The Complex Categories Category

AI in Procurement Tomorrow (Part 3): Category Wizards Will Save Time, Add Strategic Muscle [PRO]

In this series, Spend Matters delves into the status of artificial intelligence, with a focus on how AI can improve the sourcing and procuring process. Today the technology is really “assisted intelligence,” which was detailed in our precursor series: AI in Procurement Today, Part 1 and Part 2). The technology of tomorrow promises the “augmented intelligence” that we are discussing in this series, as some vendors already have limited beta capabilities. In the first two articles, we discussed how tomorrow's systems are going to help considerably with overspend protection and how "ninjabots" can crunch data on buying and automatic opportunity identification. In this article, we'll consider “category wizards” and how they can put a halt to manual tasks — like defining/assessing categories and choosing the best procurement process — thereby adding strategic prowess for even the lowest of buyers.

Direct Material Sourcing and Supplier Management Platforms (Part 1) [Plus+]

In enabling basic strategic sourcing capability for indirect, services and basic direct materials spend, there are now a lot — and we mean it — of solid choices in the market. And it’s a space that’s getting more crowded everyday. Yet in comparison to the broader sourcing marketplace, the direct materials market is, unfortunately, given short shrift. There are potentially many reasons for this. First, it’s complex — there is not one category of solution. Second, the user for these tools is not always the same as one who might use a more generic sourcing toolset (at least not alone). And third, the processes that direct materials sourcing toolsets support are complicated because they are used not only across numerous internal functions (materials management, plant management, operations, supply chain, design/engineering, procurement, sales and operations planning, etc.), but span multiple tiers of suppliers.

In a three-part Spend Matters Plus series that will deliver a cursory attempt to segment this market, we’ll attempt to overcome the current lack of research in this area by providing a concrete segmentation of different technology categories and the capabilities within each. Today we’ll consider additional context and provide a high-level segmentation and explanation of tools (which we’ll flesh out and provide vendor short-lists for later in the analysis).

Six Best Practices for Procuring Marketing Services (Part 2) [Plus+]

marketing

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2013 series on marketing services, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

In Part 1, we pulled together a number of key learnings (and some personal experience) to come up with six best practice suggestions for CPOs or marketing services procurement leads to consider. We previously looked at three recommendations around category strategy and suppler management. Today we’ll take a look at three more that focus more on the procurement function and individuals in it, how they align with marketing colleagues, and the skills they need to succeed in this area.

The Game of Professional Services: Procurement vs. Providers [Plus+]

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2012 series on buying professional services, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

Procurement executives are often their own worst enemy in this context. Too often they measure their success purely on some hourly or daily rates achieved from the professional services provider. So the negotiating goal becomes a simple one. Your list price for a lawyer with around three years post-qualification experience is $300 an hour – we want a rate of $200 an hour. Or last year we paid £2000 a day for a managing consultant — how much discount will you give me this year?

Getting the Most from Sourcing Optimization (Part 1): Lessons From Leaders [PRO]

Global Risk Management Solutions (GRMS)

The combination of Trade Extensions and Coupa may seem a curious one for those unfamiliar with either organization, and may even raise questions for those who know both. As Trade Extensions’ recent customer event showed (see our live coverage here, here and here), the sourcing optimization specialist and its customers continue to push the limits of what is possible with e-sourcing. In contrast, procurement organizations that gravitate to Coupa — even highly sophisticated ones — tend to do so because they want to avoid complexity for their users and make the transactional buying process as simple as possible, all the while guiding users to make the best decisions for the business.

This two-part PRO research note provides additional perspective from Trade Extensions’ customer event on how this spectrum of complexity and simplicity may not be incongruous in the future; rather, sourcing optimization could serve as a better mousetrap to identify complexity, deconstruct it and ultimately redefine procurement’s role in the business by changing how the function is conceived. But before that can happen, there’s a more important topic address: the fact that most firms using Trade Extensions (and other sourcing optimization technologies) have only begun to scratch the surface of embracing complexity — let alone containing, controlling, distilling and simplifying it.

Part 1 of this series explores how an organization can get the most from sourcing optimization once it has signed up for it, which is easier said than done. We explore three areas: selecting the right users and training them effectively to use optimization, leveraging a center of excellence (CoE) to scale efforts and thinking big (i.e., beyond category-driven events alone). Spend Matters would like to thank all of the conference attendees and Trade Extensions for sharing these ideas.

