Category Archives: Supplier Relationship Management

5 Cost Levers To Pull Right Now With Your Outsourced Services

At times of enormous disruption to global supply chains, it’s easy for procurement only to think about direct spend. But it’s just as critical to ensure value is delivered in outsourced service contracts.


“Today’s health and economic crisis, as a result of coronavirus, means that typical approaches to cost management will need careful consideration as business’ key focus has to be staying in business” Lorna Brown, Former CPO, Global Financial Services

We live in an ever-changing world, where what had been predicted as a prosperous year for a business could turn into a fight for survival thanks to something that it has no control over. As the world pulls together to combat COVID-19, businesses face the challenge of reduced revenue forcing them to tighten their belts and search for further savings.

In times of crisis, most organisations will fall into the same pattern and focus their cost reduction effort on direct spend categories. After all, your first thought in a crisis or risk management situation is more likely to be ensuring the stability of your production supply chain, rather than identifying the cost savings you can secure from the organisations delivering your HR or IT Support services.

But why is this the case? Organisations may consider their direct categories as more business critical, or believe that they can release greater value from them with closer management of their global supply chain.  For an increasing number of organisations, however, outsourced services form the core of their business. And by focusing on the right cost levers, review of these service contracts  could deliver just as much in terms of savings as direct spend.

Pulling on the Cost Levers

Structuring a contract for the procurement of services is can appear to be a different beast to one for the procurement of goods. Many procurement professionals will go their entire careers without creating a single RFQ, tender or contract for an outsourced service.

The reality is, however, that there isn’t a great deal of difference beyond what is delivered by the supplier. Procurement still needs to know that suppliers are able to meet an organisation’s requirements. A robust contract needs to be put in place to ensure that services are delivered efficiently and effectively.

And when it comes to cost levers, there’s no need to start with a blank sheet of paper when proven procurement strategies will still fit the bill. Everest Group, a consulting and research company with an established history in the outsourced services space, has conducted extensive research on this topic. Amy Fong, Vice President in Everest Group’s strategic outsourcing and vendor management practice, is clear that this research has highlighted five key cost levers for procurement to use right away when it comes to their outsourced services: “we see a lot of common themes where buyers can do a better job.”

1. Pay the Right Price

Former CPO in Global Financial Services, Lorna Brown, believes that organisations need to be “a bit curious and engage with the supplier to understand how they are delivering the services.” This will allow for a greater understanding of how the service is built up, but also what is driving the costs, and consequently the price in the market.

Services in high demand, but with a lower supply where there are fewer people capable of providing a quality service will cost organisations a premium.  In the  IT services market, this premium has been charged for everything from basic digital skills all the way up to large-scale, highly complex data analytics over the years. The availability of labour with these skills is the key cost driver.  With each ebb in the requirement for these skills, rates for outsourced services will come down.

Being clear about how the cost of labour has influenced your price is a great way to pull this particular cost lever.

2. Understanding Total Cost

Procurement’s consideration of cost needs to go beyond the ticket price that is paid. There are other factors to take into account such as quality of support and adherence to Service Level Agreements (SLAs). It’s all about Total Cost of Ownership.

Got a great price for your basic service agreement? Great! But did you discuss and agree a price for ongoing support? Or agree how many people are assigned to your contract? Or how much you are paying for secure data storage? It’s critical to understand the whole picture beyond the basic price.

If you are just looking to drive savings on the bottom line price by whittling down your supplier’s margin, they will look to move or hide costs elsewhere. No matter how good a deal you think you have at the outset, if you aren’t tracking TCO you’re probably losing any savings you may have initially achieved and leaving this cost lever un-pulled.

3. Find the Right Deal Structure

One of the key decisions an organisation will have to make regarding its services is which model or structure their deal is going to take. In outsourcing of services, a fully Managed Service can be very attractive to an organisation with day-to-day operation provided by an external specialist, with the business free to focus time and effort elsewhere.  

However, organisations using a Managed Service have to accept the fact that they will hand over a level of control, which in turn raises their risk.  Procurement still needs to understand what’s happening throughout the outsourced service provider’s supply chain.

