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"The Point" is written by BMP Editor Kelly Barner as well as a diverse group of guest contributors.

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.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE POST

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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.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON SELECTICA'S SOCIAL CONTRACTING BLOG

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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.”

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Guest Post on Design News: Strategic Sourcing Processes are Designed to Ensure Good Decision Making

While people may talk about the procurement process, the procurement discipline actually encompasses a number of different processes. They include spend analysis, supplier relationship management, and contract management, just to name a few. If you have ever worked with procurement, there is a good chance that it was during the strategic sourcing process. Strategic sourcing touches many other stakeholder groups in an organization, such as engineering, as well as supply partners -- both current and prospective.

For engineers, if you are asked to be part of a strategic sourcing project team, you will probably learn early on that there is a standard, defined project management approach just like any other discipline would have, including product design and development. The process that guides this approach may include six steps or more, but it clearly divides the project effort into phases such as the identification of a need through the contract award as well as supplier performance management. Starting at a very high level, the process gradually narrows down the potential outcomes as more is learned and the company better understands the requirements that will ultimately guide its final supplier and sourcing decision.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON DESIGN NEWS, CLICK HERE

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Perception vs Reality: The Real Root Cause of Procurement’s Challenges (UPDATED)

It’s been a good couple of weeks for research in procurement. Late last week, Proxima Group released their findings around how consumers perceive companies that find themselves entangled in supplier-related controversies. Then on Tuesday, Xchanging shared the first results from research they did with input from over 800 procurement decision-makers spread evently across the U.S., U.K., and mainland Europe.

While the complete research will be released one chapter at a time (starting with the New Role of Procurement), the high level findings suggest that the sources of procurement’s challenges aren’t what we previously thought.

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New Research Reveals Consumer Expectations for Supplier Management

Late last week, Proxima Group revealed the initial findings of research they commissioned into how consumers – American consumers specifically, feel about companies that find themselves on the wrong end of a supplier scandal.

According to the release, “The study of typical American consumers, commissioned by sourcing and procurement specialist Proxima, reveals that 74% of respondents stated they would be unlikely to buy products or services from a company involved in controversial supplier practices. Furthermore, nearly 66% would stop giving such a company their business even if that company was the most convenient and cheapest option.”

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Time to Speak up and Be Heard, Procurement!

In my PI Window on Business Podcast this week (listen here), I shared audio of Mark Hager, an author and a professor at Arizona State University, talking about why people join professional associations and how that is changing.

The interview was loosely based on a paper he wrote on the same subject (you can read it here) and which digs deeper into the idea of private (individual) versus public (collective) motivations for joining an association.

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New YouTube Video: A Positive Approach to Supply Chain Risk

This week at ISM, my Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals co-author Jeanette Jones presented a session on supply market intelligence specifically for risk. I couldn’t be in Phoenix this week, but I wanted to contribute to the session, so I committed to making a 10-minute intro movie. After all, I do a podcast every week - and I have a Mac - so how hard could a video be?

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Recent Comments
Guest — Anya @ Market Dojo
Hi Kelly As the saying goes "Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance." This is definitely the key for companies effectively deal... Read More
Thursday, 07 May 2015 06:37
Guest — Jeanette Jones
Hi Kelly, Thank you for your hard work and time on creating this video, which I predict will become a classic in the discipline. ... Read More
Thursday, 07 May 2015 13:30
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Deem Shopping is Easy on the Eyes

If you are at ISM2015 in Phoenix this week, you may have seen Deem unveil their new Shopping application Monday morning. I got a sneak peek at it, and my primary take-away was that Deem Shopping is a highly visual experience. You can learn more on Deem's site

Shopping, which is primarily intended for use by the buying (rather than sourcing) colleagues in your organization, was designed to incorporate some of the key user-friendliness aspects of B2C shopping sites, including machine learning focused on tracking the frequency of use of templates and items. It also involves something I didn’t initially recognize the importance of – the space between graphics. Apparently, the amount of white space you incorporate into a display is connected to how user friendly an application is. And we all know what user friendliness leads to: ADOPTION.

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What’s good for the goose… Why NIGP’s ownership is not just a public sector issue

For the last couple of weeks, Jon Hansen has been covering the unfolding story involving Periscope Holdings/BidSync and Perfect Commerce. You can access the entire string of posts here, but I’ll give you the Readers’ Digest version now…

In early 2015, the State of Missouri, awarded a contract for an eProcurement provider. Perfect Commerce and Periscope Holdings/BidSync were both in the running, but Perfect Commerce was selected. On March 11, Perfect Commerce received a letter from NIGP saying that their sublicense agreement for NIGP (the public sector categorization system) was being withdrawn. The problem here is that Periscope Holdings owns NIGP. In other words, the categorization structure is owned by one solution provider in the market.

For those of us in the private sector, this may not seem terribly interesting, and it might seem even less relevant. But it is an important story for all procurement professionals in all sectors to pay attention to. And here is why:

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Guest — Jon Hansen
Great perspective Kelly from a private sector point of view. One of the first thoughts that came to my mind was why, if the gover... Read More
Friday, 24 April 2015 09:39
Guest — Kelly Barner
AT&T was broken up for having too much control in the telecom space - both in the fact that they were the only service provider an... Read More
Friday, 24 April 2015 10:25
Guest — Jon Hansen
All valid points Kelly. But to be clear, I am not talking about breaking-up Periscope, what I am talking about in principle is th... Read More
Friday, 24 April 2015 11:02
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Surviving Natural Selection in the Procurement ‘Wild’

On Tuesday, we ran a guest post from keelvar’s founder and CEO Alan Holland. In the post, he challenges many of the traditional notions procurement practitioners have about the solutions they use, what to expect from those solutions, and how to select which solutions to implement.

