All posts by Vivek Bharti

Why Contracts Are Key to Executing Your Sourcing Category Strategy

The implementation of a category strategy is seen as best practice in procurement. But contracts themselves hold the key to success.

For procurement organisations, “category management” is considered a best practice for sourcing. Simply put, category management is the process by which companies segment all the goods and services they need to procure into discrete categories that reflect the specific common characteristics of the products they’re buying.

For example, the procurement department at an automobile manufacturer will likely be responsible for sourcing everything from steering wheels to cleaning services. While in both cases the company needs to make prudent decisions about its spend, what goes into to choosing vendors for those goods and services are obviously very different.

Some goods are highly commoditised and therefore cost will be the determining factor. Other goods may have stringent performance requirements attached to them. These will be evaluated based on the quality of the vendors bidding for business. Some goods are business critical. Others, less so.

A category management strategy for steering wheels may look something like this:

  • The company’s steering wheel vendors should be equally dispersed between the North American, APAC and EMEA regions;
  • No one vendor should supply more than 40 per cent of all steering wheels;
  • The total spend on steering wheels can’t exceed a pre-determined amount.

This strategy means that the supply of steering wheels is more resilient to disruptions like natural disasters (since they are coming from various geographies) and not exposed to undue damage if a single vendor fails (since no one vendor dominates the supply). And, of course, it provides predictability in how much will be spent procuring the product.

Making Sure the Category Strategy Is Followed

But designing the category strategy is just the first step of the process. The greater challenge is carrying it out. The history of large enterprises trying to execute category strategy-driven procurement shows that while they are sometimes able to apply the category rules at the time of sourcing, it becomes a struggle to monitor adherence during the operations phase of a contract.

For example, contracts may have been awarded assuming a certain mix of supply sources (with differing costs and quality parameters) to deliver on certain quarterly cost goals, but issuance of purchase orders in a different proportion at the execution stage will invalidate those assumptions and cause the category strategy to fail.

To improve compliance with a category strategy, leading enterprises are taking a new approach. Putting contracts at the centre of the process.

Using contracts to drive category management compliance is enabled by the emergence of digital contracts and contract management software. By managing contracts on an enterprise contract management platform, companies can leverage contract data to execute effective contract strategies—and design superior strategies to begin with.

How It Works

Let’s go back to the steering wheel example and see how enterprise contract management can optimise the process.

First, the procurement organisation develops the category strategy for steering wheels. The development of a category strategy is a consultative process and depends on data to draw insights and validate assumptions. Much of this data exists in past contracts: supplier performance on existing contracts, spend on different sub-categories and geographies, and other data points. That information, when available on a contract management platform, gives rise to a superior strategy.

Next, the company put out requests for bids from vendors. Contract requests and bid lists aligned with the adopted strategy are launched from within the contract management system. This ensures that the vendor shortlisting and price discovery process conforms to the category strategy.

Once purchase orders begin to be issued, business rules in the contract management platform ensure the strategy is carried out. If a buyer tries to execute a contract that goes against strategy – for example, with a vendor whose geography has already reached its limit in the strategy – the contract will be blocked or routed for special approval.

Finally, the contract management software monitors in real time vendor performance against the contract. This is done both through data tracked within the platform itself and through integrations with other enterprise systems. This way category managers can not only make sure contracts comply with the strategy, but that performance complies with the contract.

Contracts Are the Foundation

Since contracts are the foundation of buyer-supplier relationships, an enterprise contract management platform can support all phases of a category strategy:

  • Insights to develop the strategy;
  • Tools to execute the strategy;
  • Rules to enforce the strategy; and
  • Integrations to monitor the strategy.

Icertis is focused on how digital contracts and cloud-based enterprise contract management software can improve business performance, including in procurement. To learn why Gartner has named Icertis a “Cool Vendor in Sourcing and Procurement” and why “the clear leader” in buy-side contract management, contact us today.

Want to get access to more great insight on contract management, A.I. in procurement and all things procurement software? Icertis are one of the main sponsors for the Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019, and will be delivering one of the keynotes on the day. There’s still time to register as a digital delegate – find out more and sign up today here!

5 Big Procurement Challenges Addressed by Enterprise Contract Management Software

This article was originally published on the Icertis blog.

Procurement is a complex part of global business that carries serious commercial and regulatory risk. These risks are especially pronounced when a company does not have an effective way to centrally manage its contracts.

