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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
3 Things that Keep Global Procurement Execs Up at Night

If there was any doubt that managing the supply chain is also an exercise in managing risk, just ask someone who works in procurement – particularly the world of direct procurement. These professionals patrol the front lines of the manufacturer-supplier relationship, overseeing their company’s purchasing activity, executing purchase orders, and working with multiple stakeholders to ensure the right materials make it to the right place at an optimal cost.

It would seem procurement leaders thrive on a steady diet of pressure and caffeine. But even the most experienced professionals have their limits. Several experts weighed in on the topic this spring at the University of Tennessee Supply Chain Forum.

Telecom Contracts: Know What You’re Paying For

Over the past few years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been cracking down on unethical billing practices at major telecom carriers like Verizon and AT&T. This past October, Verizon paid as much as $64.2M in cash and phone credits to settle a class-action lawsuit for over-charging subscribers of their Family Plan[i].

The case against Verizon accused the telecommunications giant of charging Family Plan subscribers for “in-network” minutes that were supposed to be free, or charging customers with additional phones on the plan $0.45 per minute going over the allotted minute allowance (instead of the $0.25 that was charged to the primary phone on the plan).

The FTC also filed suit against AT&T for throttling data for unlimited data plan subscribers when they used over a specific amount of data during a billing cycle. They explained that AT&T failed to adequately inform customers who had signed up for the unlimited data plan that their speeds would be slowed if they used more than a certain amount of data. Even worse, “When customers canceled their contracts after being throttled, AT&T charged those customers early termination fees, which typically amount to hundreds of dollars,” the FTC said in a statement.[ii]

Telecom contracts aren’t designed to be easy to read and understand. As a result, customers frequently end up paying more than they should for their carrier’s services. While the cases of Verizon and AT&T are the result of dishonest billing practices, customers often fall victim to subpar contract terms and conditions, including overpaying or even paying for services they don’t actually need.

Webinar Recommendations for July 6 - 10, 2015: Townhall on Risk, the End of SAP’s eSoD, and Contract Playbooks

As we start the first full week of July, events are continuing – albeit at a slower summer pace. The upside of that is that anyone presenting a webinar knows the topic has to be really compelling to get people to attend. 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 Social Contracting Blog: Is there “Tough Love” Embedded in Your Budget Process?

It is the worst question Procurement ever faces. C'mon – you know what question I'm talking about. That horrible, terrible question from Finance for which there is no good answer…

If Procurement worked so hard and saved all of this money, WHERE IS IT?


The problem is that the space between negotiated and realized savings is full of pitfalls: unexpected requirements, inaccurate demand, and budget holders who see an opportunity to unofficially reallocate savings elsewhere. Even when additional value is created, many times by the end of the year the savings have all but evaporated.

This is a problem that has to be handled by the top level of the organization. If the strategic vision of the leadership team requires that all uncommitted funds be returned to a central account, they have to be willing to support Procurement by issuing a mandate. Declaring that all funds saved by Procurement are to be removed from line of business budgets is a tough love decision. But all that really matters is whether or not it is the right decision for the company as a whole.


Procurement Perspectives Podcast: Hear from the 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars

This week our audio comes from the ThomasNet and ISM 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Rising Stars program. They hosted a panel-style interview and discussion with some of the 2014 award recipients at this year’s ISM conference. The full hour-long conversation is available on Sound Cloud if you want to hear it.

The podcast starts with each of the participating recipients and program mentors introducing themselves and then moves on to a press-conference style question and answer session with some of the most recognizable names in procurement media – including the Hackett Group, Manufacturing Talk Radio, and Spend Matters.

The excerpt I selected to share starts with a question from Supply Chain Management Review’s Editorial Director, Bob Trebilcock, as he asks how these rising stars ended up in supply chain.

You can listen to the podcast on the PI Window on Business Blog Talk Radio channel or on our Sound Cloud page.

Webinar Recommendations for June 29 – July 3, 2015: Outsourcing Health Checks, Risk Management, and eInvoicing

This week is shortened for many companies in the US because of the July 4th holiday, but there is plenty going on in the first part of the week. I happen to think the three events taking place on Tuesday are the picks of the week. Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to their registration pages.

Webinar Notes: Collaborative Procurement: Using Relationships to Drive Influence and Results

These webinar notes are based on a June 17th event hosted by Puridiom and presented by Andrew Bartolini from Ardent Partners. If you are interested in viewing the full event on demand, you can do so here after a quick registration.

