Listen Now to David Atkinson’s Webinar – Supplier Relationship & Value Management

In any subject where you personally have some understanding, you can usually quickly assess whether someone else is a real expert and knows their subject inside out.

And I certainly get that feeling when David Atkinson is talking about SRM (supplier relationship management) – and I'm sure others will feel the same.

Last week, he was presenting the latest in the BravoSolution Real World Procurement webinar series. The topic was “Supplier Relationship and Value Management: The Five Programme Killers and How to Overcome Them”.  (You can still access the webinar here).

David opened up by explaining that his experience as a practitioner lay mainly in sectors like aerospace and automotive where there were high supplier switching costs. I hadn’t really thought about that as a driver but of course that particular factor makes SRM and managing supplier relationships generally even more important than for the average organisation.

But on the less positive side of SRM, he pointed out that hardly a day goes by without some bad behaviour in supply relationships hitting the press in some form.

So, we do SRM because supplier value is a key component in our success. And numbers matter, Atkinson says – programmes must deliver real benefits. But pre-estimating the outcomes of SRM is a challenge for organisations. For a start, what works with one supplier does not work with another. And generating benefits from SRM can be a bit of a slow-burn, so setting arbitrary targets at the beginning is unwise. Most successful programmes work on a more iterative basis.

Another issue here is that there is little consensus about what represents best practice in SRM. In addition, organisations also often fail to put appropriate resources into it. And simply saying “we have senior management support” will not be enough to make a programme work.  Atkinson suggests that it is essential to develop a coherent strategy and then a practical, repeatable method to deliver against that strategy.

As he said, “Too many SRM programmes run into a sense of disappointment and difficulty, with stakeholders quietly withdrawing their support and procurement returning to basic sourcing and negotiation”.

To succeed, build strategy in a coherent way with a focus on why and how. Systematically identify cause and effect. For example, don’t start with “staff training” programmes (even if Atkinson himself offers this service!) until you have clearly defined that method and strategy.

David then moved onto some tangible advice, and finished by taking some very good questions (and one from me…) His final note was thought provoking. The success of procurement generally, and in SRM programmes, is all about “making other people in our organisations more successful”. That is a pretty deep philosophical point actually for procurement people and functions, and we must return to it soon.

But in the meantime, this really was a very strong, interesting and content-full webinar, and you can still listen to it here.


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