Organisations may also choose to use on-demand outsourcing, where they pay for support based on the number of times it is used, or a ‘Break/Fix’ service where it pays for just the work that is done. There is no right or wrong answer as this will differ from organisation to organisation. What’s important is picking the right option.

4. Innovation

When it comes to cost savings, innovation is a key part of the puzzle that cannot be missed. And when it comes to pulling the innovation cost lever for outsourcing services, the focus should be on “Big I” Innovation (i.e. digital transformation), rather than “Little i” innovation (i.e. continuous improvement activities).

As with the other cost levers we have shown, innovation that is being looked at in other areas of the business can just as easily be applied to outsourcing too. Consider all the current industry favourites such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI and Machine Learning – these can have an impact on costs.

However, despite the fact that there is increasing importance placed on innovation in outsourcing, many organisations are still missing the mark. There’s a lot that can be achieved from deploying this cost lever in the right way at the right time.

5. Financial Engineering

Cost lever number 5 takes the modernisation and digital transformation found in the innovation space one step further: when it comes to the concept of innovation not just about the business scoping out activities for different areas of its categories, but more about how it modernises the entire solution.

It’s important to use financial engineering to have the impact on profit that is required as the initial outlay or investment across the board will be significantly higher than a service that doesn’t include these types of outcomes.  Organisations may choose to look at alternative sources of finance, assess potential Joint Ventures or Managed Services with flexible margins (in line with traditional Financial Engineering). Using this cost lever is about getting creative and perhaps walking the path less travelled for success.

Pull the Levers with Care

The 5 cost levers for outsourced services represent an individual and collective strategy for cost savings in the outsourced services space.  Pulling one alone would be effective, and using all of them in some way could deliver also deliver great results.

To find out more about these cost levers, and to access expert advice on how to use them, register for the Everest Group sponsored webinar 5 cost levers to pull right now with your outsourced services, to be broadcast on Thursday May 7th 2020 at 2:30pm GMT. To find out all the information you need, including how to sign up, visit the Procurious website or click here.

Supplier Motivation, A Key Component of Supplier Management

Motivate your suppliers rather than merely manage them


As we have already seen in a former blog, enterprises often fail at maximizing the value of collaborating with smaller companies. Convinced that their sizes and brands will attract suppliers anyway, they entrench themselves behind the gates of rigid procurement processes. They miss the huge opportunity of co-innovating with these businesses, especially startups, by failing to take a differentiated approach. This multi-channel strategy tailored to suppliers’ capabilities is what differentiates best-in-class from a peer group as a report from The Hackett Group reveals.

On the other hand, let us not forget a wise piece of advice from Procurement Management expert, Natacha Trehan, in her keynote last year at Ivalua NOW –  every customer wants to collaborate with the best suppliers, which means that, eventually, the supplier chooses who they want to work with. This translates into a powerful lesson learned for Procurement: motivate your suppliers rather than merely manage them.

This is a method medium-size companies have already integrated in their supplier innovation strategy.

I was lucky to attend an inspirational presentation on the subject by Virginie Favray, Urgo Healthcare’s CPO, at a Procurement roundtable event, before the lockdown. Urgo is a leading international healthcare group which specializes in advanced wound care and self-care. Their €640m turnover qualifies them as a medium-size company, especially if you compare them to pharmaceutical giant Sanofi with its €35b revenue.

Even taking a cautious approach to comparing figures, I cannot help but notice that Urgo’s revenue growth rate is more than double some of its larger peers. Is a strong supplier innovation strategy the key to additional growth points? It certainly contributes and we will dig into Urgo’s methodology.

This methodology was new to most Procurement peers attending due to both its philosophy and the way it translated into concrete actions.

When it comes to the philosophy, Urgo decided to play a different tune compared to its larger peers. They cannot leverage the massive spend volumes that the pharmaceutical giants can. Additionally, if their brand awareness is strong in France, it has limited traction on international markets. That is why, the group fully plays the trust card.