Based on Ardent Partners’ CPO Rising 2015 Report (which you can read more about here) this event focused in on the CPO’s agenda around collaboration, which is arguably one of the highest priorities for everyone in procurement. Even more interesting are the observations we can make when you look at the relationship between collaboration and influence.

Guest Post on Design News: Understanding the Differences between Strategic Sourcing Goals, Objectives, and Requirements

Early in the course of a product design and manufacturing organization’s strategic sourcing project it is common to have a kickoff meeting that includes the engineering team. It is the opportunity for the sourcing project team to lay the groundwork for the rest of the effort. One of the most critical discussions that should be a part of the kickoff is around the goals, objectives, and requirements for the project.

This is an effort to be taken seriously by both procurement, which should facilitate the discussion, and engineering, which provides critical inputs. Unlike a mission statement, which is often dismissed as being an overly soft (and largely meaningless) feel-good expression of early-stage enthusiasm, goals, objectives, and requirements are tools that will be used actively in the sourcing project once it reaches the decision-making stage.

When I worked as a consultant at a procurement solutions provider, I held workshops on kickoffs for the procurement teams I coached, as part of their project management skills development. There are two tricky lessons to be learned about goals, objectives, and requirements: how to formulate them and how to tell in which category an idea belongs.


eBook Review: Introduction to Robotic Process Automation – A Primer

On June 5th, I covered a webinar on Robotic Process Automation (see my notes here). At the time, they announced the planned release of an eBook on the topic. It is now available for free as a download after joining the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA) - which is also free - or on Amazon for $9.99.

Unless you are a hard-core Kindle user, I’d recommend the free download, but that’s just me. The eBook is 35 very readable PDF pages that make the case for RPA equally to audiences in IT, procurement, and service providers. The best thing about the eBook is the prevalence of discipline agnostic case studies. Although the basic RPA concept is not too complex, its application may seem a little abstract. The frequent examples in the eBook make the idea easy to embrace.

Procurement Perspectives Podcast: IACCM's Tim Cummins on Contracts and Collaboration

This week’s guest audio is brand new – it was only posted to YouTube last week. In it, Tim Cummins, CEO of IACCM, addresses the NEC user group at a recent seminar. NEC is a provider of contracts used to bring effective project management and procurement to construction and public works projects.

The topic of Cummins’ presentation was ‘Collaboration: Why it matters, when it matters and what it means’ which is interesting because – as he observed at the beginning of the presentation – most people likely think collaboration happens despite contracts, not because of them.

He sets the stage by talking about how things have changed. We function in a world with more uncertainty, and a greater level of adaptability is required in response. There is more regulation, market volatility, and disruptive technology, and in combination these forces have contributed to the erosion of trust between people, companies, and government agencies.

You can listen to the podcast on the PI Window on Business Blog Talk Radio channel or on our Sound Cloud page.


Webinar Recommendations for June 22-26, 2015: 21st Century Spend Analysis, Supply Chain Careers, and the Procurement Talent Gap

This week, there are 12 events taking place – 8 of which are on Thursday. That sort of line up makes it really hard to pick just a few to recommend (not that it stopped me…) Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to the registration pages.

Book Review: Inventory Management: Advanced Methods for Managing Inventory within Business Systems

It is very important for businesses to be able to react to changes in the marketplace within their supply chains. This is possible where: there is a desire to make changes; there are clear market signals; there is good information available within the supply chain; and when optimum amounts of inventory are held. (p. 22)

Inventory Management: Advanced Methods for Managing Inventory within Business Systems by Dr. Geoff Relph and Catherine Milner (Kogan Page, July 2015) is accurately described by the authors in their introduction as achieving a balance between the philosophical and the practical. In fact, despite the complexity or maturity of their approach (appropriate given the ‘Advanced Methods’ designation in the title) all of the Excel-based tools for modeling inventory requirements based on the book are available for download. It doesn’t get more practical than that.

Trans Fats Replacements: A Moment on the Lips, a Lifetime in the Sourcing Pipeline

On Tuesday, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that by 2018 all partially hydrogenated oils (the primary source of trans fats in the American diet) must be phased out of the food supply chain. The many costs associated with this change will give procurement an opportunity to have a positive impact at a time of transition. When you add up the costs of experimenting with replacement oils and reprinting/redesigning packaging and labels, Roger Clemens, a pharmacology professor at USC, estimates it could cost companies as much as $200K per product.[1]

Book Review: Broken Windows Management in Business

One of the most powerful things you can do with broken windows management is to empower your employees to fix their own issues whenever possible.” (p. 35)

In his fifth business book (seventh overall) Dr. Tom DePaoli takes broken windows theory and combines it with liberal doses of lean methodology and his own no-nonsense approach to process improvement. While this is not a long book, just 70 pages long, it is a working book. This is emphasized by the pages at the back that are specifically designated for “Doodles, Notes, and Ideas.”


