All posts by Stephany Lapierre

Why Supplier Discovery Must Become a More Agile Process

In order for procurement to remain strategic, manually intensive processes, such as supplier discovery, need to become more agile and intuitive.

Supplier Discovery

Doesn’t it seem like procurement reaches a new strategic milestone every day? These are amazing times to work in this field. We’ve been pushing towards this point for so long! Now that we’re here, we need to make sure we keep up the momentum.

None of procurement’s less strategic work is going away anytime soon, so if we’re going to avoid being dragged back down, we need to look for opportunities to streamline our processes. Anything that takes procurement away from working with suppliers and stakeholders should be a prime target for change.

Streamlining Supplier Discovery

One of those processes – supplier discovery – is long overdue for a makeover. Given today’s time constraints and better places to invest effort, there is no reason for procurement to be limiting the potential of a sourcing project by web-surfing to find prospective suppliers.

As Chris Silva, former Senior Director of Sourcing & Procurement at Synageva BioPharma Corp., recently told us, “Initial due diligence varies significantly from hours to months, depending upon many factors including data availability on the supplier, the supplier’s availability and response, the availability/completeness of third party data, and the complexity and completeness of the requirements, to name a few.”

Not only is the process inefficient for the reasons Chris points out, there is not really a good way to know if you’re missing a prime supplier candidate. The Internet doesn’t usually reflect the perspectives and opinions of your colleagues, and despite how popular online reviews and feedback are for consumer purchases, they just haven’t caught on in the B2B world.

Teresa Fiore, Associate Director of Global Sourcing for Marketing and Sales at Boehringer Ingelheim USA Corporation, pointed out the need to synthesise multiple sources of information, saying that finding new suppliers is “a combination of our internal sourcing knowledge combined with our internal marketing clients’ knowledge.”

Pulling relevant information from these multiple sources without adding time to the process is the first challenge to be addressed when streamlining supplier discovery.

Supplier Discovery – The Real Story

In November, ProcureCon surveyed 40 procurement execs like Chris and Teresa to find out what they really think of supplier discovery. The results tell an interesting story about the role of knowledge management in procurement today:

  • 83 per cent of searches take one to six weeks (or more) to identify the right suppliers and contact information prior to running an RFP.
  • 78 per cent of respondents share supplier information with their internal partners in person, and 70 per cent share through email. Only 25 per cent said they use online portals.
  • 70 per cent of procurement and sourcing professionals report that the most credible source of supplier intelligence comes from their internal peers.
  • 62 per cent of the respondents indicated they have little satisfaction with the technology solutions they use to gather supplier information and manage category intelligence today.

Clearly, there are real challenges around finding suppliers and then managing the organisation’s knowledge about them. One to six weeks to identify qualified suppliers? That hardly meshes with procurement’s agile, responsive new brand.

If you can go to Procurious and search their members for skills and sharing activity, why shouldn’t the same be possible on the supplier side? It’s not as if the technology doesn’t exist. We just have to prioritise supplier discovery and knowledge management so that they get fixed – fast.

If you’re interested in learning more about the research, including quotes from follow up interviews done with industry leaders, click here to download and read the whitepaper: Improving Strategic Supplier Discovery Through Technology.

Stephany Lapierre is Founder and CEO at tealbook, intuitive platform that mutually benefits companies and their supply partners by improving access to instant and trusted supplier intelligence, discovery, and identification.

Big Ideas for Procurement – Identifying Suppliers

Identifying suppliers and gathering good information on them is critical to successful procurement. What if there was a better way to do it?

Identifying Suppliers

When I received an email from Procurious asking me to share my Big Idea, I was thrilled but wasn’t quite sure where to start. There are so many! Launching my own company, tealbook, is a big idea in itself.

Providing companies with their own trusted, collective supplier intelligence is changing the way procurement and sourcing access and share supplier information. That’s BIG! Spending time focusing on the front-end challenges that come with the cost of time spent identifying suppliers, is changing the paradigm, and accelerating the process all together.

So I tried to think about where we see the most pupils dilate when we talk about identifying suppliers and supplier information. Where do I see the most head nods from more progressive procurement thinkers? As a result, I chose to focus my BIG idea on two important questions:

1. What if we shifted the focus from reducing the number of suppliers to ensuring that teams have the right suppliers?

2. What would happen if procurement empowered their internal stakeholders by making supplier intelligence a two-way stream?

The above are paradigm shifts from procurement’s ‘olden days’. They support new, progressive procurement, and sourcing professionals who are focused on having positive top line impact in their organisation.

Focusing on the Best Suppliers

For many years, we have heard about the need to centralise and reduce the supplier base. I agree that several suppliers with similar products or services can be bundled. Healthy competition is good but there is also an opportunity to leverage economies of scale.

But when it comes to teams that require unique partners or innovative solutions, reducing the supplier base can have significant impact on productivity and meeting goals. Without an intuitive procurement process, internal stakeholders will tend to do their own due diligence, and either have limited involvement with, or completely avoid procurement, altogether.

