Process and Best Practice Content

What’s the Cost of Having a Long Supply Tail, and How Do You Determine the ‘Right’ Supply Base?

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We recently put up an interactive Ask Spend Matters box so that you, our readers, can tell us about the topics you want us to investigate. One of the first questions that came in was about tail spend: “What is the cost of having a long supply tail, and how are organizations determining the ‘right’ supply base (number and percentage) as relates to spend?” As Spend Matters Chief Research Officer Pierre Mitchell put it, "This is a great question, but it’s a bit tricky to answer.” Read on to hear his reply!

Digital Procurement: Unintended Consequences Can Be Golden Opportunities

Editor’s note: This is the final post in a three-part series on digital disruption from a procurement professional’s perspective. Also check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Unintended consequences are mostly thought of negatively, but sometimes unexpected things open the door of opportunity. When you undertake a digital project, you often are dealing with the new and untried — and the chance of some pleasant unintended consequences. That’s when things get fun.

Is the Tail Spend Problem Solved with Technology or with Managed Services?

Tail spend is a thorny problem — and an important one.

Tail spend is an amalgam of more granular spending: one time, low dollar, maverick, tactical by design. It doesn't even have a common definition understood by all, and it is generally a mess.

So, how to solve this problem? The design ideal is the concept of guided buying, where you start with the end customers (i.e., employees who need something) at the time of need and then guide them down to get what they need to accomplish their goals (but also within corporate policy). It’s an entryway to all procurement, not just the procure-to-pay (P2P), process, so you need to get it right and make the experience count.

But, who is the guide? Is it a tactical buying group in shared services or outsourced provider? Or is it a technology solution? Let’s discuss.

Procurement Agility is a Pipe Dream Without Intelligent Transformation and Procurement as a Service (PRaaS)

In a previous post, I discussed the three critical focus areas that are foundational to procurement excellence: customer/stakeholder focus, performance and transformation. They seem straightforward, and indeed they are. Unfortunately, it's hard to get them all at the same time, and get them aligned.

It’s like the old adage about buying a bike where you want it strong, light and cheap — but you can only pick two. Here’s an example to make this clearer, using tail spend management.

Take the 80% of purchases that represent 20% of your spend and you will likely find that the requestors want their stuff (or services) delivered quickly and easily. You as a category manager want that too, and don’t want maverick spending, but you’re also focused on big sourcing deals and can’t get bogged down here, nor have the time to transform your thorny tail spend problem. So, you sacrifice transformation and simply work harder within your current processes, systems and metrics.

But if you’re a more advanced firm and have sourced all of your major spend areas a few times, you may have to lower your procurement involvement spend thresholds, wean yourself off of p-cards and figure out a way to improve your stakeholder satisfaction scores when they find you and your complicated systems and policies a barrier to engaging with you more meaningfully.

So, you need to transform your processes, policies and systems to re-engineer this deceptively toxic and disparate amalgam of spending that is in the tail. More problematic, you need to revisit your procurement KPIs and SLAs (if you have them) to reflect this — especially since you also want to free yourself up to do more strategic innovation and SRM/SCM work.

Cannabusiness: The Riskiest Legal Supply Chain in the World?

Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it’s still federally illegal. For that reason, states that have legalized cannabis for medical — and especially recreational — consumption have had to implement considerable systems of regulatory compliance for businesses to follow.

How to Smooth Manufacturer-Supplier Relationships Through AP Automation

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Howie Hahn, senior sales engineer at Esker.

Success in manufacturing depends on the mutually beneficial relationships between manufacturers and suppliers. Each party relies on the other to live up to its obligations, if either expects to move towards long-term success and growth. But business, like life, doesn’t always go as planned. Even relationships based on trust and mutual benefit can get rocky.

The key is to make sure that the inevitable bumps in the road don’t morph into ill feelings, mistrust or, worse, lawsuits. One tool that can help ensure that manufacturers and suppliers maintain smooth relationships is accounts payable (AP) automation.

