Category Management by Jonathan O’Brien – New Edition of Classic Book

Jonathan O’Brien, founder of the leading procurement training firm Positive Purchasing, has now published three very good books that will be standard works in our field for years to come. The first of the three was Category Management in Purchasing - A Strategic Approach to Maximize Business Profitability, and this week publisher Kogan Page launch the third edition of the book.  (The other two are Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals and Supplier Relationship Management). So we caught up with O’Brien recently to ask him a few questions.

So you’ve covered Negotiation and Supplier Relationship Management since you first wrote this book, but you’ve gone back now to Category Management – why did you feel it needed a new edition?

The publisher asked me to do it! The previous editions have been successful, and we felt the time was right for an update. Since the first edition came out in 2009, we’ve had a deep depression, we’ve come out the other side, and category management is as relevant as ever. We hear some folk saying “CatMan is dead” (editor’s noteOK, I might have suggested that at times, just to cause trouble … ) but I believe it is as relevant as ever. It connects how the supply chain can contribute to the business and is a key enabler to business success.

But I wanted to acknowledge that the emphasis has changed somewhat – it is less about delivering cost savings these days and more about getting the right supply base, innovation, competitive advantage … all of those aspects come into modern category management.

So what is new and different in this edition? Are there major revisions?

I have written some significant new material. The core category management process has not changed too much, but I have added to some parts of the book, such as the category segmentation coverage. We’ve focused more on the public sector, and how category management can be applied successfully there. There are some differences, given regulations and so on, but the fundamental principles apply. There is also more we’ve added on understanding what we call ”value levers”.

I like the 3S model – strategy, source, satisfy - has that developed since the first edition?

Yes, we’ve increased the focus on how procurement satisfies and is linked to the end customer of the organistion. In the first edition, we talked about breaking down the walls between sales / marketing and procurement, but now we really talk about how linking what the supply base can provide in the widest sense with what the ultimate customer of the organisation wants. What is also interesting is how the 3S model underpins category management, but also needs supplier relationship management to make it work.

So it sounds like this really is a much revised book from the first edition – anything else to look out for?

There’s more on supply and value chain networks, and the issues around corporate social responsibility – the need to understand the whole supply chain, though different tiers, which of course again links to SRM.

It sounds like you really see your three books as part of a single bigger picture – a bit like the Lord of the Rings perhaps?

Not sure about that! But I certainly saw – and see – those three areas as being connected and wanted to try and help procurement practitioners improve performance across that whole area.

We will be back with more from our interview with O’Brien soon, including his thoughts about critical success factors around making category management work. We will also have our independent review of the book – but for now, let’s just say that in our opinion it is already one of the half a dozen absolutely key standards in the procurement library. And at first sight, this new edition only strengthens its position. You can buy it here from Kogan Page.

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