They will find ways to engage suppliers even though the process is complex, inefficient, and time consuming because it is critical to their business. Providing a faster and better way to access and identify the right suppliers can be indispensable to these business functions.

Ensuring that these teams have access to the very best suppliers – the ones that can provide the most value – will enable these teams to achieve their goals without roadblocks (whether real or perceived) set by procurement.

In order to keep up with these internal stakeholders’ requirements, there is a need for procurement to turn to trusted sources of supplier intelligence, in order to speed up the process of identifying suppliers. If this can be accomplished, I believe that procurement will have the ability to increase their internal credibility as business partners, and keep up with their fast-paced internal teams. With increased speed and visibility, the number of suppliers won’t matter nearly as much as the ROI.

Increasing Two-Way Supplier Intelligence

I often ask procurement who in their company can access supplier information, and how experience is shared between procurement and internal stakeholders? The response is usually just a smile. For most, it means they simply don’t share – or at least they could do a much better job.

Meanwhile, in a recent ProcureCon survey, over 70 per cent of procurement professionals responded that the most trusted supplier recommendations come from internal peers and business partners.

Internal stakeholders have direct experience with many suppliers from their current and past companies. However, their supplier experience usually sits in their head, or in a pile of business cards stuffed in a drawer. Procurement has very little ability to capitalise on this wealth of intelligence outside of hallway conversation and email exchanges.

Worse, there is very little legacy, which inevitably forces procurement to go back to the well for each new supplier requirement. With new and smart technologies, there is a way to capture this incredible knowledge by allowing internal stakeholders to:

  • Share their supplier connections and experience internally.
  • Allow them to access company-wide supplier intel that can help them better understand supplier relationships and get more visibility into their available supplier base.

Building a Supplier Network

When I talk to procurement about making the tealbook app available to internal stakeholders, I often see an eye twitch. The thought of allowing internal stakeholders to build their own supplier network and add their own intelligence to their company’s supplier base is a thought provoking idea for many.

Of course, I am sensitive to the fact that not all procurement teams will be comfortable with this idea, and so tealbook can also be used just within procurement. But, my BIG idea and hope is that by starting to build their own tealbook and sharing valuable intelligence among their team, procurement will:

  • Significantly reduce the time spent searching for and identifying suppliers.
  • Spend less time on tactical initiatives and have the ability to be more strategic.
  • Support more initiatives and business requirements.
  • Bring immediate value to their internal stakeholders and build stronger internal partnerships.

By opening these lines of communication, procurement stands to gain invaluable insights and knowledge from a wider set of experiences, allow internal stakeholders to add rich intelligence on well known and new suppliers, engage at the point of need with their internal teams, and raise procurement/internal stakeholder collaboration to an entirely new level.

I don’t think my BIG ideas are unrealistic. I have reached the ‘10,000 hours’ of procurement discussions milestone and can safely say that procurement as a function is going through a transformation. Although savings is still an important metric, leadership teams are expecting more strategic, innovative solutions and process compliance.

With new user friendly and social media inspired technologies (that are easily implemented, configured and integrated) there will be big changes in how we build, and share, valuable intelligence within companies and across our industries.

What are your Big Ideas for the future of procurement? Share them with us before April 21st and we could be discussing them with our influencers.

If you’re interested in finding out more, visit www.bigideassummit.com, join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.

Is It All About The Money?

Money has been at the heart of business since the beginning. But as more start-up businesses take shape, we have to ask, “Is it all about the money?”.

Money

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Being at JP Morgan, the annual conference where the worlds of biotech and investment collide, gave me the opportunity to catch up and bump into many colleagues and friends. Everyone had a chock-a-block schedule, trying to squeeze in as many meetings as possible with current and potential partners, and money was a top conversation subject.

Of course money is needed to build and grow businesses, but does it define success? Being in San Francisco and talking to many people over the past week has made me think about purpose. All this talk about money made me wonder if it was really the driver. If it was, I am not sure success would be possible.

One could debate that money equals success or success equals money, but I really believe that it takes a lot more than the desire to make money to be successful.

What Drives Individuals?

For example, I caught up with a CEO that recently made an exceedingly large amount of money, but within just a few days of acquisition is already building another biotech company. I spoke with a VP of sales on his fifth successful startup who is working around the clock to grow yet another company’s revenue.

I met a successful physician that has been developing a product for the past 10 years, with a dream to see it approved and change the standard of care. I met with an investor with a very successful track record, diligently meeting with multiple prospects to identify his best new investments. Even without knowing each individual’s personal situation, I can safely say that the main driver is not money.

So what drives them?

I think it is passion. For some, it’s the rush that comes with seeing businesses grow. For others, it’s a desire to see their idea change the status quo. I can easily identify with that feeling.

