Lance Younger, State of Flux – our interview, and the SRM value proposition

We reported here on Lance Younger's move to run a new technology division for State of Flux, publishers of the annual Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) report and experts in that advisory field. State of Flux have had a software product for some time, but Younger's appointment will increase the focus on it and look to build a linked but fairly independent business. We caught up with him recently for a chat.

So, given your background, and as a man of many parts,  you could have gone for a top job in procurement, finance, consulting, technology... why Supplier Relationship Management?

Well, I was pretty clear I didn't want to be an investment banker! But when I first started work at Nissan, 25 years ago, we had an established Supplier Performance Management programme – run via Excel, but ahead of its time nonetheless. Right from that first experience, the area has fascinated me , and it is still not well explored by many organisations. So I decided that was the general field I wanted to explore.

And why State of Flux?

I thought about building a tool myself, and I looked at existing social media and collaboration platforms, and whether I might adapt existing non-procurement tools. But I have known Alan (Alan Day, State of Flux founder) for some years, like the business, and just thought there was an opportunity here. State of Flux is well known and respected, but fewer people know about the software product - so my job is to change that.

What have you been doing in the 4 months or so since you started?

A lot of meeting and talking to clients and potential clients. But there's product development as well – we've launched our 'Innovation Module', developed with a particular financial services client. The aim is to support procurement getting involved earlier in the product lifecycle, solving business problems by working with markets and suppliers.

Are you getting a good reception?

Generally yes - we have around 450 firms who complete our annual survey and are therefore interested to some extent in SRM. But there can be a lag in their adoption of technology of course. We also have potential clients with home-grown solutions, so quite a few of those are now looking to move to us and take advantage of something that has a broader capability.

Where firms are using a single, broad procurement software suite, is there a problem persuading them to look at something more specialist?

I did wonder if this would be an issue, but we're not finding it the problem I thought we might. So we're certainly selling to people who have large ERP systems for instance but see our product as meeting a specific need.

Are there any real barriers then, or is everything rosy?

There are still value proposition issues. Even if organisations 'get it' in terms of SRM, converting that into a hard value proposition and a compelling business case needs careful thought. People are aware of the issues and opportunities through SRM but that has to be converted to action.

Finally, is your focus UK or broader?

It's been mainly UK to date, but towards end of this year, we will start looking to do more in other countries.

Thanks to Lance Younger – that value proposition issue is key, and we'll be looking to feature more on that in terms of SsRM over coming months.

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