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

So, what do you call YOURSELF?

This week’s Wiki-Wednesday topic is supply management, and you can click here to connect to an excerpt from the article on that topic or to link back to the full page.

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Optimization in the Real World

This week’s Wiki-Wednesday topic is Mathematic Optimization, and that article is the source of all quoted text below. We are covering it because of the CombineNet/Procurement Leaders/A.P. Moller – Maersk event on taking strategic sourcing to the “next level”. For many companies, whether they have implemented a strategic sourcing solution or not, optimization functionality may take a little longer to make use of, both because it is a more complex part of the software but also because the categories that can truly make use of optimization are not low-hanging fruit.

You can read an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on mathematical optimization here, but I am going to take this opportunity to break it down and use examples from procurement/sourcing.  The article starts with a straightforward definition of optimization as “the selection of a best element from some set of available alternatives”.

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Instant Customer Service Feedback for Procurement

If you’ve spent any time on our site this week, you’ll see that we are having a customer-service centric week. It all started when I attended last week’s Next Level Purchasing Association webinar where Peter Nero of Denali Group shared his thoughts on what is next for procurement. The answer was better customer service.

As a follow up, we spoke with The Sales Guy about the kinds of internal customer service he thinks procurement can provide, and this morning we read the Wikipedia article on customer service. We’re not looking to turn procurement into a transactional call center, but some of the traditional wisdom about how to keep your customers happy applies to the relationship between us and our internal stakeholders.

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Market Analysis Process Example: Gypsum

Gypsum was the first category I was asked to do research for – truthfully, it was very early in my career and I think my manager was trying to productively keep me busy. But the process was a good learning experience and I think I added real value to the team. For lack of a reason to pick any other product or service, I’ll start with gypsum here too.

Gypsum is used to make plaster and plasterboard – basically drywall. So if you are sourcing in the construction category, and your General Contractor is not responsible for materials costs/purchases, you might find yourself bidding this out.

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Force Majeure, Hardship, Impossibility, Hell or High Water, Act of God or all of the above?

Last week I attended an excellent supply chain risk management webinar sponsored by the Next Level Purchasing Association and featuring a global supply chain manager from a Fortune 500 company. The event followed the story of this particular corporate supply chain through the 2010 tsunami in Japan (you can click here for my notes).

One of the lessons this particular company learned was about finding the right place for addressing the human side of a very complicated business issue. I was impressed with the efforts they had made, particularly for such a large company. A thought started to form in my mind: what contract clauses were put aside in order to have an appropriate response to the devastation while not creating serious business continuity issues?

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Professional Responsibility in Procurement

As you’ll read more about on Friday, this week’s BMP event pick is the Ethics of Legal Process Outsourcing presented by Sourcing Interests Group. As a tie in, today’s Wiki-Wednesday topic is “Professional Responsibility” – mostly because the phrase “competent representation” doesn’t exist as a Wikipedia page. Without stealing all my own thunder for later in the week, the event was very interesting, and it gave me an opportunity to consider some parallels between the outsourcing of legal services and procurement’s contribution to an organization.

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The Pareto Principle at Play in Procurement

This week's Wiki-Wednesday topic is the Pareto Principle - also known as the 80/20 rule. Many of us use it all of the time, but do we really understand the implications of the distribution principle? I'm sure I hadn't fully thought about it until reading up for this weeks' posting. Other things I did not know about the primciple are that it was incorrectly attributed to early 20th century economist Vilfredo Pareto because he observed that 20 percent of the landowners in Italy owned 80% of the land. (He also noted that 20% of the pea plants in his garden produced 80% of the peas...)

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