Who are your suppliers? A surprisingly difficult question…

We reported a few weeks back that Colin Maund, one of the founders of Achilles, was taking on the role of Executive Chairman, with Adrian Chamberlain coming in as CEO.  We heard that this was partly so Maund could take it a bit easier. So my recent exchange of emails with him to try and fix a meeting did not appear to support this -  “sorry Peter, two weeks in South America, then Spain, then a management meeting... how about early October”?

Doesn’t exactly sound like “taking it easy”!

So Jason Busch and I caught up with him on the phone the other day for a quick update.  Maund is a real enthusiast for procurement, a genuine procurement “anorak” (and it takes one to know one). For instance, he has a great interest in the technicalities of public sector procurement, despite the fact that Achilles core business barely does any work with public sector clients.

But we spoke mainly about supplier information management – and he continues to be surprised how many organisations just don’t have a clue who is supplying them. “Even some very large companies just don’t have any grip on their supply base” is his view.

Some of the issues are age-old as well. For large organisations, working out that the 23 versions of IBM on the accounts payable system (IBM LTD, IBM UK, IBM (Holdings), not to mention subsidiary companies..) are all the same supplier is still an issue.

And even when organisations use database type products to help manage the data, Maund has scepticism about some.  “You’re relying on the accuracy of the data – rubbish in, rubbish out”, he points out.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the Achilles business is based on having offices in 23 different countries around the world, he believes “there’s no substitute sometimes for getting on the phone in the local language and asking a few questions. Do you have subsidiaries? Have you changed your company name? And that’s even before we get onto looking at accreditation, health and safety and all the other value-added supplier information people want to know”.

The desire for better supplier information – to improve efficiency, manage risk and improve supplier relationships and performance – is one of the “mega-trends” in our profession that Spend Matters perceives for this year and some time to come – and we can only see this focus increasing.

There are a number of different factors driving this - everything from product traceability in a manufacturing environment, corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues everywhere, and a need to protect against bribery and corruption. All of these require robust, accurate and up to date information about your suppliers – so the future looks bright for Achilles and other firms who have real capability and experience in this area.

I guess that’s why Maund is so busy...

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First Voice

  1. Flying Finn:

    Good to see our best (and only) joke make it onto Spend Matters. It’s almost as good as winning the Eurovision! Whilst I fully support the ongoing drive for improved supplier information to inform procurement and strategic relationship decisions, I can’t help but wonder whether the Public Sector could learn something from how it’s suppliers obtain good customer intelligence to inform who and how they shape supply?

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