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Procurement Strategy

Group Purchasing Organizations: Supplier Perspectives and the Evolving GPO Landscape [PRO]

Joining a GPO is like getting a Costco membership. You know you’re not going to get ripped off, so you probably won’t put much thought into joining. But therein lies the rub for GPO members. Like Costco, a GPO is a one-size-fits-all marketplace where you may overbuy when you get there or underbuy by not getting there at all.

In an increasingly Amazon-dominated world, however, this model is not the only available option.Today, the assortment and pricing of items available to consumers are tuned to the user and monetized most efficiently by intermediaries that can source better and optimize for lowest total landed costs better than individual buyers. Procurement organizations are now looking to bring this experience to the complex world of B2B purchasing. And where GPOs fit into this more sophisticated equation is not a simple answer (many are still trying to figure it out themselves). 

But that doesn’t mean GPOs will go the way of the 1980s big box retailer. Instead, GPOs will have to take on a role beyond the race to the lowest price. This multipart Spend Matters PRO series explains what motivates GPOs and helps procurement organizations best decide when and how to engage them. In this second installment (see our initial GPO introduction), we explore GPOs from a supplier perspective and offer recommendations for vendors working through GPOs to make these relationships more successful. We also explore how GPO options and capabilities are evolving and segment the GPO market by model and type and provide case example looks at different GPO business models. These include vertical/industry independent, member-owned, horizontal, affinity, category-specific and procurement technology led GPO models. 

An Introduction to Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs) [PRO]

purchasing

Group purchasing organizations (GPOs) are not a new idea. Agricultural cooperatives aggregated the buying power of farmers hundreds of years ago. That said, GPOs have evolved quite a bit, and the infusion of new digital capabilities is taking that evolution to an even higher level. This evolution also means that procurement organizations must go in “eyes wide open” to best utilize this important tool in the procurement tool belt.

Not all GPOs (or GPO models) are the same. Understanding the differences will make you a more educated, and thus likely more successful, buyer. Therefore, we’ve decided to delve a little deeper into this obscure sector of the procurement provider market and shed some light on how to best extract value from it.

This multipart Spend Matters PRO brief is designed to demystify GPOs and put procurement organizations on the same information playing field as the GPOs attempting to sign them up, expand their utilization of contracts and sell additional services. Within this series, we will explore GPOs by type, as there are several business models in play, and by industry segment, as GPOs are heavily embedded in certain markets and are little more than a supply option in others.

This first installment in our GPO coverage:

  • Defines what GPOs are (and are not)
  • Explains how GPOs operate
  • Explores GPO “spend coverage and fit”
  • Analyze the GPO market segments and how to engage them
  • Offers tips and tricks for engaging GPOs based on their own constraints/models
  • Provides both basic and advanced takeaways for procurement organizations that are thinking through GPOs as an alternative supply option
  • Offers a checklist of activities to consider when sourcing GPOs

All We Are “Saved” — Give Purchasing Consortia (Including GPOs) a Chance [Plus +]

Purchasing consortia and group purchasing organization (GPO) models have been accused of being fads in the past. But there are reasons they could more than go mainstream as a common procurement lever across industries, working outside of just healthcare environments, where they have thrived in the past. Spend Matters research suggests that there certainly are a number of underlying factors that make the consortia and GPO models more attractive than before (even if some suppliers, such as the airlines, will never play ball in working with these intermediaries). Indeed, several GPO and consortia providers not focused on one particular industry have a lot to offer to procurement organizations looking to better manage cost and quality for certain categories of spend.

In this Spend Matters Plus analysis, we will explore the reason behind the current and rising interest in these models and the benefits they can bring to procurement in such categories as IT spend (e.g., hardware, software, etc.), human resources (e.g., contingent staffing and MSP programs), office supplies, employee benefits (e.g., retirement/pension, pharmacy benefits, etc.), facilities and other professional and services categories (e.g., operations consulting, energy management, etc.), not to mention some areas of direct spend as well (e.g., metals). First up: exploring the different GPO benefits for both less mature and more mature procurement organizations.

The 12 Supply Risk Management Disconnects that Destroy Value (Part 1) [PRO]

risk

“Risk” and “risk management” are terms that are like the ultimate Rorschach test in business: they mean many different things to many people. The same applies to the term “value” — and don’t even bring up “supply management.” Even a specific term like “supply risk” has many interpretations (e.g., it’s much more than supplier risk). The problem with this is that if people within a company define various terms differently, then how well will they be collectively managing those areas? Likely not well at all.

