Follow the Money — To Find the Spigots that can Turn it Off!

A recent CPO Crunch article over on Procurement Leaders said to Follow the Money as a focus on profit contribution can provide a starting point for improving supply chain transparency.

The article states that having knowledge of our suppliers is one thing, but it’s quite another to have a good understanding of who are suppliers’ suppliers are … not to mention those even further beyond and in a complex, risk-riddled world, such visibility is crucial and can bring meaningful competitive advantage.

In other words, following the money can increase profitability by allowing you to optimize the flow. Which is true, but only half the picture.

The other half is how the flow can be diverted or stopped. Two important things to remember about money flows. First, if these money flows present an opportunity for you, they present an opportunity for others. Not just outright theft of money (or product), but skimming, fraudulent billings/overpayments/handling fees (or your goods don’t move), and even fraudulent good substitution (with knockoffs). Secondly, if any input to any of these flows stops (beyond your visibility), the entire flow stops. And these flows could stop 6 levels down at the source.

For example, let’s say you are in medical device manufacturing or microwave-based manufacturing. Then you need thulium, which is one of the rarest rare earth minerals in the world. If a mine closes, even temporarily, and that mine is the only source of supply into your raw material or component supplier (that produces your enclosed radiation source or manufacturing ferrites), what do you think is going to happen? Production will stop, and your inventory will disappear. Or if you need a custom chip for the control system in your high end electric car, and the one plant currently capable of producing it experiences a fire. (This HAS happened, and chip shortages have been responsible for MULTIPLE shortages in MULTIPLE automotive lines. Just Google it.)

If your only production is in a country with geopolitical instability or deteriorating relations with your country, and borders (temporarily) close, what happens? And so on. If you don’t know the myriad of ways the spigots can be turned off, it doesn’t matter how well you know, or optimize, the money flow. These days, it’s all about risk management, visibility, and quick reaction if a spigot gets turned off to get it reopened again.

Affordable RFPs – The Real Reason(s) They Are So Rare, Part 1

Two articles ago, we noted that The Key to Procurement Software Selection Success: Affordable RFPs! was critical to getting the right technology to help manage your complex supply chain. This was because a proper RFP required a LOT of understanding to get it right, including, but not limited to:

  • Procurement Maturity
  • Process Maturity
  • (Critical) Use Cases
  • Current Technical Maturity
  • Missing Capabilities
  • Key Solution Types to Address the Gap(s)
  • Key Existing Solutions to Maintain
  • Globalization Requirements
  • Service Requirements
  • Unique Organizational Requirements (less than you think, but those that exist are situation critical)

And this required a breadth of understanding across

  • the market
  • process evolution
  • use case specification
  • … including what must be technology backed
  • … and what should be technology or data enhanced
  • common module/solution types that mind the gap
  • internal foundations
  • the unique requirements, regulations, and resignations of each country you do business in
  • the services your team, and current partners, can and can’t do — even service specializations you didn’t know exist
  • what other organizations do

And most of this you won’t have in house. So you need Affordable RFPs. But we know all too well that you are all asking Affordable RFPs — What Are Those? because, as far as you know, they don’t exist. And we hear you, because they don’t exist at the Big X, rarely exist at the mid-size consultancies the next tier down (because only a select few from their talent pool can do it efficiently and relatively cost-effectively and they are going to be dedicated to any F500/G3000 that could afford a Big X to keep them as a client), and unless you are a larger mid-size buying a mini-suite, they don’t even exist at the Niche Consultancies where they should be common.

We also spent a fair amount of time explaining why they don’t exist, even though one would think that they should be readily available at the niche consultancies (as this could not only make those niche consultancies true leaders in Procurement but also help them grow). In this last case, it was because it was typically only their senior resources that could do these projects, and since these projects aren’t currently quick to complete, it doesn’t take long for a senior resource day rate to add up. And, as we noted before, while this won’t be that much when you are larger mid-sized organization looking for a mini-suite or suite, if you’re just looking for one or two modules to fill a gap, this could add up to quite a bit.

So if this is the case, why are we telling you that Affordable RFPs are the answer if they’re almost impossible to find?

