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One of the interesting things about consistently reading and hearing content from quality sources is that you start to notice trends. It is amazing how often the same topics arise at the same time in different places. We use this blog as a way to help you stay on top of the major themes in procurement and supply chain management.

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Recent blog posts
Webinar Notes: The Dawn of Risk Management: Harnessing the Power of Watson

These notes are from a June 23, 2015 webinar hosted by Sourcing Industry Group and presented by Louis Ferretti, a Project Executive at IBM. While only SIG members can view the recording on demand, you can catch Ferretti at their Global Executive Summit in October.

I knew I wanted to attend this event as soon as I heard Watson, the artificial intelligence computer that competed against two of the best ever Jeopardy! contestants in 2011 and won, would be featured. If that kind of AI could be applied to supply chain risk management, just think of what might be possible! In this case, IBM presented from the buy side perspective, although many companies are familiar with them on the sell side. Watson was applied in the management of IBM’s own spend.

Procurement Perspectives Podcast: Procurement Career Development - Is MBA vs. Certification a False Choice?

This week our audio comes from a Financial Times conversation with Ian Clark, Dean of the University of Edinburgh Business School.

The core question behind their conversation is whether MBA programs provide professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to have competitive careers in today’s business environment. The full video is available on YouTube.

You can listen to the podcast on the PI Window on Business Blog Talk Radio channel.


Webinar Recommendations for August 10 - 14, 2015: The Internet of Things and Talent Mapping

After a drought last week, the procurement and supply chain calendar of events returns to normal this week with six webinars. Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to their registration pages.

Posted by on in Events
Webinar Notes: The Digital Disconnect

These notes are from an event that originally ran on July 28th. If you are interested in viewing the entire webinar on demand, it is available on the Proxima Group’s site here. The panelists were Mark Simester, Marketing Director at Warburtons, Charles Ping, Chief Executive at Fuel, and John Butcher, Marketing Specialist at Proxima and the moderator was Jonathan Cooper-Bagnall, Proxima’s Commercial Director.

While the focus of this event was how procurement can play a role in better managing digital marketing spend, the insights shared during the panel discussion provided plenty of insight about how procurement can improve our dealings with marketing in general. Since marketing is often one of the last hold out functions, we can use all the advice we can get.

Book Review: Category Management in Purchasing (3rd Edition)

Just over 18 months ago I reviewed the second edition of Category Management in Purchasing by Jonathan O’Brien. (You can read my original review here). When I recently learned there was to be a third edition, I was unsure what I would be able to say in a new review that would add to my earlier observations.

I found it interesting to read O’Brien’s commentary, not only on the progression of this title, but on how he sees it fitting in with his other work. I don’t personally know of anyone who has written more substantial procurement books than O’Brien, and knowing that he sees a subset of them as being connected is an interesting idea. Category Management in Purchasing, along with SRM and Negotiation for Purchasing are seen by the author as his ‘trilogy’. Knowing that changes how I would approach any of the books in the group.

Guest Post on the Ivalua Blog: The Annual Budget Process as a Contact Sport

If your company closes its books with the calendar year, there is a good chance the budget review process is quickly approaching. With it come the games departments play – and they are not child’s play by any means. The annual Budget Games are at minimum a contact sport, and at their most extreme a blood sport.

The rules are timeless and well known:

  • The largest budget carries with it the most influence in the organization. We are expensive, so therefore we are valuable.
  • Requests for increases indicate big plans and are intended to communicate vision, while a group that can do the same or more with less lacks ambition and imagination.
  • Perhaps the most dangerous rule for procurement is: if you don’t spend it, you lose it. This unfortunately equates realized savings with a loss of influence, a frustrating indication of how our efforts are often perceived.

Procurement’s role in the process varies greatly from company to company. As cutthroat as the Games can be, there is no such thing as a bystander and each role has its own advantages and liabilities.


Tagged in: Budget process ivalua
Webinar notes: Taking Charge of Your Career

These event notes are based on a webinar presented by Supply Chain Insights on June 25, 2015. The webinar can be viewed on demand without any registration requirements here. I advocate seeing it for a look into some of Supply Chain Insights’ research on trends in supply chain talent development as well as to hear the stories shared by the panelists.

