Aligned and Flexible Category Management with Comensura and Serco

Last week I participated in a workshop with Comensura based around the recent paper we published titled “Understanding Culture and Stakeholders - Why Category Management Needs to be Aligned and Flexible”

After my session, during which I ran through the main points in the paper, we heard from Baljit Sidhu, a senior category manager from business services firm Serco. I haven’t met her before, but she turned out to be impressive professionally and very good company too. She was previously at Royal Mail, so we had a good gossip too about various mutual acquaintances!

She talked about how she has managed the contingent labour category in that firm, getting buy-in for a structured category management approach in a firm that has had its challenges and still has a pretty devolved approach with many strong stakeholders, meaning that procurement has to work very hard to build buy-in.

Interestingly, she said there wasn’t (in the hiring manager's eyes anyway) a “burning platform” – the executives who used contingent labour were generally pretty happy with how the process worked. So, the stakeholder management was quite challenging, and had to be handled carefully. The benefits had to be explained, and objections overcome – but the results seem to be impressive and we’ll come back to her session in more detail at some point.

Jon Milton from Comensura then avoided the temptation to go into sales mode, but talked about four steps category managers in the contingent labour area can take to help drive change. Comensura for instance offers a service to carry out an analysis of spend and agency margin to help identify the business case metrics.

In the discussion session, we were lucky to have Mark Webb with us. Mark runs Future Purchasing as regular readers will know, the advisory and training firm that knows as much as anyone about CatMan theory and practice. He contributed his ideas, and we had an interesting discussion about the importance of stakeholder engagement and the rigour needed to develop robust and meaningful category strategies.

Thanks again to the delegates who contributed to the session, to Baljit and to Comensura of course for their support - and remember you can download the paper now, free on registration, via this link.

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