Because:

  1. they are the answer,
  2. they would be affordable at Niche Consultancies if those niche consultancies stopped thinking like consultants and started thinking like enhanced product-and-data-based SaaS Management Providers, and
  3. they only require knowledge management and expert augmentation to get it right.

So what would a Niche Consultancy have to do to get it right?

We’ll outline that in our next part. But it starts with investment. (And how many partners at consultancies want to invest their money? They were brought up on the Wall Street Mantra — Other People’s Money.)

 

Cost Savings is NOT Cost Cutting …

… and we need more articles that hammer this point home!

A recent article over on the Supply Chain Management Review (SCMR) focussed on how strategic cost savings differ from cutting costs, highlighted a recent survey from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that found that while 65% of executives are prioritizing supply chain and manufacturing costs as the biggest levels for organizations to pull for cost savings, 52% [are still focussed on] labour and non-labour overhead costs. OUCH!

Most Supply Chain / Procurement Departments are understaffed and/or under platformed due to lack of talent and lack of available budget. They’re also a very small part of the organizational headcount, which in many organizations is now a small part of total spend. As a result, labour is not the problem. External spend is.

And kudos to the SCMR and Laura Juliano from the Boston Consulting Group for pointing out that strategic cost control is the right approach.

If you’re spending 100M on a category, you should be doing a lot more than just a 3-bids-and-a-buy RFX, cutting a PO, and paying an invoice. A lot more. And looking at more than just the unit cost — at the very least the total cost of ownership from initial acquisition through warranty/repair and eventual disposal, if not full total value management which also looks at brand value, bundled services, etc. Even well managed direct categories usually have 3% or more savings opportunities, and those that were not well managed can have two to three times that (in the 6% to 9% range). In other words, giving one person the time to properly source one category, even if it takes 3 months of man effort, can save 3M. Even if the fully burdened resource costs your organization 240K a year, that’s an ROI of 50X on the proper use of that one resource’s time.

This one example surfaces the key point of strategic cost control. It requires strategy and strategy requires PEOPLE with real HUMAN INTELLIGENCE (HI!). (Not hallucinatory Gen-AI like “chat, j’ai pété”). People who can analyze the situation, the available data, case studies from similar (historical) market situations, suppliers, products, and make the overall best decision(s) for the organization. And, preferably, people who can also consider the sustainability of their decision (and the implications with respect to any regulations in laws in countries they source from and sell to). (Senior Procurement leaders can’t ignore any sustainability requirements they are subject to [40% are], they definitely can’t be unaware of legislation that could affect them [37% are], and they definitely can’t be making awards to suppliers and/or for products that might just disappear in a year or three.)

In other words, you can’t reduce headcount. (You may need to replace people if you initially hired people who thought strategic procurement was catalog comparison or invoice verification, of which 95% to 99% can be fully automated, but never, ever reduce the number of people in Procurement.)

The Procurement Space is Filled with Hogwash! It’s Time We Start Calling It Out!

Not that long ago, Jon THE REVELATOR noted that nothing matters more than getting your messaging right in an article over on LinkedIn. Quoting a piece from 2010 where, in the colliding worlds of traditional and social media, the line of distinction is not as clear. Even though there are no real technological boundaries to limit the number of blogs, websites, and news sites, it is only a matter of time before the over-abundance of writers will manifest itself in the form of Aldous Huxley’s greatest fear and lament that truth would somehow “be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” If not irrelevance, then one of information overload.

His lament echos that of Sarah Scudder who notes to ProcureTech brands that when we look at your website, we have NO idea what you do. You confuse us and say the same thing as the other 23+ brands in your space. Your platform is AI enabled/AI backed/AI enhanced/AI driven but what problem are you going to solve for me?! That the majority of marketing is the exact same messaging with no actual meaning.

As a result of this, and THE REVELATOR‘s comments, the doctor was forced to note that he’s getting fed up with the use of the word “content. The Oxford dictionary defines content as “information made available by a website or other electronic medium”.

The Oxford diction then defines information as “facts provided or learned”.

There are NO facts in most of the hogwash these marketers are pushing onto the market. Therefore it is NOT content. Let’s start calling it what it is: HOGWASH! (And refer to our recent piece where we demystify the marketing madness for you for some of the more common, and more egregious, examples of this Hogwash!)