How do you build such an asset and how does it turn into better innovation?

It all starts with building up a transparent relationship. What are they transparent about? They share Urgo’s business strategy, how it drives Procurement objectives and finally how strategic suppliers are valuable stakeholders of it. As I have often highlighted, there is a prerequisite for that to happen: Procurement practitioners must enlarge their focus to embrace the full strategy of their company, which often they do not. At Urgo, they do.

Establishing trust in a relationship is a safe place to start. However, it will not last long if no long-term relationship management is applied. This is something Urgo has perfectly understood. As most Procurement organizations do, they evaluate their suppliers. Nevertheless, they do not satisfy themselves with this one-way view. In fact, they ask suppliers to assess Procurement too. Due to this 360-degree assessment, their relationship trust index reaches high scores. The postulate here is that detecting and solving inevitable business frictions on a regular basis allows a healthier relationship on the long run.

In order to turn this healthy relationship into a thriving partnership, they have developed a supplier award program which recognizes suppliers’ efforts. In the HR realm, expressing gratitude is widely acknowledged as a powerful means to foster motivation. Why would it be different for suppliers? Each year, Urgo acknowledges three suppliers for direct and for indirect spend. They are rewarded with a “best supplier of the year” certificate, some Urgo products and a personal note from the CPO.

Once such a favorable environment has been set up, initiatives aiming at capturing co-innovation with suppliers can be implemented. Urgo employs a wide range of tools to do so.

First, they have a suggestion box concept for suppliers to submit. This is a method that is proving more and more efficient to boost innovation according to procurement consulting group AgileBuyer. On Urgo’s suggestion form, suppliers may recommend new products or improvements to existing ones. They must be as specific as possible about their idea (investment cost, timeline, potential savings…). If the idea generates savings, these are shared between Urgo and the supplier. Buyers receive about a thousand forms per year and commit themselves to responding in a reasonable period of time.

Second, every two years they organize a supplier-buyer speed dating event, focused on indirect spend. As a result of these encounters based on a specific theme, two or three new processes are designed. For example, last year’s topic was about digital marketing. They created a commercial through a crowdsourcing process instead of using traditional communication agencies. Indeed, some preparation is necessary before this innovation event: fifty new suppliers were sourced and only ten were selected for speed dating.

Third, they have an annual two-day innovation workshop which mixes stakeholders from Urgo as well as direct suppliers and even tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers. These workshops focus on specific topics that are prepared ahead to get the most of this workshop. Last year, sixty concepts emerged from the discussions which eventually shortlisted into three projects.

Finally, buyers also spend time on their strategic suppliers’ premises. This is not to discuss day to day operations or business or pain points but rather serve as a vehicle to discuss long term strategy, find synergies in situ and foster innovation ideas.

Obviously, this is not an approach you can replicate with every supplier you work with. This is why, Urgo applies a supplier attractivity matrix which identifies the partnerships they really want to nurture. Only strategic suppliers are part of this matrix. A supplier becomes strategic when it ranks high in a wide range of criteria: margin level, market share, supply chain criticality, procurement annual review score, ethics and innovation rating. Suppliers are then positioned against a second axis: the maturity of the relationship with Urgo. Combining these two filters brings to focus the suppliers that are core to the business and which innovation proposals can truly be beneficial.

All these are smart and actionable ideas which can easily be replicated into any large enterprise. Let’s get started!

20 Ways To Get Job-Ready for 2020

This is the most popular month to make a career change, which means there’s even more competition – if you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be prepared.

Job-seeking is not a numbers game – all you need is one great job offer.

So, get yourself ready to be open to the right opportunities. Follow my list of 20 ways to get job-ready.

1. Don’t set goals – you will be setting yourself up to fail or to make a bad choice

If you set yourself a target of finding a new job by March, say, or earning a particular salary, you will be putting pressure on yourself to accept a job offer even if it is not the best career move for you. 

2. Think about why you’re leaving – just to be sure

Moving jobs takes time and is risky – you have little job security for the first 2 years. 

