Finally, a BPO Advisory Firm Adds Some Real Procurement Expertise

There are few announcements coming out of the BPO advisory and consulting worlds that are good news for procurement. Indeed, I've felt that in the past, the EquaTerra's of the world only helped perpetuate the myth that procurement BPO was just another component of any-old multi-tower deal, to be treated and managed in the same way (i.e., move bodies, use technology as a replacement versus an enhancement for labor, attempt to superficially fix broken processes, etc.). Yet the fact that EquaTerra recently hired/promoted a respected industry veteran, Sarah Pfaff, to a new leadership role leading its Procurement and Supply Chain Advisory group is a great thing.

I've had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Sarah over the past decade -- I even reported to her for something like two weeks before one re-org at FreeMarkets quickly overtook the prior one -- and I can tell you that she knows her stuff from both an in-the-trenches sourcing as well as procurement leadership perspective. She also has the sense of humor and irony necessary to get things done and improve our profession from the inside out. To me, her on-paper credentials are less important, however impressive they are. To wit, "Pfaff has spent the past two decades helping organizations realign their cost structure, governance and management processes, establish shared services centers, evaluate and transition services to outsourcing arrangements, reengineer business processes and reduce overall cost structure and spend. Before joining EquaTerra she founded eBreviate, an eSourcing firm, and was executive vice president of consulting services and chief marketing officer at FreeMarkets."

The sourcing advisory market -- "sourcing advisory," as BPO advisory and Gartner, Forrester and other analysts like to describe "sourcing" as pertaining to outsourcing/IT -- has needed folks like Sarah for the longest time. I suspect that even if her only legacy in counseling companies as a BPO adviser is to help them think through all of the total cost sourcing and related levers that successful procurement BPO can bring, in addition to labor cost savings, process improvement, technology etc., then her time spent focusing on outsourcing advisory will pay dividends for all of us. I suspect her work will ultimately reward firms such as ICG Commerce, Genpact, IBM and select others that have put a significant premium on procurement and sourcing processes to drive implemented results (and in certain cases, deep category expertise, as part of this) rather than simply labor and process arbitrage and tactical sourcing execution.

Jason Busch

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