Plus Content

A Critical Look at Category Management (Part 4) [Plus+]

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

In the last few weeks we’ve looked at some of the drawbacks related to what we might call “traditional” category management (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). However, we should stress that they’re all aspects of the process that can be overcome by appropriate thought and management effort. The lack of stakeholder involvement we’ve sometimes seen — the overly procurement-centric approach — can be addressed by ensuring that the right engagement takes place. The risk of over-standardisation of approach can be mitigated by being aware of that issue and ensuring it doesn’t happen. But today’s discussion will consider an alternative approach that perhaps challenges more fundamentally the conventional steps in the category management process.

A Critical Look at Category Management (Part 3) [Plus+]

We wrote in the last article about the standardised nature of category management process and practice, and the dangers inherent in approaching different categories via that standard approach. Now let’s consider another failing of much “traditional” category management methodology and philosophy. We might define this as an overly procurement-centric approach to the whole task in hand. The buyer is placed in an almost deity-like position, controlling the whole process and with other participants fitting into their scheme and doing what they are told to by the all powerful category manager.

A Critical Look at Category Management (Part 2) [Plus+]

category management

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

As we wrote in Part 1 of this series, category management (“CatMan”) has been perhaps the most powerful sourcing tool in the procurement armoury for some years. But 20 years on from the beginnings of its widespread adoption in the general procurement world (it has earlier origins in retail), we think it s a good time to review the state of CatMan and ask some fundamental questions. Is it still relevant? Has it outlived its usefulness? Does it need radical updating? Or is it still fit for purpose?

The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List: August 2018 [Plus+]

Welcome to the August edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature, “The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List,” available to Plus and PRO subscribers.

While the months of May and June were on the cool side, we saw a return to hot technology and innovation temperatures in July. Perhaps it’s extreme weather patterns? CW/S climate change?

Indeed, new hotspots could be found across the entire space, from the established core of traditional suppliers and intermediaries to new solutions that either complement or challenge the core (or both). While there has been friction and overheating on the demand side, developments on the supply side have also been heating up, with the mercury rising in places across the globe.

Now that our warmup is complete, let’s begin our first routine.

A Critical Look at Category Management [Plus+]

category management

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

CatMan’s main impact was in the indirect spending area. Procurement in a manufacturing environment was run on what we might call a category management basis for many years, even if we didn’t call it that, probably since the beginnings of the function. I was the “Raw Materials (EU controlled materials)” buyer for Mars in my first functional role, then Head of Packaging Buying. We would now see those as first a fairly junior then a more senior CatMan role, but that was well before the days of consultants such as Kearney and McKinsey popularising the approach and the associated terminology.

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?

Strategic Technology Planning: A New Imperative for Contingent Workforce and Services Procurement (Part 2) [Plus+]

In Part 1 of this series, we provided a context and rationale for the adoption of strategic technology planning for contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement. We also began the discussion of what strategic technology planning explicitly means for an organization and how it can be enacted. Part 2 of this series continues that discussion.

By way of summary, we defined “strategic technology planning” as a specific type of strategic planning that lets an organization (i.e., CW/S procurement) know where it is now, where it wants or needs to be some time in the future, how technology can be leveraged as an enabler and what changes in resource allocation and investment must occur or what constraints will condition progress. We should emphasize that strategic technology planning is not the same as a tactical plan or roadmap, though ideally it would lead to these.

Strategic planning is more about high-level understanding (insight and foresight) than it is about immediate, direct action. We believe it must become a critical component to any CW/S procurement function and program that wants to avoid being caught flat-footed and aims to deliver a new (and necessary) level of business value over a reasonable planning horizon (e.g., three to five years). This type of planning effort may represent a shift of gears for many procurement practitioners. For this and other reasons, we suggest and outline a process in this Spend Matters Plus research brief that is intended to help practitioners get started and pointed in the right direction.

Strategic Technology Planning: A New Imperative for Contingent Workforce and Services Procurement (Part 1) [Plus+]

For many years now, planning for CW/S technology has been largely tactical, focusing almost exclusively on the capabilities and effectiveness of one VMS solution or another. Technology planning at a strategic level has been rare in CW/S procurement functions, in main part because it has not been necessary in a relatively static technology and supply chain environment. Need a core contingent workforce technology to manage processes, compliance, risk and cost? Adopt a VMS (or work through your MSP to get one). Seeking a specialized category solution? Work with the business owner (e.g., legal, telecom, facilities) to engage a vendor that meets everyone’s needs.