So work out why you are dissatisfied with your current role.

Need more flexibility? Ask to work a day a week at home.

Want to learn a new skill? Then put in a request. 

You’ve nothing to lose if you are planning to leave anyway. 

3. Make it a positive choice – desperation is not a good look 

Not only will you be in danger of accepting any job rather than the right one, hiring managers want to recruit someone who is positive and passionate about the job, not someone who is disgruntled and oozes negativity.

4. Focus on what you’ll gain – it will energise you

Change your mindset by focusing on what you want to gain, not what you want to leave behind. 

Make a list of all the positives you want from your new role.

For example, if you are stuck in a rut with no prospect of promotion, then training and development and opportunities to progress should be a priority in your job search. If you hate your commute, the location will be key. 

This list will help narrow your search – and help motivate you to make a change.

5. Be patient – it might take time 

Remember, it will probably take until Easter (at the earliest) before you start a new role, so don’t rush into the wrong decision.

6. Remain loyal – it will pay off 

Yes, it’s hard to give your best when all you can think about is leaving – however, don’t relax just yet because you will want a good reference and you might be working in your current role for some time. 

Never badmouth your employer. It could get back to the boss (awkward) or make future employers wary of hiring someone who is obviously so discontented.

7. Identify your strengths – and weaknesses 

You need to be clear about what you can offer future employers. 

To discover what your ‘brand’ is, ask trusted friends and colleagues to list the 5 or 10 things they think you do well – perhaps you have good technical skills or are good at being collaborative?

Then ask if there are any aspects of your personality or performance that they think need work – maybe you are not so good at organisation?

8. Search online for keywords that will sell you 

Next, match what you have to offer with the jobs you are interested in. A quick scan of job boards to see what recruiters are looking for will identify the keywords you need to include in your job applications – from ‘collaborative’ to ‘commercial’. 

Make a list. Then rephrase your skills so they fit these descriptions – for example, ‘ambitious’ could be ‘target-driven’. 

9. While you are looking, is there anything you are missing? 

If nearly every job spec is asking for a particular skill, then perhaps it’s time to get a qualification. 

For example, if the spec says ‘must be proficient in data analytics, including Excel’ and you use Excel but don’t have a certificate, go online and do a quick course. If there are any glaring gaps in your skills, perhaps you need to invest in a professional qualification. 

Also, check out the Procurious Training & Learning section.

10. Update your CV – only a generic one at this stage

Pay attention to the style: No more than two sides of A4.

Start with a personal statement. List jobs with the most recent first and avoid giving your entire life history. Focus on what you can do rather than what you have done. 

Include some examples of where you have met/exceeded expectations using the STAR (situation, task, activity, result) approach. This will clearly demonstrate you are up to the job without appearing arrogant. 

Don’t be tempted to invent hobbies and interests to make yourself appear more interesting or to lie (dates, job titles etc. are easy to check). 

And don’t forget to double-check grammar and spelling.

11. Remember to tailor your application/CV to each role 

When you get to the stage of applying, carefully read the job specification and include all of the keywords listed – using the exact same wording. 

Look through your list of skills and keywords that sell your brand and include those that are required or you think will add value to the job. Remember, at this stage, you need to show that you are an obvious fit for the job.

12. Have a professional photo taken

While many recruiters hate photos on CVs, they do like to see them online – either on your own website (if you have one) or your online profiles. 

A really good photo (remember to smile or at least look approachable) is, therefore, a must. At the very least, avoid holiday or party selfies.

13. Get your online presence ready – LinkedIn in particular

Think of this as your shop window – a potential employer or recruitment consultant might come across your profile and at the very least will check it. 

Ask a few key contacts if they will provide you with a recommendation and add a bit of personality by posting a few blogs or sharing some newsworthy links. Also, boost your network by requesting others to join it – the more senior the better.

14. Use Procurious as a resource

Make sure your Procurious profile is more than just a bland description of your current job. 

Use phrases like ‘passionate about’, ‘driven’ and/or ‘highly experienced’ and really sell yourself – don’t forget a photo. 

