Category Archives: Sourcing Innovation

Competition When it Comes to Incontinence: Retailer Sourcing Considerations

Today’s guest post is from Elizabeth Skipor, a Consultant at Source One Management Services, specializing in Marketing Procurement from the mid-market to the Fortune 500 companies. Before joining Source One, she was a category manager/specialist for a major US retailer.

Whether or not you’re familiar with or are an avid shopper for incontinence products such as adult diapers and incontinence pads, merchants like Walgreens, CVS and WalMart, are expanding their product mix to not only enhance comfort and fit, but performance in this highly competitive market.

This means product development and sourcing divisions at these fine retailers are busy trying to stay ahead of the curve. According to Nonwovens Industry, it’s in developed markets that adult incontinence is outpacing growth in more established segments like baby diapers and feminine hygiene. In my experience (as a former procurement professional of one of these organizations), this is true and mainly due to the 74.9 million baby-boomers (or Demographic, for purposes of this article) who are not only remaining active but are living longer. The number of people age 65 and older has increased tenfold in the last century and in better health than ever before (Source: ABC News).

As a former major retail buyer and category specialist for the adult incontinence category and previously procured fabrics for major clothing brands, I had to ask myself this question: What were the requirements that were rated high on the list by the demographic and what did I do in preparation for sourcing the best of the best for such a sensitive category?

Based on market research, there are three majorly important factors to consider:

  • Product Performance;
  • Comfort & Fit;
  • Discreetness

These three areas are imperative to the demographic due to the demographic remaining active longer; “People are living longer and living more of their life in better health than before” said Richard Suzman, an expert at the National Institute on Aging, the lead agency in assembling the report. Quality of life and the ability to maintain an active lifestyle remains vastly important.

When it comes to performance, if the product fails in functionality and doesn’t perform perfectly as promised, it can not only cause an uproar of poor review with your demographic and more importantly your brand in totality can take a major hit on its’ reliability, directly causing a decline in sales.

So, what’s important here?

  1. Absorption!
    Therefore, utilizing the right product for you whether it’s bladder control pads, protective underwear & briefs. In to put it gently, these products range in absorbency protection from very light to ultimate absorption; they’re also available in different lengths and thicknesses, and some offer side protection barriers for added leakage protection. These products are designed to draw moisture away from the body, eliminate odour, encompasses side shields for added projection, and offers a thicker level of protection where it’s needed the most (Source: National Incontinence).
  2. Research & development, innovation and technology
    are the forefront of any product development initiative due to consumers wanting items faster and better at competitive prices, and in this case more comfortable and discreet to wear; retailers are investing heavily on technological innovation of adult incontinence to ensure the functionality of the items create strong brand loyalty as well as sourcing from. Some recent innovations include the application elastic nettings allowing for flexible, smooth and seamless fusions for grander comfort and feel for the consumer. Taking this innovation this a step further in application in relation to hygiene and skin protection, the web configuration of the net offers a unique level of breathability and air permeability that directly affects end users’ level of comfort. As these are only a few examples, the innovation behind incontinence is rapidly increasing and fast paced, while maintaining a cost competitive advantage with not only major brands but private owned brands as well.

Whether it’s private label or name branded product, sourcing a supplier who stays ahead of the demographics’ requirements is essential to the shelf life of the product. Aside from this, extensive tests are performed to ensure the promises on the labels are accurate.

Some key performance indicators for incontinence testing include the following:

  • Rewet
  • Breathability
  • Retention Capacity
  • Elasticity
  • Total Absorbent Capacity

Thanks Liz for the deep insights into the daily life of a Sourcing Professional. Sourcing isn’t always glamourous, but, to find savings, and value, the work has to be done.

Stay tuned to SI as we will, through collaboration with Source One, continue to bring you down-and-dirty details on categories everyone has to source, but no one wants to talk about. Sometimes you have to dive into the weeds to succeed (which is something every incontinent golfer knows).

The UX One Should Expect from Best-in-Class e-Sourcing, Part II

Yesterday, as we continued our series on what makes a good UIX (which followed our posts on Smart Systems and Mission Control Dashboards), we went from generic Source-to-Pay system wide requirements to specific e-Negotiation, specifically e-RFX and e-Auction, requirements.

Specifically, in yesterday’s post, we noted that creating an RFX or Auction from scratch is a lot of work. From defining the need through selecting the suppliers through evaluating the responses to making an award, an average event typically consists of at least a dozen (or more) steps, each of which are arduous and time-consuming. That’s why the first core requirement we focussed on in yesterday’s post was easy template creation as a great template can jump start event creation, initiation, and execution over and over again (especially if it is work-flow enabled and driven by an underlying smart system).

