowing the buyers more time to focus on improving their business, growing their service capability, and, when appropriate negotiating their discounts with preferred distributors with a history of good, timely, service and quality. (In the restaurant industry, especially in the luxury restaurant industry, profits are highly revenue, and not cost savings, driven. The last thing you want to do is be unable to serve a potential customer, so assurity of supply trumps lowest cost, as it does in automotive where a production line halt can cost millions.)

BlueCart has made fairly fast penetration into the market, already signing up close to 8,000 restaurants and distributors, and should expand even faster when it closes its series B funding and ramps up its sales and marketing efforts and penetrates even more distributors. This is primarily due to fact that they are using a B2C freemium model where ordering is always free and secondarily due to the fact that distributors are incented to sell on BlueCart’s behalf since it makes order management and customer account management easier for the distributor than traditional phone-and-fax orders (especially if all of their customers are on the same platform).

The platform has two main components: the buyer platform and the supplier / distributor platform.

The buyer platform currently consists of basic order placement, messaging, supplier management, and simple reporting functionality as well as some new functionality around supplier and inventory management. The core functionality is the order functionality, which allows buyers to add to the cart using catalog search and custom-category drill-downs and per-level based ordering. Categories can be defined by food group (dairy, meat, seafood, etc.) or by inventory location which can make it incredibly easy for chefs and buyers to order what they need when they need it. Per-level ordering automatically computes order quantities based upon current inventory and pre-defined stock levels. Both methods add to a persistent cart that allows orders to be built up throughout the day so that both the buyer and the distributor can be sure the order is complete when it is submitted.

The supplier platform is centered around order, and catalog, management. When a supplier logs in they see their dashboard that allows them to jump into order management, catalog management, order fulfillment management, and analytics. The order management allows the supplier to see all orders, in all states, and filter by state, date, and customer. This allows a supplier to quickly zero in on the orders of relevance at any particular time. Embedded in the analytics / reporting module is the order fulfillment report that allows a distributor to, for each product (group), compile a list of all outstanding orders that need to be prepared (and put on the truck) for the day. This makes it very easy for the distributors to ensure that all orders in on time get accounted for and on the truck. Much easier than trying to compile the list from paper-based phone orders, e-mails, and faxes.

While the power of the platform is still pretty basic compared to mature e-Procurement platforms in the indirect sourcing space, it is (much) more powerful than what an average restaurant or small distributor, trying to manage orders and inventory off of ill-equipped spreadsheets, has ever had at their disposal. And, as such, deserves to be investigated. For more information, as well as a detailed SWOT assessment, watch for the upcoming Spend Matters Pro series (membership required) by the doctor and the prophet coming this week. It’s worth a detailed investigation!

Authoritative Sustenation 65: Solution Partners

In our post on authoritative damnation 65: solution partners, we noted that solution partners are their own breed of damnation and can be much more annoying than activist investors and boards of directors, that you might only hear from at quarterly or annual meetings (who will stomp their feet, bang their drum, but eventually settle down and go away for a while), as they could be a pain in the backside on a daily basis.

We said this was because you often depend on these solution partners to serve your customers, run (parts of) your organization, and bring you innovation that you can’t develop in-house (due to lack of time, money, or external ideas). As a result you can’t just tell them to sit-down, shut-up, and wait their turn … especially if their support is essential to keeping a million dollar client happy or a multi-million dollar category stocked and selling.

So what is an organization to do? Especially if it can’t reasonably meet all their demands, err, requests in a short time frame?

Include them in roadmap planning for products and services.

If you include them in roadmap sessions, where they can see all the requests and demands being placed upon you by the organization, customers, and other solution partners, they will understand better that you can’t do everything they want now and that will focus them onto platform, product, or support enhancements that they really need versus those that they think they really want. For example, they might want more do-it-yourself configuration options when they are supporting your software in their country or in their client bases, but if you can typically turn requests around in 2 business days and they see how new features could benefit the customer base more and possibly help them sell more (and earn more commission), they will quiet down about saving 24 hours on a new configuration or install.

Offer them your innovations in Procurement, Planning, and CRM.

Chances are your solution partners are great in manufacturing, production, solution delivery, support, etc. but pretty bad in procurement, project management, or CRM (and why even their best bid doesn’t match your should-cost model with a fair margin). Offer to help them innovate their processes and platforms in exchange for product innovation, production cost savings innovation, and service level improvements.

Help them sell to your customer base.

If it’s a product provider, offer to help them understand what your customer base values most in terms of product purchases (low cost, reliability, innovation, etc.) and what the supplier needs to do to win more of your business. If it’s a service provider, help them understand not only what you need of them to support your customers, but what common services your customers need that you don’t provide, that the provider might be able to up-sell to them (without violating the terms of agreement). This will be a big plus in their eyes and they will start treating you as a customer of choice (who is their favourite customer to work with) and the complaints will go away, with only the odd helpful suggestion here and there.

Solution Partners can be a pain in the backside, but inclusion and support can replae the thorn with the rose. It’s up to you.

Why You Need MROaaS

Yes, you need MROaaS. Everyone needs MROaaS. ( But don’t tell your boss you need MROaaS, spell it out, because we all know what she’s likely to hear when your tongue trips over this one. ;-) ) Next to T&E (not T&A), it’s probably the biggest tail-spend savings opportunity in the enterprise. And it deserves to be addressed.

