Category Management moves with the times – latest thinking from Future Purchasing

The team at Future Purchasing may no longer have Jon Hughes quite as involved in their consulting business, but they continue to produce very impressive material, and are one of the few consulting firms of any size in our industry who produce genuinely new and useful ‘IP’ on a regular basis.

In the field of Category Management they are particularly strong, probably the leading consulting firm in the UK in terms of that ‘thought leadership’.  And last year they published the results of their 2012/13 Category Management survey, which is well worth seeking out, not so much for the survey results in themselves but more for the wealth of useful knowledge and thinking captured in the report.

Indeed, the conclusions and recommendations given by Future Purchasing are a pretty good end to end framework for successful Category Management. Their methodology covers five phases; Build, Learn, Lead, Apply and Deliver and it moves well beyond the formulaic seven step process we saw in the early days of CatMan.

Just before Christmas, they also published ‘Category Management Success’  - a summary of Round Table discussion they held in 2013 with around 25 senior procurement leaders. It’s another good read, with some thought provoking material from practitioners. And in the spirit of their openness about sharing ideas and content, you don’t even have to register to get hold of this paper.

Reading it, a couple of points stood out for me. There is a real focus on stakeholder engagement – a recognition from the round table participants that procurement can’t drive CatMan (or indeed any other significant procurement initiative) in a functional silo. We have to engage. And secondly, there is  an aspiration to move beyond the traditional thinking that saw CatMan largely as a cost reduction tool. Here’s a brief excerpt from the paper - this is just one of the points under the heading of “What are the keys to success”?

See category management as a systematic creative identifier of opportunities, not bureaucracy

At its best, category management is a creative enabler that can open the minds of buyers and stakeholders to the full range of options for creating value from supplier spend. There are many ways to create value and drive savings beyond the obvious opportunities from volume consolidation and competitive leverage. Approaches discussed included cost modelling, specification optimization and supplier integration –but there was a recognition that value levers are rarely applied systematically by category managers”.

Very true – and indicative of the good stuff here and on the Future Purchasing website generally. And we hope to feature more from them on latest thinking in Category Management through 2014.

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