Here at Spend Matters, we're students of history. And when it comes to sourcing technology, we observe a fascinating parallel with Julius Caesar which we comment on at the start of the paper. Caesar's role in transforming the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire was not simply a matter of timing. His use of advanced technology and superior tactics in his invasion of Gaul (most of modern-day France and Germany), as well as his brazen ability to quickly learn from mistakes (e.g., his failed first invasion of modern-day England), helped to assure his place in Roman and military history.
Moreover, Caesar's capacity to swiftly adapt to his environment was crucial to his second campaign, when he attempted to conquer Britain. Learning from his failed prior attempt, he designed new ships that were more conducive to marine-style landings. He also drilled his legions in advanced tactics that took full advantage of contemporary cutting-edge technology. His opponents, by contrast, fought to the last soldier and came up short because they relied on far less strategic brute force methods of attack.
Caesar's alacrity in advancing his own tactics and support platforms together with the emphasis he placed on leading, training and teaching his soldiers proffers a central lesson for advancing sourcing and commodity management inside procurement organizations today. For companies in an early stage of procurement transformation, there's much to be said about the implementation of effective, brute force methods of sourcing and commodity management.
After all, for organizations that have previously done little to organize procurement, just about any approach to sourcing and commodity management (even something as basic as implementing a stage-gate strategic sourcing process and making selective use of reverse auctions) will likely generate some worthwhile results, at least on a one-time basis and possibly beyond. But as companies become more sophisticated in their sourcing and commodity management programs, it is essential to evolve from practices that simply generate one-time savings and more toward furthering a holistic approach.
As organizations begin to focus on maximizing implementable savings, sustainable results, total cost (vs. unit cost) orientation, supply risk reduction, the pursuit of more complicated categories, commodity volatility containment, and cost take-out -- that extends beyond bid requests for existing specifications, among other areas -- it becomes crucial to investigate higher level technologies and platforms to complement basic solutions. Sequentially, it is just as vital to make sure the sourcing "troops" know how to deploy their new battle strategies and tools most effectively.
Just as Caesar's design and deployment of advanced platforms and campaign/fighting models enabled many high points of Roman military success, today's leading procurement, finance, supply chain and engineering organizations are in a better place than ever to conquer their increasingly complex buying and commodity terrain. Performing diligent research to understand and implement the most appropriate tools with which to wage sourcing battles is the foundation for success. The tools and capabilities discussed in this paper far transcend flaming arrows, but we trust that you'll find them just as effective.
If you're not yet ready for the latest in sourcing chariot and Roman marine landing technology, we'd encourage you start with the basics of swordplay and legion tactics which (metaphorically speaking) you'll find in the first paper in our 2011 Compass series: A Foundational Look at the Evolution of Sourcing Technology and Platforms. And when you're ready for to take your efforts to the next level and prove the sourcing world is flat (or at least can be overrun with smart tactics and a sizable force behind you) then you can move on to: Advanced Sourcing Technologies and Platforms to Broaden a Portfolio.
Both papers are available for free download today by clicking the above links. Vendor coverage includes: Ariba, Brady Solutions, BravoSolution, Co-Exprise, CombineNet, EKA Software, Emptoris, Iasta, Ivalua, FullStep, Oracle, Pool4Tool, SAP, SciQuest, Sievo, SolArc, Supply Dynamics, Trade Extensions, Triple Point and Zycus.