Procurement Services Market Landscape: The Continuum of Procurement Services [Plus+]

consultant

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this research series, we discussed some of the drivers in how procurement services are increasingly consumed in the market. In this next installment, we will evaluate the market itself and the spectrum of service types/sectors within it. Defining a market is not a one-dimensional activity. Markets are segmented along multiple variables, which we discussed in the previously mentioned research, but there are a few key dimensions worth exploring. We will not look at the traditional dimensions such as spend magnitude, market complexity, business impact, level of market fragmentation, etc. We assume that the practitioner has a fairly good understanding of major segments of management like consulting, outsourcing, contingent labor, etc.

7 Habits of Highly Successful Consumers of Procurement Services [Plus+]

services sector

In Part 1 of this series, we laid out the challenges that practitioners face in getting more value from a complex procurement services market. To address these problems, it’s important that practitioners:

  • Evaluate the spectrum of procurement services holistically to see how the sectors and the players are evolving individually and also collectively. SaaS providers are increasingly baking industry/category content into their products while consulting and BPO providers are similarly productizing reusable knowledge into lighter footprint service offerings.
  • Have a market map to help evaluate the provider types and emerging trends. Doing so can help you actively participate in shaping the provider market rather than just accepting the current ‘menu choices’ of traditional service offerings.
  • Know themselves in terms of not just their current budgets, but also their current capabilities and what is truly important to them as internal service providers. Are you looking for results on-demand, or are you looking to build your own bench capabilities?
  • Develop an internal operating model that makes it easier to consume these services and also get a better ROI from them so they deliver value over the long-term and not just the duration of a project. World class procurement organizations do not spend money needlessly on program du jour services that don’t “stick” and get baked into their internal processes.
To assist procurement organizations (and providers) in this regards, it’s important to first understand the market drivers that will shape the market evolution, which we lay out. Finally, we pinpoint 7 habits of highly successful consumers of procurement services.

The Procurement Services Market: Backdrop and Challenges [Plus+]

service

With all the focus on Software as a Service (SaaS) in the procurement market, many forget the importance of procurement services as a, well, service. These services include not just consulting, but business process outsourcing (BPO), knowledge process outsourcing (KPO), supplier management, quality and auditing services, content/information services, network services, intelligence services, training/certification services, adjacent services (e.g., working capital, asset disposition, transportation, legal, group buying, M&A support). Some of these areas are procurement-specific, but many also are part of a broader services spectrum. Procurement practitioners are getting smarter and more sophisticated in how they buy procurement services; however, they do face numerous challenges that prevent them from unlocking more value from the market and making their lives easier. In this Spend Matters Plus brief, we outline 10 of those challenges.

Sourcing Complexity: Factoring Into Account Stakeholders and Requirements

cloud solutions

Perhaps the most obvious internal driver of complexity comes from the range of product or service users, budget holders or other internal stakeholders who have an interest in the category, item or project being considered. Experienced category managers know that managing a single stakeholder can be challenging but inherently a whole lot easier than trying to get multiple stakeholders aligned with a particular category strategy or market approach.

Summarizing Factors That Drive Sourcing Complexity

category management

Sourcing complexity can serve as a barrier to pursuing potential high-reward and high-risk procurement initiatives. But complexity does not have to stand in the way of savings, total cost or other improvements. Identifying how to pinpoint complexity is essential. An important place to start here involves fully exploring factors that drive sourcing complexity. In the paper

Which Factors Do Not Define a Complex Sourcing Process?

complex sourcing

Before diving into what defines a complex sourcing process or initiative, it is instructive to consider what does not. That helps illustrate the issues and clears up some of the confusion that is often seen around sourcing exercises. While there are several critical factors that may make a sourcing process seem complex, few of them are enough to drive true sourcing complexity as Peter Smith defines it in his paper, What defines complex sourcing – and why does it matter?

The Importance of Respecting Complexity in Procurement

supplier network

In the white paper, What defines complex sourcing – and why does it matter?, my colleague Peter Smith makes a number of convincing arguments about why procurement professionals and consultants should take a hard look at complexity as an overall driver of sourcing and supply management strategy, opportunity and engagement. But to ultimately embrace complexity, we must first understand it.