Risk management is a strange animal. On one hand, it focuses on “things gone wrong” and hones in on defining and mitigating various external risks that create adverse events in a value chain. On the other hand, those adverse events affect stakeholder-relevant performance (i.e., measurable value). Such performance and value delivery is focused on “things gone right” and reward rather than risk.

The key, therefore, is to realize that risk and reward are inextricably linked. If ensuring delivered value (and improving it over time) from the supply chain and from suppliers is what supply management is all about, then that supply value should not only be expected (i.e., expected value like discussed above) but also protected (i.e., protected value ensured through supply risk management). As a side note, have you ever considered that the concept of “expected value” uses the term “value” even though it is applied heavily to the world of risk management (i.e., calculating the expected probabilities and impacts of various risks)?

Anyway, the imperative becomes ensuring that the most important performance metrics (i.e., KPIs) are protected from risk. Yet these individual KPIs are rarely individually and systematically managed for risk, and the lack of risk-adjusted performance management means that you’re going to be exposed and it will catch up with you eventually. The problem isn’t just bouncing around and applying risk management technique X via tool Y to address risk type Z. There are a dozen fundamental disconnects in most firms that prevent risk management being properly resourced, aligned, managed and improved. Only by unpacking them and addressing them through focused practical interventions can you really get to the root cause issues that are likely keeping your supply risk management efforts suboptimized.

In this Spend Matter PRO series, we will explore 12 critical supply risk management disconnects. This brief, Part 1, focuses on the following four areas:

  1. Risk Scope and Stakeholders
  2. Performance vs. Risk
  3. Risk Type vs. Impact
  4. Risk vs. Cost (e.g., “cost of risk”)
If you’re a practitioner, you should be able to see which disconnects are the biggest issues for you and make yourself more resilient (i.e., ability to mitigate and recover from risks) and predictably high performing. If you’re a consulting organization, you’ll probably find some pointers to improve any methodologies that you have here. And if you’re solution provider, whether in the supply risk management area, or more broadly, you’ll hopefully get some ideas on how to address more strategic pain points.

Economic and Policy Supply Chain: The Non-Invisible Hand [Plus +]

Adam Smith is famous for coining the phrase the “invisible hand” to suggest the collective transparent forces of a market that work together as a whole based on the self-interest of participating members. While Smith used the phrase only a handful of times in his writing, the term has become synonymous with the famous theorist. We can leave the economic theory and philosophizing for another day. The concept itself, however, is clearly valuable: much of what occupies the daily toils of the typical procurement or supply chain manager is directly tied to the broader trade of goods, services and ideas, and ultimately, the pursuit of profit and returns based on the collective set of activities. But what's also equally important to consider is the “non-invisible hand” and how it affects our priorities and overall goals.

Program Management: The Missing Link in Procurement Technology Modules and Suites (Part 2 — Functional Building Blocks) [PRO]

Program management is an integral component of source-to-pay (S2P) activities that is no longer optional for high-performing procurement organizations. In short, program management is a set of processes that manage specific projects and broader project portfolios that focus on higher-level processes and composite processes that cross the traditional linear flow of sourcing, contracting, purchasing and payments. These programs can be ancillary to core processes (e.g., M&A-related activities or globalization efforts) or transformational in nature to implement enterprise-level programs (e.g., working capital programs, risk programs, sustainability programs, digital programs, ERP upgrade programs, Lean/Six Sigma programs).

The problem is that, generally, program management is poorly automated and stovepiped within functions or subfunctions. Within procurement, there may be savings tracking for strategic sourcing processes displayed in a "CPO dashboard” but not much visibility and collaboration beyond that. This is a problem because as procurement is collaborating with stakeholders on ever broader processes and reaching deeper into stakeholder processes, supplier processes and external customer processes, there needs to be a cross-functional management capability. The emergence of collaboration tools like Slack and others have shown the enterprise desire to manage fast-paced mobile communication on the ground that is tied back to strategic objectives.

This Spend Matters PRO series defines what effective program management capabilities are from a design, platform and functional perspective that puts the user first. We explore both what represents best-in-class program management components today, what users should expect tomorrow and what we hope technology providers have on their roadmaps to build. We also explore some solution building blocks for effective program management, including best-of-breed project management, goal management, program auditing/audit trails and prepackaged initiative enablement. (Don’t forget to read Part 1 of this series to first understand the design principles on which effective program management technology is based.)

Unlocking Deeper Value in the Procurement and Finance Relationship (Part 1) [Plus +]

finance

Much has been written about the need for procurement and finance organizations to better align with each other, in particular how the two functions can best integrate purchasing and payables into an end-to-end purchase-to-pay (P2P) process. The opportunity for aligning these two functions, however, is much greater than simply improving transaction efficiency. Unfortunately, the various sources of misalignment that plague procurement and finance prevent many businesses from identifying these opportunities in the first place.