Content must be informative (precisely what you sell, precisely what it does, precisely how it helps the customer, and precisely what results the customer will get). Otherwise, it’s just HOGWASH!

As the doctor has said before, there’s a reason SI hasn’t returned to sponsorships [yet] (and that the doctor hasn’t authored any public papers/books for anyone in quite a while) — and it’s because almost none of these companies truly care about their customers anymore, once they take the (Investor/Angel/VC/PE/Wall Street) money, it’s only “sell, sell, sell“).

(If these companies did care, they’d be lining up asking us for the EDUCATION the doctor and THE REVELATOR used to provide, that, in the doctor‘s case, helped every single sponsor get the exit they weren’t even necessarily looking for at the time … because, even if it sounds plain vanilla, there’s nothing [potential] customers value more than the education and insights they need to do their jobs that their employer, who cut the training budget years ago and used the bonus money for a defective “chat, j’ai pété”-bot, won’t provide).

So, dwelling on this, it leaves the doctor with a question. Should we start calling out ALL the HOGWASH as we see it? Could we even keep up? Or should we stick to the HOGWASH of the week?

The More Things Change …

… the more they stay the same … and the more relevant the past, and the education of, becomes.

Ten years ago today, the doctor asked are you doing it wrong?

Ten years later, the question is just as valid now as it was then. Because if you were doing it right, your supply chains wouldn’t be in such disarray.

Ten years ago we noted that, if you’ve been following the media, you know that we have reached a point were most major business publications are now putting focus on Supply Chain as your top risk and your top opportunity and that they have been preaching the following solutions to not only tame the risk but increase the opportunity.

1. Comprehensive Category Management

Nothing has changed here. One consulting firm is literally sending the same email newsletters they were sending a decade ago on the topic because it’s still relevant, and most firms are still doing it wrong.

As the doctor noted a decade ago, spot buying individual categories at market lows or evening running reverse auctions at opportune times is not category management, not in the least — nor is running your buys through a “magic” or “delightful” intake-to-procure platform (better called “faketake” as a colleague of mine will point out). As was said before, Category Management isn’t just about grouping all seemingly related items and running an event, it’s grouping items that have related characteristics that allow the items to be sourced effectively under the same strategy — which could even be early renegotiation with an incumbent who might give you a great deal to keep you from going back to market. It’s taking a holistic strategic approach, not just mapping to UNSPSC or some out-of-the-box 2-level taxonomy and running with it. And not doing it is what’s resulting in stock-outs and cost-overruns. Because now, it’s not just price, it’s quality and supply assurance. Especially supply assurance. Which brings us to …

2. Supply Chain Risk Monitoring

Not much has changed here, even though the technology now exists for it to change at the majority of multi-national companies. A decade ago, we noted that natural and man-made disasters devastate supply chains when they result in raw material or product unavailability for weeks or months. When a company doesn’t understand their dependence on a single source or the risks that single source is subject too, they can figuratively get caught with their pants down to say the least. Still holds true today.

A month ago we also noted that most leading companies in the Risk Management arena are now tracking and monitoring their tier 1 supply base for not only missed deliveries, but late shipment dates and inquiring immediately when something is late shipping. However, by the time a shipment is late, it’s often too late to go to another source if the reason for the lateness is the lack of an important raw material. Multi-tier monitoring is key, but most Procurement departments are only now exploring supplier risk management in their supplier management module / application, which is tier 1 — even though we now have a number of great solutions that can monitor to at least tier 3, if not down to the source of each raw material in your supply chain. Considering that any good supplier information management solution will allow you to push in risk, compliance, performance, and visibility data, there’s no reason not to be monitoring your critical supply chains. Especially now that we can easily handle:

3. Big Data

What used to be the biggest buzzword-du-jour (before all this useless Gen-AI, desired only by Dr. Evil himself), Big Data is still desirable, but only to the extent you actually have valid, verified, data. Considering that the algorithms that actually work predict demand, acquisition cost, projected sales, etc. based on trends — unverified non-demand, cost, price data (for the wrong product) is NOT going to be of any help.

Get a real data analysis tool, validate the data at your disposal, and use it to your advantage, no more, no less.