But in recent years, many aspects of the environment in which CW/S procurement executes its mission have begun to change significantly. Under these conditions, strategic planning becomes necessary. Because technology is now and will be presenting CW/S procurement functions with new opportunities to add value to their organizations in a variety of ways, allocating time and resources to conducting strategic technology planning is now an imperative. In most cases, this will mean starting from scratch. But foregoing strategic technology planning opens CW/S procurement to missed opportunities, core mission failure and possibly disruption.

In short: procurement, HR and IT organizations — not to mention line of business owners — need to work together to create their own CW/S technology information architecture through a strategic technology planning process. In Part 1 of this series, we build the case for strategic technology planning and provide an overview of what strategic technology planning means for a CW/S procurement function. In Part 2, we flesh out a targeted approach to CW/S procurement strategic technology planning and practical approaches for implementation within an organization.

Online Work Platforms and Enterprises: Survival of the Fittest or the Fastest? [Plus+]

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In this Plus research brief, we provide an analysis of the complex dynamics that characterize the online work platform technology market, in particular with respect to large enterprise adoption (or, to date, the lack thereof). We also examine some promising platform strategies/approaches that may promote platform business viability and, over time, more success in achieving large scale enterprise penetration. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis for both platform providers and enterprise buyers.

(Note: To avoid possible perception that we are making endorsements or recommendations in this brief, we forego references to specific platforms. Platform providers are evaluated separately, in our Vendor Snapshot and SolutionMap series, with these strategies and approaches in mind.)

The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List: July 2018 [Plus+]

Welcome to the sixth edition of Spend Matters’ monthly feature, “The Contingent Workforce and Services Insider’s Hot List,” available to Plus and PRO subscribers. As the mercury started to rise this summer, CW/S technology and innovation took a rest in the shade. Is this a seasonal fluctuation, or has the ongoing fire burned out? Most likely the former, but this month’s Hot List turned out more warm than fiery. Still, despite the tepidness of June, there were several developments and events that bear mentioning.

Solution Provider Product and Technology Roadmaps: Are They Important? [Plus+]

spend visiblity

The short answer to the question posed in the title is emphatically and definitively “yes” — now more than ever. When screening or evaluating technology solution providers for e-procurement, contract lifecycle management, vendor management systems (VMS) or any other solution, there is frequently an inherent present and backward-looking bias in evaluating and making decisions about these solutions. Considering only what solutions have done or are doing for their clients (and ex-clients) only tells so much about whether or not the solution is a good fit.

There are probably a number of reasons for this bias, including that it may have led to optimal decisions in the past because vendors often over-promised and only partially delivered. But in today’s world, this bias can handicap a procurement organization given the growing number of new solutions and rapid changes in technology. Whether intentional or not on the part of the solution provider, “adverse selection” may come into play here — to the detriment of all. By not knowing where a provider plans or intends to (or actually can) take its solution in the future, the buyer is missing crucial information that could result in a bad decision. Making sure that roadmaps are reviewed and analyzed is an important way to mitigate this risk.

In this Spend Matters PRO research brief, we explore this problem and make suggestions to support ways to move beyond it, including how to look at a provider’s product and technology maps from a 2017 cloud-era frame of reference. For those who are new to this topic, we start with the basics, providing an explanation of what vendor product and technology roadmaps are, what they should contain and what you should expect.

Digital Service Providers: Do They Require Your Attention and Why? (Part 2) [Plus+]

crowdsourcing

In Part 1 of this series, we described and unpacked the topic of digital platform-based service providers, which represent a modest but growing spend category far outside of the scope of contingent workforce and services (CW/S) procurement programs. While they are not on procurement’s radar, Spend Matters believes these providers will increasingly become a significant part of organizations’ services consumption and spend over the next 10 years.

In Part 2, we review what is arguably the most successful sub-segment of these digital service providers, as well as revisit the question of whether they require your attention and why.