Along with moderator (Supply Chain Insights founder and CEO) Lora Cecere, the event panelists were Andrew Byer, P&G’s Associate Director of Supply Network, and Fran O’Sullivan, IBM’s General Manager of Systems, Strategy, and Operations.

A Deep Dive into the Cost Drivers of a Direct Mail Program – Part 1

While some may believe that direct mail programs have gone out of style similar to print advertising, industry trends indicate quite the opposite. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Statistical Fact Book, the spend associated with direct mail has been increasing over the past few years from approximately $44.3B in 2012 to $44.8B in 2013, and a decent leap to $46.0B in 2014 – and for good reason. The average response rate for a campaign targeting recurring customers was 3.4 percent for direct mail, compared to 0.12 percent with email. In addition, the average cost per lead for a campaign targeting new customers was $51.40 for direct mail; whereas email was $55.24, meaning that the cost to generate a qualified sales lead or order was about $4 less with direct mail than email.

Book Review: Strategic Sourcing and Category Management: Lessons Learned at IKEA

Strategic Sourcing and Category Management: Lessons Learned at IKEA by Magnus Carlsson (KoganPage, August 2015) is not a case study, although I didn’t need the note from the author in the introduction to know that. The author may have spent 25 years at IKEA, working in strategic sourcing, but this is less a story of one company and more the learnings gained by one professional over 2.5 decades in a competitive environment.

Like any other book I review or event I attend, my focus in reading this book was to cull out the important ideas: what are the few take aways that really stand out as unique? There are quite a few in this book, any of which will improve the maturity and results of your procurement organization. I think this book is fantastic – full of great new ideas and ways to implement them.

Webinar Recommendations for July 27 - 31, 2015: Digital marketing spend, Selecting a spend analysis solution, and Early engagement in sourcing projects

With eight events in three days, webinar hosts must see this as a week that most people are back in the office from early July vacations. Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to their registration pages.

Guest Post on Design News: Your Supplier is Not Your Friend

Companies should never confuse a supply relationship with friendship. In fact, part of the role of any good provider is to challenge its clients in a productive way. Many times, companies outsource in order to transfer the majority of risk to suppliers.

In June, Design News hosted a webcast on product lifecycle management presented by team members at Sparton, a firm that handles the both design and manufacturing efforts for low/medium-volume, high-complexity components. Their presentation, “Why Product Lifecycle Management Is an Emerging Trend,” included all of the cost, timing, and supply chain implications of PLM.  

During the webcast, Sparton presenters spoke about the importance of building relationships with key suppliers. That emphasis makes sense because, in Sparton’s role as an outsourcing provider to manufacturing companies, the company sees advantages realized with those that they are able to partner with versus those that hold them at arm’s length or push back on project recommendations.

Good suppliers will bring their interests into alignment with those of their clients and make sure that the risks they are being asked to bear do not come back to bite their clients in the end. They understand that there are costs associated with each risk and, in order to service their customers efficiently, suppliers need to help them root out the causes of those risks.


Keeping Procurement Moving at the Speed of Modern Communications

Many thanks to the Market Dojo team for their cooperation and collaboration on this post - proof that they have attention spans longer than goldfish. 


Everywhere you look, there is evidence that the pace of the world is picking up. We share our status instantly in 140 characters or less. Meetings are routinely scheduled for 30 minutes rather than an hour. We check email, make phone calls, catch up on the news, etc. while walking from one place to another so we are fully informed when we arrive. Saying, “Oh, I hadn’t seen that yet...” is likely to be received with skeptical looks and rolled eyes.


As an active part of this constantly updating, clipped environment, procurement professionals need to be aware of the general pace of interaction between people and organizations. We have to be both purposeful and accurate if we are going to hold people’s attention long enough to get from them what we need.

How much should a procurement process vary by company or category?

Last week I shared six B2B buying processes being compared by Wake Forest University in North Carolina. You can learn more about their research here.

I looked at the processes, and can see where each of them would have a place in the right scenario. You would expect processes to be different by company or industry, but do you ever vary your process by category? Feel free to share you comments below or join the conversation on Twitter: @BuyersMeetPoint.