I could have been satisfied with Matchbook, my successful and growing nine-year-old consulting business focused on providing procurement and sourcing support to fast-growing small biotech companies. I could have also chosen to be home with my three daughters. Although I have other options, I have chosen to work around the clock for the past 18 months to build tealbook.

Supporting Passion

What drives me to make so many compromises and remain so focused on building this business? It is passion for seeing tealbook come to life and become a market leader in providing supplier information. This passion is supported by many factors, and every crazy entrepreneur has his or her own list.

Here are a few of mine:

  • I believe in the idea: I strongly believe that tealbook can help clients significantly reduce time spent identifying the right suppliers and increasing cost efficiencies.
  • I want to solve the problem: I’ve seen firsthand the challenges of inefficient supplier information while supporting sourcing needs for large number of pharma and biotech companies. There is a solution!
  • I see the market opportunity: So many software companies have focused on developing Procure to Pay solutions and back end financial analytics. But compliance of the tools and user experience has not been done successfully. Technology is only as good as people using it and its data. User experience and compliance is at the top of our list when it comes to gathering and accessing supplier intelligence.
  • I want tealbook to be a market leader: We have developed smart and user friendly technology. I know we can give clients access to supplier information better than anyone else – we have talked to enough people to validate this statement both in the life science industry and beyond. We can own this position and easily become the most used front-end platform to significantly reduce the time spent identifying the right suppliers.
  • I made a commitment: I have made a commitment to myself, clients, suppliers, my team and the rest of the industry. Once I decided to launch tealbook, I made a promise to see it come to life, change the industry and make it a success.

One day, I hope to spend more time with my girls before they get too big. But, I can’t see myself stopping with tealbook. What drives me comes from inside and continues to grow with each interaction and success, small or large.

Although money certainly allows us to properly support our customers, grow our technology, generate more visibility, provide employee security and remain  attractive to potential investors or partners, I strongly believe that if we are truly passionate and motivated about growing a company, money will be an outcome.

You can’t put a price on the exhilaration of success!

Rethinking Procurement Metrics

Last year, I attended the ProcureCon Marketing event in London. The event was focused on procurement marketing and digital services and attended by procurement professionals from across industries.

ProcurementMetrics

Over the course of the event, I attended a number of sessions and it was interesting to hear that pain points in procurement are very consistent across industries. Much of the debate during one of the sessions focused on the story of PepsiCo eliminating their procurement marketing department to give marketers more flexibility and faster turnaround time.

I really don’t believe this will be a trend among corporations, but it has made me think about the importance of raising procurement and sourcing’s supplier knowledge, efficiency and internal partnership. Is procurement seen as a valuable partner or a roadblock?

Procurement Building Trust

The answer depends on the company. Factors such as senior leadership support, employee perception or experience with procurement and how successfully procurement has built internal relationships and value lend to valuable positioning for procurement and sourcing.  For some, it is a steep hill to climb.

What we heard at ProcureCon was that savings metrics are important but they need to be balanced with other important metrics that are more aligned with internal business partners’ goals. Focusing on helping them meet their objectives can go a long way in building trust, partnership and good reviews.

Enabling sourcing and procurement to be more efficient, proactive and knowledgeable is critical. Often under-resourced (we also heard that from all industries), innovative tools that elevate current workflow and processes are essential. Some organisations have built them in-house, but their people still struggle or spend too much time searching and gathering good market intelligence.

Giving procurement access to better and faster information is a must and will enable procurement to keep up with fast-moving functions such as media, marketing and digital. It was good news for our team and validated once again that tealbook fills a much needed gap and supports a new wave of strategic sourcing professionals that are looking ahead.

The Innovation Debate

The topic of innovation was also pretty hot. Some of the roundtable discussions I attended debated the meaning of innovation. Innovation doesn’t always have to come in the form of catalyst ideas. Small changes and innovative thinking can also add tremendous value to day–to- day process and relationship building.

When it comes to disruptive innovative ideas, I heard that companies are not always walking the talk. They want employees to be innovative, but ideas are not often implemented. The main roadblocks come from fear of failure, lack of budget or efforts/time involved championing the idea internally. In our group, we explored ways to overcome these barriers and enable employees and companies to foster innovative thinking. I liked the following ideas:

  1. Putting a budget aside yearly to champion two or three innovative ideas from procurement employees.
  2. Build a culture that allows failure, to foster innovative thinking without fear.
  3. Allow for one or two pilot programs per year to assess interest and adoption.
  4. Set metrics based on the outcome from the above.

I welcome your own ideas about how to enable innovation within your company. How would you like to be measured on innovation? What can be done differently to allow procurement to be forward thinkers and enablers while ensuring that internal business partners immediate needs are quickly addressed?

Stephany is the Founder of tealbook, an online company helping procurement and supply chain professionals gather comprehensive, credible and up-to-date supplier information in order to assist with due diligence processes. For more information, visit the tealbook website.