In a recent survey conducted by ProcureCon, leading procurement officials were asked about contract-related challenges they’ve faced that caused revenue leakage, increased cost or financial penalties. Here were the results:

A critical component to tackling each of these issues is enterprise contract management software, which sees contracts as live documents enshrining all risks and obligations incumbent upon an organization.

Indeed, good risk management begins with good contract management. With enterprise contract management, you can identify and manage risk throughout the contract lifecycle with proactive insights. A configurable risk model helps track risks across different categories, such as financial, contractual, performance and third party.

Let’s look at how each of the above challenges is addressed through contract management software.

Challenge: Higher operations costs

Finding: 43 per cent of respondents said higher operations costs have hurt their procurement organisation.  

Because contracts are the foundational element of modern commerce, they govern every procurement action and transaction a business undertakes. With the power of a modern contract management system with an ability to seamlessly integrate with procurement systems in place, an enterprise can gain unprecedented control over spend.

Through full visibility into all their commercial relationships, contract management software ensures that cash flow is complying with corporate plans, and allows executives to continually monitor money moving in and out of the business at all levels of the supply chain.

Challenge: Slow contract creation and approval

Finding: 46 per cent of respondents cited slow contract creation and approval as a challenge.

With enterprise contract management software, users can accelerate and optimize the contract authoring process. For example, users can self-service contracts with pre-approved clause libraries, eliminating the need for legal to get involved at every level of the authoring process but still control contract language.

Configurable notifications alert relevant stakeholders for revisions, redlines, and approvals, ensuring nothing gets missed. And robust, highly configurable rules increase flexibility while driving quicker approvals and execution.

Challenge: Unclaimed entitlements/lost or untapped revenue

Finding: More than half of respondents cited unclaimed entitlements or loss of untapped revenue as a challenge.

Best-of-breed contract management software draws on artificial intelligence (AI) tools that index and “interpret” every entitlement in each contract across the enterprise, allowing users to achieve the full potential of negotiated contracts through better enforcement of commercial terms.

The software captures the terms of products and services, prices, discounts, rebates and incentives in a structured form after interpreting the entitlements. You can then integrate the data with enterprise systems and help enforce terms for better savings and revenue performance.

You can also avoid missed entitlements or revenue potential. For example, sourcing organizations can automatically check purchase orders against agreed upon contract language to detect incorrect billings issues with regard to slabbed discounts or other innovative payout models.

Challenge: Missed obligations

Finding: 55 per cent of respondents said missed obligations have been a challenge.

Contract management software gives unprecedented insight into these contractual commitments, ensuring nothing gets missed. The same indexing and reporting capabilities used to surface entitlements also capture a business’s obligations to third parties, preventing leakage caused by lost business or penalties.

Challenge: Regulatory enforcement actions

Finding: This emerged as the most common challenge for procurement leaders, with nearly 3 in 4 saying they’re concerned with regulatory enforcement due to noncompliance.

It’s no wonder this was the number one concern, given the serious financial penalties and lasting brand and reputational implications of regulatory violations.

A robust library of clauses and templates goes a long way to reducing ad-hoc, or maverick contracts. Readily accessible templates, combined with a rules-driven workflow engine, helps support compliance throughout every stage of the contract management lifecycle.

Contract management software can cross-check country- or region-specific rules with relevant contracts. Compliance, down to the smallest supply subcontract, can be continually monitored through integrations with external software. Contract management software can even take a preventative role in compliance, via innovative contract creation tools.

Sophisticated contract management software can identify such regulatory enforcement and compliance obligations not just from their own contracting policy and authoring rules but also from customer specific contracts and cascade them to buy-side contracts used for fulfilling commitments. This makes the whole supply chain subject to internal regulatory enforcement and compliance actions.

To learn more about how a modern CLM solution can improve procurement at all levels of the supply chain, download this report from ProcureCon.

Vivek Bharti is general manager of product management at Icertis

Accelerating Procurement With Contract-Centric Sourcing

Today’s procurement organisations are being asked to move faster than ever to source the materials needed by their companies. How can contract-centric sourcing help?

By Alexyz3d  / Shutterstock

Today’s procurement organisations are being asked to move faster than ever to source the materials needed by their companies.