The Collective Intelligence of Supply (Part 2): The Evolution in 10 Steps

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In Part 1 of this series, I outlined its intent and why procurement and supply chain organizations should understand how the evolution toward a digital “collective intelligence” within supply chains and supply markets will affect them.

If you think about the Star Trek series from the 1980s (not the 1960s), the “Borg” was a collective of cybernetic beings that were part of a “hive mind” that would assimilate humans and other species into their collective digital intelligence. Now, consider the ecosystems being built by companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and others. They are becoming commercial collectives, of sorts, that seek to assimilate you into their walled gardens and extract maximum information from you in order to personalize their services (and those of the suppliers that your information is sold to) for you. You don’t just buy their products — you often are the product.

This trend certainly isn’t a bad thing on the whole in terms of the digital services that consumers now enjoy, but it’s traveling up the supply chain into B2B in a big way. So, the question becomes how can you create your own benevolent Borg that creates a collective intelligence with/about your customers, within your organization (think knowledge management on steroids), and, of course, to your upstream suppliers and supply chain. You want to be a platform, and not just a pipe. We’ve written extensively about platforms on our site, but platform/network effects are just a piece of the puzzle.

In Part 1 of this series, I did a quick general outline of the series and also included 20 domain areas that are key to this evolution. Even so, I didn’t really “tell the story,” and it basically is a story told in 10 discrete evolutionary steps. Once procurement organizations understand these 10 key progressions, they will be able to understand digital evolution in a more straightforward way that ties to business fundamentals while also bringing in newer operating models.

Scouting and Retaining Young Supply Chain Talent: A (Millennial) Recruiter’s Experience

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Did you know that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials will comprise nearly 75% of the U.S. workforce by the year 2030? Yes, I’m talking about those tech-savvy, feedback-craving 20-somethings that have recently entered the workforce — myself being one of them! Even if the demographic shift hasn’t yet affected your company, I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise, considering how infatuated the media has been since the turn of the decade with millennials. The million-dollar question, however, is this: What are corporations doing to adapt to this change in workforce?

Picture Your Procurement Strategy as a Pyramid

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Conrad Smith, senior director of global procurement at Adobe.

A few years ago, a consultant introduced me to a strategy tool that changed the way I do business. The strategy we developed became the “business hierarchy of procurement needs." You may already be familiar with psychologist Abraham Maslow’s traditional hierarchy of needs. In Maslow’s model, basic health and physical safety comprise the essential day-to-day building blocks at the base of the pyramid — and the fulfillment of those needs creates the stability necessary for the understanding and fulfillment of “higher” needs, such as belonging and self-esteem, all the way up to self-actualization at the pyramid’s peak.

Must-Know Practices for Adopting Contingent Workforce/Services Procurement Technology

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Many organizations are beginning to adopt new contingent workforce/services (CW/S) procurement solutions. Why now? In short, it’s because new underlying technologies are available to enable new solution approaches and organizations are compelled to make use of these technologies to address changes in talent supply, whether it’s skill shortages, generational shifts or changes in attitudes and behaviors.

Procurement as a Service (Part 2): Learning from Service Providers in Other Industries

In Part 1 of this series on Procurement as a Service (PRaaS), we outlined numerous reasons why procurement organizations should consider adopting a service-oriented operating model. In this next installment, we'll explore how procurement organizations are learning from other industries and other world-class services organizations.

Procurement as a Service (Part 1): Should Procurement Really Be a “Service Provider”?

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Many procurement organizations may wince at the idea of being called a "service provider.” The term seems very transactional and low impact. Most procurement organizations are striving for much deeper spend influence and usually prefer a term like "business partner." Yet the world is moving to a service orientation, not just in the consumer world but also in the business world, which in turn is becoming a digital world. Whether procurement groups choose to use the “service provider” terminology or not (e.g., the principles can be adopted without using the explicit terminology with stakeholder), they will need to consider a services-oriented operating model, or “service delivery model,” if they want to improve their delivered value. Here’s why.