It is natural to follow the developments at the larger solutions providers in the procurement space. Acquisitions, especially notable ones, always result in an interesting news cycle before dying back down to become part of the new status quo. But there have been equally interesting changes and developments taking place at smaller solution providers. We owe it to ourselves to be as aware of those changes as we are of the big shifts.

In my view, there are several niche companies deserving of attention, and they represent not only a new or alternative take on what we currently have available to us, but also a new way of looking at the solutions that support procurement. As long as there are visionary entrepreneurs who are willing to apply themselves to the procurement space, we should encourage them and do everything we can to support them in their efforts – because in the end, we are the ones who benefit.

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Guest — Alun Rafique
Great article Kelly and many thanks for the mention. We certainly try to differentiate ourselves from the larger more traditional ... Read More
Thursday, 09 April 2015 09:34
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What negotiation skills does procurement need TODAY?

Listen daaahlings, let me tell you a little something about negotiating. Talking about money is so… GAUCHE. No no no, that won’t do at all. Today, enlightened procurement professionals collaborate. We innovate. We partner. We strategize. I do for you… you do for me… we have a relationship. No ugliness, no shoving. After all, there is no need to stoop to talking about dollars and cents. We have people for that. Right? Yes, well, have your people call my people: we’ll do lunch.

Oh please!

We can’t say that procurement no longer needs strong negotiating skills just because many spend categories are now being managed in a more relational way. Making that assertion demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about what it means to negotiate. Negotiation is a phase, not an action. There are a myriad of skills required to be an effective negotiator, and they are different for each set of circumstances.

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Guest — Phil in Boston
I would imagine underneath each commercial agreement is "math". Both buyer and seller seeking commercial opportunity of some sort ... Read More
Tuesday, 31 March 2015 14:26
Guest — Laurie
It is important to know how to negotiate properly. You provided a great list of skills that are needed. Thanks for sharing!
Tuesday, 16 February 2016 21:02
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Keelvar’s Ability to Handle Complexity Based on Clarity and Simplicity of Purpose

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Alan Holland, CEO of Keelvar. Based in Ireland, this relatively small company reminds me of the way CombineNet used to fit into the overall solution space – before they were acquired by SciQuest that is. CombineNet was never intended to be the solution that addressed 80-90% of categories, but rather to be high performance enough to handle the requirements and scale of the largest or most complex 10-20%. But I think, to be fair to both companies, that is where the comparison must end.

Holland and I spoke about the Keelvar solution, not in terms of the number of line items it can handle, or the combined data points it can analyze as a result of the umpteen suppliers, items, and bid fields of a large event. We mostly talked about how it might change the way procurement thinks about optimization. After all, there are many more opportunities than just freight or location-based retail that would benefit.

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Manufacturing & Millennial Barometer Reading: High and Rising

Right at the end of 2014, I received a copy of report based on ThomasNet’s Industry Market Barometer (IMB) survey. As you might expect, given ThomasNet’s long-standing relationship with the manufacturing community, a large focus of the report was the recent trend towards reshoring. In some cases it is for the sake of moving final production closer to the source of demand, in others to shorten supply chains, trading cheap labor for reliability and agility.

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Guest — charlie23
Millennials are leaving indelible footprints on the marketplace. They are eclipsing Baby Boomers in numbers and importance. As a d... Read More
Thursday, 19 March 2015 00:47
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Who is not being honest in your supply chain?

There is a famous children’s story about Pinocchio. Whenever he would lie, his nose would grow longer.

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Looking in the mirror for organizational self-assessment

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways……Take a look at yourself and make a change”.

 

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Implementation of new suppliers

As a child at the dinner table, we were expected to try at least a bite of something. Like anyone, we often did not want to try something new. It was not comfortable and it was easier to skip it or default to what we knew we liked. There is an old commercial for Life cereal where Mikey tries it and the famous tag line – Try it, You'll Like It.

 

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More Strategies for Supply Chain Resilience

A few years ago we were hosting a holiday gathering for 7 family members. As the holiday got closer, more and more of the family had their plans change. The four days before the holiday we were expecting 7 and then it became 30 by the day before the event. Needless to say, we had to be flexible and resilient in order to make it work.

 

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What do you do just in case?

 We have a small closet at home in a spare bedroom that acts as our overflow pantry. It is not anywhere near as organized as the picture above. In some ways it is our ‘just in case’ inventory. Usually it is stocked with staples that were on sale so we got two. Some of it however is ‘just in case’ we want to bake a cake or cookies or had an urge for some salsa and chips. This past Halloween we bought candy for 200 and only had 30 visitors. Oops!! I am sure it will get consumed somehow!

 

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Building Stronger Supply Chain Relationships

The saying goes that you know who your friends are when the going gets tough. Those are the ones that show up when there is work to be done, visit when someone is sick, or to just be around for support. That is a test of a strong relationship.

 

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