But that’s just one core requirement. Another, as we dove deep into our follow up piece on What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality (Part 2) over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required], is easy starting bid population and validation. If there are a lot of products that need to be bid on, or a lot of bid fields that need to be filled out, and the data, or most of it, is already available in the system, or a connected system, it should be pre-populated for the supplier so that all the supplier has to do is make updates. This will not only decrease turn-around time, but potentially increase participation. If the event is run every six months, the buyer could pre-populate with the supplier’s previous bids or allow the supplier to pre-populate with their previous bids plus or minus a mark-up/mark-down and if an auction was preceded with a qualifying RFX, the starting bids can be automatically loaded. Either way, not pre-populating (or given the supplier the option to pre-populate) from existing data just doesn’t make sense.

And neither does not validating to the extent of data available. Bids can be compared to market rates and tolerances and suppliers or buyers alerted if the bids are outside of expected ranges and bids can be compared against each other and alerts given if a bid is detected to be an outlier which is off more than one deviation from the average, even if market data is available and it is within a normal tolerance. The bid might be right, and that’s okay, but buyers and suppliers still need to be alerted because erroneous bids lead to wrong awards (especially in optimization-backed events) and a lot of bad feelings in negotiations, especially if one side expects the other to live up to the bid.

These aren’t the only requirements for a great user experience, but they are additional core requirements that no modern platform should be without. For a deeper dive into this requirement as well as other core requirements, see the doctor and the prophet‘s piece on What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality (Part 2) over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required]. When combined with the rest of our series, it’s the best definition of what a modern e-Negotiation platform should contain that you’re going to find.

The UX One Should Expect from Best-in-Class e-Sourcing, Part I

As we continue our series on what makes a good UIX (to follow our posts on Smart Systems and Mission Control Dashboards), we go from generic Source-to-Pay system wide requirements to specific e-Negotiation, specifically e-RFX and e-Auction, requirements.

As the co-authors of this series, the doctor and the prophet, laid bare in our next deep dive on What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required], creating an RFX or Auction from scratch is a lot of work. A lot of work. At a minimum:


  • Define the basic need that consists of products, services or bill of materials

  • Define the requirements for those products

  • Define the requirements for doing business with the organization

  • Define the information needed from the suppliers

  • Select (or define) the suppliers

  • Select (or define) the contacts

  • Set up the timeline (and milestones)

  • Send out the RFX invitations or launch the Auction

  • Receive responses back

  • Verify completeness and correctness

  • Evaluate, collaborate with teammates

  • Make an award

If all of this has to be done, from scratch, for every RFX or Auction, very few will get done. Considering that real benefits from these platforms only materialize if a lot get done, obviously this has to be as quick and easy to do as possible — and the platform will, thus, only have a good U(I)X if it is as quick and easy to do as possible.

So, what are the core requirements? Many, but in this post, we’re only going to focus on one of the core requirements — easy template creation. Given that the basic needs for a category don’t change much from event to event, the supply base doesn’t change much from event to event, the business and insurance requirements don’t change much from event to event, and so on. Thus, the ability to quickly and easily define templates that can be used over and over again is key. What should this template creation look like? Check out the doctor and the prophet‘s latest piece on What You Should Expect from Best-in-Class E-Sourcing User Experience and Functionality over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required]. (Vendors, this is the best description you’re ever going to get.)

What Makes a Good UX? Part III “Mission Control Dashboards”

Last week, after singing Bye, Bye to Monochrome UIs, we posted part II of what is to be a rather lengthy series on what makes a good UI, and more importantly, a good UX in a modern Sourcing or Procurement System. (Lengthy in that, after tackling the basics, we are going to dive into all the major components of your average Source to Pay system, and some of these components will require multiple posts on their own!)

In our first post (on What Makes a Good UI) where we noted that the full series is being published over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required], as it is the result of a deep long-term multi-blogger collaboration (led by the doctor and the prophet) and sponsored by Spend Matters, we outlined some of the fundamental requirements of a UI/UX for any Supply Management application which included, but was not limited to, integrated guidance, context awareness, “touch-less” automation, mobile support, and messaging as a competitive advantage.

Then, in Part II, we began our deep dive into what all of this means, starting with “Smart Systems” that drive integrated guidance leveraging new “AI” techniques -— better termed automated reasoning (AR), as software isn’t truly intelligent —- that adapt and learn over time. These systems mix semantic technology, sentiment analysis, key-phrase driven expert systems and other machine learning techniques with history to determine what the user is doing and what the user wants to do and offer appropriate guidance. But that’s just one aspect (and the full Spend Matters Pro article on Smart Systems and Messaging, Chat, and Collaboration also dived into critical MCC aspects among other things.