It’s a difficult position to be in. Under the current sourcing paradigm, the multi-step process of securing the vendor is time-consuming, and even then can expose a company to risk and leakage.

But the good news is that there is another way. In this blog, I will introduce readers to what we call “contract-centric sourcing,” a new paradigm for sourcing organisations that can save millions in leakage and accelerate the buying process.

The current paradigm

The current paradigm looks something like this: first, the buyer issues an RFx, and then evaluates vendors who respond on two criteria: technical and commercial capabilities. The vendor’s technical capabilities relate to whether they will be able to truly fulfill the buyer’s needs. Commercial capabilities relate to whether the vendor’s price for its products or materials fit into the buyer’s profit models.

Choosing a vendor is a business-critical decision, as the wrong vendor can disrupt the entire supply chain, so sourcing professionals want to exercise reasonable caution when making their choice, slowing down the process.

Contract negotiations slow sourcing

Even after a Letter of Intent (LOI) is issued by a buyer, the actual contract still needs to be negotiated. At this point other departments will get involved, including legal and finance. Legal, for example, may recognise that the jurisdiction the vendor operates in requires extra anti-child-labor documentation, and insert a clause requiring that documentation.

Since it is a contract, these clauses will have to be negotiated with the vendor, who may respond by changing the commercial terms of the contract. For example, the vendor could come back and say that the extra documentation will force them to charge more for their product. This back and forth can dramatically slow or even derail the sourcing process.

Non-optimised contracts

After all this time-consuming effort to choose a vendor and then execute a contract, the contracts often return less-than-ideal results. McKinsey and Company estimates that about 3.5 per cent of spend is leaked in the source-to-settle business process. More than half of that leakage is due to noncompliance either with government regulation or internal company standards, both of which come down to a disconnected contract management process.

Using contracts to transform your sourcing process

While this way of doing business has long been accepted as the norm, the paradigm is becoming a major liability as the pace of commerce accelerates. Here at Icertis, we are focused on using digital contracts and AI-infused contract management software to transform companies’ commercial foundation. This includes putting contracts at the center of sourcing.

Contract-centric sourcing is a new paradigm that allows procurement professionals to both accelerate their buying processes while also reducing leakage.

Contracts: a third pillar of vendor evaluation 

Here’s how it works. Contract-centric sourcing introduces contracts at the very beginning of the sourcing process and makes contract compliance a third pillar by which vendors are evaluated, next to technical and commercial capabilities.

Before an RFx is even issued, buyers evaluate past contract data to map out a category strategy that will deliver the most long-term benefits to the company. This helps the buyer craft the right RFx for their business needs.

Then, as part of the RFx, the buyer presents prospective vendors, via a digital contract management platform, with all the contract language they would like the vendor to agree to. The vendor redlines the contract based on its own needs and requirements. Once all vendor bids are in, buyers are able to evaluate how much contract negotiation would be required before choosing a preferred vendor and issuing an LOI. With the help of AI, the buyers can compare vendor redlines and determine which redlines represent acceptable changes and which are red flags.

(Note: A vendor redlining a contract does not disqualify them. It simply surfaces all redlines before a vendor is selected, so that those disagreements don’t rear their head unexpectedly later in the buying process. It’s all about visibility.)

Capturing Negotiations 

Since this process is administered on a single contract management platform, all discussion between the buyer and the vendor about contract language is captured in a single place (as opposed to several lawyers’ email inboxes) for later reference both during the lifecycle of the contract and after.

Sourcing organisations that link contract management and sourcing have a huge wealth of data about a vendor’s past negotiation strategy and behavior, as well as how well they perform against contract language. This is powerful data that hasn’t been fully leveraged in the current paradigm.

The Approach of Leading Enterprises 

Leading enterprises are already adopting contract-centric sourcing. Daimler is using the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform to completely rethink how it manages 500,000 suppliers. Daimler officials determined contracts were the natural place to start an overhaul of the procurement system, since it is the contract that underpins the entire buyer-supplier relationship.

“The deployment [of ICM] optimises the source-to-contract process by ensuring best-in-class supplier evaluation, selection, contracting, and collaboration,” said Dr. Stephen Stathel, head of Daimler’s New Procurement System.

The business world is changing. It’s no longer enough for procurement organisations to balance risk with accelerating business; they need to find ways to reduce risk and accelerate the pace of business.

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