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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
“The bigger you are, the more likely you are to fail because of the change required in aggregate.” – Thomas Young, Founder and Managing Partner of RUMJog Enterprises
“This is real.” - Frank Casale, Founder of the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and the Outsourcing Institute
These webinar notes are from a May 28th event run by the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA), which was founded by the Outsourcing Institute’s Frank Casale. Casale was joined in the event by a panel of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) experts: Raheem Hasan (CMO, IRPA), Pat Geary (CMO, Blue Prism), and Thomas Young (Founder and Managing Partner, RUMJog Enterprises).
…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. (p. 11)
Global Supply Chain Ecosystems: Strategies for Competitive Advantage in a Complex World by Mark Millar provides a multi-dimensional look at supply chains. The ecosystem concept was originally used by the Financial Times to describe the increasingly complex nature of business in general. When it is applied to supply chain operations, it provides us with the idea that chains are more spherical than linear and non-consecutive.
One of the things I realized early in my reading of the book is that Millar is writing from a much different perspective than the authors we am used to hearing from. His biography lists him as a speaker, presenter, and board member. His view of supply chains in general, and their potential value contribution to the modern competitive enterprise, is more elevated.