The sad part of this story is that the two functions share many common traits. Both seek to:

  • Elevate their value propositions as enabling business partners by providing compelling service offerings — and overcome their perception as bureaucratic corporate overlords
  • Maximize enterprise value and profitable growth through disciplined spend management
  • Spend not just less but better in terms of process efficiency and process effectiveness
  • Use new techniques and technologies to help the business make better decisions that support the above goals
Additionally, these functions should in theory strive to serve each other as internal customers while also enabling the other to deliver higher value to their own internal (and external) customers. Unfortunately, theory has rarely translated into reality, and the result is that each function is leaving money (and risk) on the table.

Procurement can certainly help finance get more value from its suppliers, but it can also help finance improve service delivery in areas such as FP&A, treasury, tax, financial accounting, risk and compliance, commodity management and even accounts payable.

On the flipside, finance can help procurement in multiple ways, namely to help procurement on value-adding activities — including helping finance. This is a classic “help me, help you” moment. If procurement can help finance help procurement (and help finance help itself), then procurement’s value potential can be truly unlocked.

Extending Procurement Information Architecture to Provider Ecosystems (Part 2) [Plus +]

Let’s recap where we ended up with conclusion of the first installment in this series. A range of application vendors are trying to build out native platforms or sit on top of others flexibly. For example, Coupa hedges its bets by building on top of AWS, but also partnering with IBM (on SmartCloud) and showing up on SuiteApp.com. Providers are also trying to develop healthy B2B ecosystems that are creating B2B activity and, as a result, “liquidity.” There’s no way to better monetize that liquidity than from B2B e-commerce networks for source-to-pay (S2P) on the buy side and both attract-to-order and order-to-cash on the sell side. All this talk of liquidity reminds us of a different time and place in the procurement and supply chain world: the “marketplace era” from the late 1990s and early 2000s. This time, however, there are many technology differences that will make the vision of liquidity a reality faster than many will imagine. But not without a key application rub that should be top of mind for all procurement and IT organizations.

Extending Procurement Information Architecture to Provider Ecosystems (Part 1) [Plus +]

In our previous series on procurement services provision and information architectures (here, here, here, here, here, here and here) we discussed the importance of thoughtfully designing various architecture elements such as MDM, analytics, workflow, portal infrastructure, etc. to re-frame overall information capabilities beyond the traditional provider-led “module-menu” approach. Simply put, the idea is to loosely couple these capabilities so that they can be iteratively improved (and switched out as needed) while they squeeze more value out of the fragmented information topologies that litter the enterprise landscape. The coupling of these capabilities can – and should – create situations where the sum of a set of assets greatly exceeds their individual contribution elements.

Designing a Spend Category Taxonomy Properly is Harder Than You Think (Part 2: Go Deep) [Plus +]

category management

We recently had a client ask us if we could offer specific guidelines or methodologies for creating a spend category taxonomy within the automotive and industrial markets. The question resulted in a discussion among a number of us with industry experience. And since we didn’t have any research already published on the topic, we thought we’d invest the time to document our findings. In this second installment of a two-part Spend Matters Plus research series, Chief Research Officer Pierre Mitchell explores how granular procurement should go in creating a spend taxonomy and concludes with practical tips for implementing a program.

Business Process Management for Procurement: A Spectrum of Choices [Plus +]

category management

BPM stands for business process management. If the business process is procurement (i.e., a collection of processes), then the concept is about managing procurement processes — including process design/definition, performance management (e.g., process outputs/KPIs, monitoring) and resource management. Of course, in the IT world, BPM has its own body of knowledge regarding the topic, focused mostly on “process workflow/integration on steroids.” This is the “system of process/interaction/engagement” that may sit on top of multiple systems of record (e.g., ERP, source-to-pay suites).

In this Spend Matters Plus article, we define BPM components and offer practical ways for applying BPM to procurement, keeping the topic on a business level and issuing both warnings and best practice tips for companies deploying or considering BPM technology adoption within the function. But how can you approach this topic without your eyes glazing over? Wikipedia does a good job explaining the concept, but we will try to define an evolution that procurement organizations can use to start doing IT-enabled BPM in a simple way, and then get more sophisticated.

Mega Spend Aggregation: 10 Ways to Supersize your Market Basket (Part 2) [Plus +]

category management

In Part 1 of our coverage on this topic, we started our discussion of various techniques to “supersize” your market basket, with an eye toward indirect spend. In this second half, we will now turn our attention to the supply chain for the remainder of the techniques.