Proxima, Catalytics and On-Demand Procurement Services

Proxima, a leading procurement outsourcing provider, has been subtly changing their proposition in recent months. Having been to all intent a “pure” outsourcing services firm, they have been talking about a more nuanced approach, using their concept of “Catalytics®” as the heart of their new ideas. Consulting, Managed Services and On-Demand now form the three elements of the services the firm is offering.

Managed Services is really not too far away from their core and well established outsourcing proposition, but the emphasis these days is on potential managing elements of the overall procurement activity for clients, rather than looking to win entire end-to-end outsourcing contracts. That reflects the fact that those contracts seem to be pretty rare beasts these days.

Consulting is self-explanatory really and again it reflects perhaps the fact that CPOs and other leaders are looking for a wider range of services these days from solution providers. Proxima started its life some twenty years ago as a consulting firm, so this isn’t new to the firm. For example, Proxima can demonstrate considerable experience and capability in cost reduction and opportunity analysis type projects.

“On-demand” is the most novel of the offerings. “Imagine a procurement service that you could turn on or off, when it suits you” is the strap line here. It is “powered by Catalytics® (and) is a fully flexible event-based procurement service that puts you in control of when and where the service is delivered”.

That raises another question - what exactly is Catalytics®? Well, some of the thinking behind it comes from a major research project the firm has undertaken with Oxford University, looking at the strategic drivers for procurement and linking business success with how organisations engage with their suppliers. “Catalytics® is a refreshing approach to orchestrating the complex network of external assets that fuel your business success”, they say. It is founded on five pillars: Strategy at the core, and Culture, Mastery, Enablers and Structure around that.

We asked Jonathan Cooper-Bagnall of the firm to explain further. “Catalytics® really forms the description of how we deliver,” he says. There are five ‘white papers’ available to download from the Proxima website and they sum up “the totality of our approach”. That covers analytics, risk, process management but the core is this idea that “organisations need to look on suppliers as an economic asset, and manage that as you would a physical asset”.

We also talked about the new “on-demand” offering. How does it differ from “managed services”?

“The client CPO gets access to surge capacity, people and services on-demand, but it is designed for clients who do have some structure internally themselves; if not, we would suggest the managed services offering”. The on-demand service is “event-based, but we don’t need to negotiate the cost every time. We have an innovative commercial model that helps define costs in advance”.

As most procurement functions these days are very tightly run, without much spare capacity, we can see that being an interesting option for some. But going back to Catalytics®; there is more good thinking here, but is the idea substantive or really more of a “this is what we do” label for marketing purposes?

We’re not sure. But the senior team at Proxima without a doubt think about procurement more than most, and they are one of the few solution providers that has contributed to the profession in recent years from an intellectual point of view (such as with their corporate virtualization report), and we respect them for that. The new papers are also well worth reading,  and indeed, we may well return to some of the material here at a later date. And the firm remains one that certainly should be on short-lists for clients looking for specialist procurement consulting, managed or “on-demand” services.

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