Defending "Supply Management"

Tim Minahan and I had the chance to share a quick glass of wine and dinner last Monday before Procuri's event in Chicago. While it would have been slightly more fun if that one glass had turned into an entire bottle and if our conversation had descended downhill into a gloves-off philosophical Spend Management vs. Supply Management free-for-all, we kept the conversation up a level, owning to the fact that a customer was also at the table. But our talk made me think that it's important to state for the record that the phrase Supply Management certainly has its place.

In fact, I see nothing wrong with the term Supply Management. As I've mentioned before, I even helped to come up with the term "Global Supply Management" to describe the sector when I was at FreeMarkets (which is probably a major reason that Procuri ended up adopting it in short order after FreeMarkets did, at the time). But today, when it comes to talking about the overall sector -- everything from services procurement to A/P -- I just find Supply Management too confining and limiting, especially when the audience involves non procurement people. Still, you should know that when I put on my Azul Partners marketing hat, I have no problem recommending the term to clients serving highly targeted markets. Last week, we had a conversation with an upstart vendor that specifically works in the direct material sourcing and design areas, and we suggested that incorporating the terms "supply" and "management" more into their positioning would help from an overall brand and message perspective because of their target audience.

In my view, what this debate comes down to is relatively straightforward -- how best to define the sector for the audience. But this requires knowing the breadth of the audience and their interest level in the subject matter. So regardless of your place in this market, it's important to decide for yourself which of the two terms is most appropriate – and when! As a marketing geek, I'll go in both directions, depending on the subject matter and specific audience. But as a blogger and an overall sector evangelist -- covering a broader swath than during my time at FreeMarkets -- I'll stick with Spend Management until I hear something better.

Jason Busch

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