Odesma Offers a New Take on Procurement Services and Outsourcing

So, you might be wondering, whatever happened to Ironman aficionado (see picture) Ed Cross? He was the MD of Xchanging’s Procurement Services business for some years before stepping down last summer, when Chirag Shah took over as we reported here.

The answer is now clear. Along with Steve Trainor, another experienced and respected procurement professional (ex Xchanging and Diageo, amongst others), they have launched Odesma, a new services business with an interesting proposition. But before we get into that, what about the name – Odesma? That was our first question when we spoke to Cross. “It’s just a name that wasn’t in use and was fairly memorable we thought.”

But be careful; there is a 17-year-old Dutch model called Odesma! Luckily, her internet presence is all very – how shall we put it – acceptable, but you might need to explain to your boss / partner why you have been googling “Odesma!”

Back to the proposition. Cross believes that organisations will increasingly need external help to manage procurement, whether that is on a project basis, or support on certain categories. But in many cases, that won’t necessarily be “forever” -type outsourcing; it may be for shorter periods. He and Trainor also believe – quite rightly – that there is considerable expertise available in the interim market. Many experienced category managers for instance find that working as interims is interesting and fulfilling, and can also enable them to make a better living than staying in one firm.

So Odesma is bringing these ideas together, with an offering that looks to provide a range of services to clients through consulting to managed services and outsourcing. The services will be delivered by a pool of tried and tested interims, but supported by Odesma’s standard process, tools and technology.

And in terms of that infrastructure, as we might call it, two partnerships have already been announced. Market Dojo will provide sourcing tools for Odesma’s use, and there is a “new partnership with leading data analytics solution provider AnyData Solutions. The agreement will give Odesma, its customers and network the opportunity to utilise a best-of-breed, easy-to-use Business Intelligence and Data Analytics solution to deliver strategic and tactical spend visibility and insights through dashboards, reports, and data mining.” We haven’t come across AnyData previously to be honest, so we will take a look at their offering at some stage as well.

Back to the Odesma model, and the potential advantages and issues are both pretty clear. Cross believes that the cost structure for this sort of delivery should be more economic than the large outsourcing firms, with their greater fixed overheads. That cost effectiveness can be passed on to clients, whilst the interim model clearly provides potential flexibility to clients and Odesma.  Cross and Trainor themselves are also very capable and experienced people, which also bodes well.

On the (potential) negative side, they will have to balance the inherent independent stance of many interims with the desire to offer a branded service that adds value via the Odesma connection. So clients need to see they are getting more than “just” the competent interims. And of course good interims are busy people; getting access to the right people when the firm does win work may be a challenge.

As we’ve said before, the market for procurement solutions, ranging through software to consulting and outsourcing is getting more interesting by the day, with more blurring of boundaries and different offerings in the market. Odesma offers another option, and we will follow their progress with interest through 2015.

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