Yesterday, over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required], the prophet and the doctor released the next part of their UX Series, Advanced Mobile and “Mission Control” Dashboards where we dove deep (and I mean deep, Mariana Trench deep) into two more key requirements of modern Sourcing or Procurement application, namely advanced mobile enablement (which is way more than just e-mail, FYI) and what we are terming “mission control dashboards”.

The real key here is “mission control dashboards”, and not just plain old first generation dashboards (which are very dangerous and dysfunctional) which, if present, should result in the application under consideration being banned for life from your organization.

You see, whereas static first generation dashboards give you useless (and I mean useless) reports (which, at best, show a stoplight indictor with no description or backup data that lulls you in to a false sense of complacency or urgency), a modern mission control dashboard replaces those static widgets with modern fully enabled GUI widgets that allow users to drill down, initiate, and execute relevant actions such as data retrieval, workflow kick-off, or collaborative corrective actions. They can embed “apps” and “portlets” and allow a user to get what they need, and where they need, in 3-clicks, without missing anything important. They are the customizeable interactive views that applications have been missing. But, again, this is only the case for truly modern dashboards. First generation dashboards still belong in the dung-heap. For a truly deep dive into what these are, what they can do, and how they are used, check out the Pro piece [membership required].

P.S. Again, if you are a vendor invited to the Sourcing, SRM, CLM, or Spend Analysis Solution Map, this is a series you do NOT want to miss!

What Makes a Good UX? Part II “Smart Systems”

A couple of months ago, after we sang Bye, Bye to Monochrome UIs, we indicated that we were beginning a series that chronicles what makes a good UI, and more importantly, a good UX (User Experience) in a modern Sourcing or Procurement system. This is critical because systems that are not useable do not get widely adopted, and systems not widely adopted never deliver the promised value.

In our first post on What Makes a Good UI where we noted that the full series was being published over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required] as it is the result of a deep long-term multi-blogger collaboration (led by the doctor and the prophet) designed to identify what should be (and not what ay given vendor will try to promote based on what they have), and sponsored by Spend Matters, we outlined some of the fundamental requirements of a UI / UX for any Supply Management application which include, but are not limited to:

  • integrated, pervasive, guidance
  • … that is based on true expertise and historical use
  • “touch-less” automation wherever possible
  • extremely context aware
  • mobile support and mobile first in the field
  • messaging as a competitive advantage

(And if you want deep coverage on these topics, see the first instalment of our full series on Measuring the Procurement Technology User Experience: More Than Just a Pretty Screen over on Spend Matters Pro [membership required].)

But, as we stated, these were just the absolute base-line requirements. In Parts II and III of our full series, we outline the next set of core functionality that should be pervasive across any Supply Management platform that you acquire. And in future articles, we dive into e-Negotiation, e-Auctions, Optimization, Spend Analytics, SXM, CLM, Requisitioning and Shopping, Procurement and Catalog Management, and Invoicing … just to start. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

One of the core requirements we reveal, and dive deep into, in Part II in our article on Smart Systems and Messaging, Chat, and Collaboration is smart systems.

As per our article, smart systems drive integrated guidance leveraging new “AI” techniques -— better termed automated reasoning (AR), as software isn’t truly intelligent —- that adapt and learn over time. They do this by mixing semantic technology, sentiment analysis, key-phrase driven expert systems and other machine learning techniques with history to determine what the user is doing and what the user wants to do.

For example, a smart system in sourcing will detect if there has been a full event/process before run by a user or similar peers in an organization, and allow the user to instantiate a new instance (by copying the template or previous event). Or, in the case of one-time requisition in which competition could benefit the outcome, a smart system can detect an automated spot-buy event that can be run against prequalified suppliers hands off, which the system suggestions.

And that’s just the beginning of what a smart system could, and should, do for you. For deep insights into not only where the bar is today (as leading providers start to release first versions of these guided systems), but where the bar will be by 2020, check out our post, which also dives deep into the Messaging, Chat, and Collaboration functionality [MCC] that a modern system should support. [Hint, more than just integrated e-mail or first generation chat!]

And stay tuned for the next part, coming later this week, on the final set of core requirements that we feel a modern Supply Management System cannot be without!

P.S. If you are a vendor invited to the Sourcing, SRM, CLM, or Spend Analysis Solution Map, this is a series you do NOT want to miss!