MROaaS, short for MRO-as-a-Service, which is itself short for Maintenance-Repair-and-Operations-as-a-Service (which is very unsexy when you say it this way), is, for large organizations that need to maintain a lot of inventory on hand, the biggest overlooked outsourcing opportunity in the business. Inventory is costly (and many estimates put annual inventory overhead at 25% of product cost). But not having the right inventory at the right place at the right time is even costlier. (Downtime leads to lost production and, ultimately, lost sales which is very costly when you still have to pay the day-to-day overhead, including your employees’ salaries.) And MRO is often the biggest consumer of long-term inventory (because the majority of goods for sale will move in and out within a few months, or even a few weeks, while MRO inventory could shit on the shelf for two years). So inventory optimization alone is a good reason to have good MRO.

But that’s not the only reason to have good MRO. The reality is that, in an average organization:

  • over 20% of inventory on the shelf is excess and/or obsolete
  • fill rates for most MRO storerooms are closer to 75%
  • there is supplier “lock-in” even where alternative sources of supply exist

And the losses mount quickly.

But these aren’t the only problems organizations face. Most also have to deal with

  • recall inventory not getting identified and then being used when it shouldn’t (which creates hazards)
  • significant expediting when a part is out of stock and it is needed yesterday
  • inefficient returns management when the wrong part gets shipped or a part is identifies as bad six months (or three years) down the road (when it might not even be returnable)

And the losses continue to mount.

But with good MRO:

  • excess and obsolete inventory can be reduced by up to 90% (or more)
  • fill rates can exceed 95%
  • alternative sources of supply are easily identified
  • recall inventory is immediately identified and returned
  • expediting becomes the exception rather than the rule
  • returns are properly handled in a timely fashion

And the organization stops bleeding red.

And this is why the organization needs good MRO. But why does it need MROaaS. Slowing down the cash hemorrhage is one thing. Improving the organization’s overall health is another. Good MRO can add value in a lot of ways. In addition to the inventory optimization that will see the results above, it can also provide:

  • proactive shipment monitoring to insure the right shipment is made at the right time
  • lean process improvement to take time and cost out of the process
  • supplier consolidation to allow for more volume-based cost reduction opportunities and more time to focus on each supplier
  • supplier development programs to insure that supplier performance improves over time

And this is just the tip of the iceberg a good MRO program can provide. But a typical organization, which never gets to the MRO tail-spend, is not an expert in MRO. It’s not even a novice in MRO management in most cases. This is where MROaaS comes in. For the most part, the only organizations that are true MRO experts are those that provide MROaaS. And since it takes true expertise to go from cost reduction to value generation, you need MROaaS.

And if you are still not convinced, the doctor and the maverick have put together a detailed four-part series over on Spend Matters on the subject that should provide all the education you need on why MROaaS is something that has to be considered if MRO spend is a significant part of the organization’s tail spend. Parts I and II are already up and available here:

Should All Service Spend Be Subject to Procurement

Last week, Spend Matters UK ran a great post that asked why do executives employ their friends as consultants, which noted that one of the most problematical spend categories is professional services, and in some organizations, this is even more problematic than contingent labour spend, marketing spend, and legal spend. Why? Not only do some executives in some firms often engage senior experts and big 5 consulting firms on six, seven, and eight figure (plus) deals without any notice or without any respect for the process, but they often do so without any background checks or references whatsoever.

Sometimes, as pointed out by the public defender, the consulting firm or expert is being hired because the consulting firm or expert was hired in the past and did a great job, and, more importantly, there is a need for speed.

Sometimes, as also pointed out by the public defender, the budget holder is simply lazy. He knows the consulting firm or expert will do an okay job, and that’s good enough for him.

But sometimes, as documented by the public defender, there is an emotional dependence on the supplier, and that’s a good enough reason for the budget holder not to rock the boat, and other times there is a personal relationship, which is a great reason for the budget holder but not so great for the organization.

And sometimes, as clarified by the public defender, the reason is not a good one, or even a legit one. The budget holder might be making the award on the future expectations of a favour or because of a bribe and/or kickbacks that have been, or will be, received.

But if bribes and kickbacks was the worst situation that could happen, that wouldn’t be so bad. It would just mean that the award was costing the organization more than it should (and maybe significantly more than market average). If the work is quality, and identifies an ROI, that’s not too bad.

You see, if proper process, and due diligence is not taken, the organization could:

  • guarantee a large minimum payment regardless of work quality, completion, or dismissal (such as a 1M payment for early termination)
  • hire someone with a known criminal record for fraud
  • hire someone with known terrorist associations who will try to steal trade secret technology protected under a defence act

And if you think overpaying an average consultant who will take twice as long to produce an inferior result is bad, imagine how much worse each of these situations would be.

So, while maybe it is the case that not all spend should be under the control of Procurement, it is the case that all spend should follow the proper Procurement process under the guidance of Procurement so that all the facts, and options, are available to the budget holder. And since the CFO and CEO can be held criminally liable for certain oversights in the business, they should support this as following a good Procurement process and policy is the best CYA defense there is.