Guest Post on the Ivalua Blog: Looking at Procurement's Assets with Fresh Eyes

Sometimes the best ideas are right in front of us. This can be evident when you look at a situation with fresh eyes, much like what the United States Postal Service recently did.

The USPS is a large organization facing unprecedented changes that are challenging long-held assumptions about how to operate efficiently and effectively. Ideas to improve their declining financial situation were mostly variations on past strategies: closing branches, stopping Saturdaydelivery or raising prices. Not surprisingly, those approaches did little to improve the situation.

But the tide may be about to change. On May 21, the Inspector General of the USPS issued a report with some bold new ideas such as exploring ways to better leverage an under-appreciated asset: their national network of localized offices. Rather than pursue tired old approaches, they are exploring ways to increase the financial services they offer and create new revenue streams without making significant additional investments into infrastructure or personnel.


Webinar Recommendations for June 15-19, 2015: Responsible Sourcing, Building Collaborative Influence, and a Buying Manifesto

This week is busy, but it is really only a warm up for next week, which contains a practical webinar grudge match on Thursday. This week's topics and speakers are varied, and I've picked what I think are the best three below. Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to the registration pages.

Book Review: Supply Chain Management & Logistics in Construction

Done well, the use of supply chain companies brings technical superiority and innovation to the project, and their specialist knowledge and experience brings enhanced efficiency, quality and consistency of delivery. However, there can also be increased risk if the strengths and weaknesses of the third party companies are not fully understood and managed.” (p. 78)

Supply Chain Management & Logistics in Construction: Delivering Tomorrow’s Built Environment (Kogan Page 2015) contains the collective knowledge of seventeen highly qualified contributors representing a number of roles within the industry – including its suppliers. Greger Lungesjö, listed as the book’s author, serves a double role as contributor and editor.

It is important to clarify that logistics has a different meaning in the construction industry than it does in others. Logistics is the term used to describe the movement of materials, people, and supporting services around a project site – not getting the materials, equipment, and people to the building site. You might even think of logistics as the ‘indirect spend’ of a construction site/project. It is absolutely critical, but it does not become part of the final structure. Fear not however, supply chain is still supply chain – an area of investment from which the industry is just starting to realize the potential for benefit.

Guest Post on the Social Contracting Blog: Whole Foods Markets Shifts Their Cost Model as They Target Millennial Shoppers

In March, I wrote a post for this blog about the Whole Foods grocery chain in which I asked the question: "How Much Can Procurement Change on Their Own?" I looked at how Whole Foods has defied the low margins commonly seen in grocery retail by employing an operational strategy that merges brand reputation, consumer identity, and high-quality products in justification of higher prices. Their procurement team is part of a top to bottom approach to creating the right value proposition for their customers.

Although they have been successful to this point, Whole Foods has found it difficult to expand their market share beyond their existing customer base. Whole Foods has never professed to be the supermarket for all shoppers, or even for most shoppers. They choose their markets carefully, making sure that the demographics in each area fit their business model. They do, however, need to find a way to build loyalty in other shopper segments that can later be channeled into the primary chain.


Insights from the Cutting Room Floor: The Source One Podcast Series and the Unknown Unknown

This week we’ve been sharing a series of podcasts based on a recent conversation I had with Source One’s Diego de la Garza. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.

The funny thing about podcasts, or any content based on creative interaction, is that there is always more good content than you get to use. Sometimes the most interesting detail or insight ends up buried deep in a less-consequential part of the dialogue. I had exactly that experience with Diego. There was a lot of back and forth in preparation for the podcast. In one revision of the notes we were all working from, a single statement jumped out at me:

“Although it may seem obvious, it is not until recently that many companies realized that their supplier base can propel them to the next level (strategically speaking) or be their demise. The reality is that more frequently than not, suppliers are given a lot of power by their customers, and unfortunately many times companies’ simply don’t know it, or they don’t understand how much they rely on some suppliers, who may or may not be looking after their best interests.”

Webinar Recommendations for June 8-12, 2015: Why Do We Work in Procurement and How Can We Continue to Be Qualified?

This week there are five webinars scheduled, but I chose to recommend these two because there is a hint of risk to them. Not the kind of risk that we are conditioned to assessing and mitigating (what a nice change of pace), but the kind of risk that I wish more people in our industry would take. Click on the title of each event below to view the full description in our events calendar and connect to the registration pages.

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