I think (E) Robinson, Faris, and Wind most closely resembles the standard strategic sourcing process that most organizations follow. A typical process usually 6-8 steps, starting with internal and historical data collection and leading to either supplier performance management or a hand-off to the internal stakeholders who will manage the relationship for the duration of the contract.

That being said, the other models match different (and maybe less typical but no less common in the grand scheme of things) procurement situations...

Guest Post on the Social Contracting Blog: Contract Management: Yours, Mine, and Ours

In his recent book Global Supply Chain Ecosystems, Mark Millar wrote, "…today's supply chains encompass complex webs of interdependencies, frequently spanning the globe, designed and deployed to optimize critical attributes – such as speed, agility, and resilience – that drive competitive advantage."

His point plays out on a daily basis through the contract management strategies and practices in many organizations. Because our supply chains are no longer linear or consecutive, we may be buying from and selling to the same company at the same time. This puts our organization in the role of being simultaneously both buyer and supplier.

While there is no problem with this, it does raise complexities for the procurement and sales teams if one or the other is unaware of something going on. I can honestly say I have seen this happen firsthand.


Webinar Recommendations for July 20 - 24, 2015: Best cost through right cost, P2P security loops, and preventing P2P from becoming an unhappiness sandwich

Dragging through the dog days of summer? Find refreshment in this week’s event recommendations – three webinars that take an interesting look at the challenges procurement faces all year round. Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to their registration pages.

Guest Post on the Ivalua Blog: Can Technology Cure Procurement’s Budget Blues?

Budgets are concrete things, based in fixed numbers. But it’s amazing how much time is spent discussing budgets subjectively. Much like the spend procurement brings under management, finalizing a budget can be managed with the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the time should be dedicated to discussing 20 percent of the spend. The trick is to discuss the right 20 percent!

Procurement technology can play a bigger role in budgeting than it does today. When spend categorization aligns with projects and line items in a budget, the whole process becomes more fact-based. Past budgets can be compared to actual spending for an improved understanding of where forecasting was the most (or the least) accurate. Projects that never took place will be easier to spot, as will overages by cost center or supply requirement.

Predictable categories of spend shouldn’t be the main focus. Assuming the need was properly anticipated, only minimal changes (if any) are likely to be required from one year to the next. Instead, more benefits come when discussion centers on investment opportunities with upside, or those that carry specific risks.


Which sequence best represents your buying process?

Professors Michelle Steward and Jim Narus at Wake Forest University in North Carolina are learning about the B2B buying process. In particular, they are interested in the buying process that you find fits your current job. Please select one of the six models (below) that best fits your buying process. Feel free to note any differences or customized aspects if what you see does not match your job exactly. The collective findings from the study will be used for academic journal articles that are aimed at explaining how the buying process has changed over time. All participants will be sent a copy of the final paper. No names (personal nor company) will be used in the publication, only general findings will be reported.

Procurement as a ‘Worldly’ Profession: What are your news habits?

In May I covered the first chapter of Xchanging’s 2015 Global Procurement Study. (You can read my notes here). The primary take aways were that capacity is more of a constraint than capabilities, KPIs are very diverse, and that practitioners may be getting the wrong idea about the field from media coverage that steers them one way when they need to take another.

The new chapter: External Threats Plaguing Procurement (available for download here after a brief registration) looks into global risk factors. The report couldn’t have been more timely, given how much coverage the Greek banking crisis has been getting.

Webinar Recommendations for July 13 – 17, 2015: Spend as a Service, Attacking Capital Wasters, and the Global Organization

There are three events taking place this week, and they are all worth attending. Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to their registration pages.

Blog Pick: Procurement ROI vs Relevance and Influence

Back in April, Greg Anderson, President of Directworks, wrote a post for their blog that contained a classic good news / bad news scenario: Making the business case for sourcing automation is more about executive relevance than ROI.

First, the good news: because of the cost reductions associated with cloud delivery models, delivering an amazing ROI shortly after implementing a sourcing solution is pretty much a slam dunk. This is especially true if you put direct as well as indirect spend through the solution.

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