Also, click on ‘Build your network’ and start to reach out to professionals in key positions – someone might even approach you to offer you a job. 

15. Don’t forget to clean up your social media 

An inappropriate image or even just liking a less-than-tasteful joke can rule you out of a job.

16. Get signed up to job boards 

Get the apps (you can search on your daily commute) and sign up for job alerts (so you don’t miss an opportunity).

17. Identify your ideal employers 

Make a list of the firms you would like to work for and start researching them – you will want to talk their language in your job applications and be prepared for interviews. 

Also, check out glassdoor.co.uk to see how existing employees rate them – to avoid making a bad move.

18. Engage in strategic networking 

Find ways to network with staff who work for your ideal employers to find out what it is like to work there. 

You can then ask them if they have a referral scheme (existing employees are often given a bonus for recommending a new employee) or to let you know if there are any opportunities. 

19. Encourage approaches – a bit like putting up a ‘For Sale’ sign

Many job movers don’t ever apply for a new role. Instead, they are approached. 

Go to LinkedIn and click on ‘Show recruiters you are open to job opportunities’. (Don’t worry – you can control who sees this, so the boss won’t necessarily find out.) 

Also, get on the books of recruitment consultants specialising in your area so they can put your name forward for any relevant jobs.

20. Practise your pitch – it will keep you positive

Some people find it awkward to self-promote while others just come across as arrogant.

So practise telling stories that showcase how you have met a challenge, achieved a target or developed a skill – you can use these on application letters, when networking and in interviews.

It’s also a very self-affirming – and will help you deal with the disappointment when employers don’t even bother to acknowledge your application or reject you. 

So keep these 20 tips in mind to boost your spirits while job-hunting – and increase your chances of success. Good luck!

And if you want to move up in your career, change industries, or even need some extra motivation for the new year (and new decade!), start 2020 off with a bang in our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here for free.

How to Manage Unwanted Supplier Gifts

In days gone by, Christmas gifts from suppliers were the norm. Now it’s no longer the case. But how do you turn them down without offending anyone?

unwanted gifts
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Way back, towards the end of the last century, year-end gifts from suppliers were not only abundant but also expected. It was common practice for suppliers to spend serious money on lavish trips, dining out and sports tickets for their procurement friends.

Sometimes they would send you a fridge or a TV to your home address. In return, it was expected that they would receive preferential treatment.  Gift policies, if they existed, were generally ignored.

Fast Forward to Today 

Most companies have a gift policy or at least a code of conduct which provides guidance on the acceptance of gifts from suppliers. Amazingly, these vary widely from zero tolerance to those which are too loose and therefore left open to interpretation. 

Some companies allow staff to accept nothing, not even pens and calendars.  Some are more realistic where luxury food items, flowers and low-value branded gifts are acceptable, usually up to a fixed value.

Julian Friedland, a US ethics professor and philosopher, believes that ethical businesses tend to succeed better over the long term. He says, “If you don’t have one [a gift policy], then you open yourself up to a credibility, liability problem. Whatever product you happen to be selling, whether it’s a service or actual object of any kind, can be compromised by the appearance of some conflict of interest.”

“A good policy will preclude employees from accepting anything that increases their self-worth—such as cash, stocks and shares, or expensive presents.”

Communicate the Gift Policy

Ideally, every organisation should clearly communicate its gift policy to any external party that could influence procurement behaviour. This includes not only current suppliers but aspiring suppliers, potential employees, consultants, business advisors and other associates.

A firm communication should have the effect of at least limiting the problem. However, it may be too late for the upcoming silly season.      

Managing Unacceptable Gifts

Despite the above, unacceptable gifts will arrive.  There are quite a few options here, each has its problems:

  • Return the gift to the supplier

Emphasise that, regretfully,  your policy precludes you from accepting this wonderful gift. (Did they know about the policy?). This action may run the risk of souring the future relationship a little, but too bad.

  • Share the spoils between members of the procurement team

This should have the effect of ensuring that no-one is influenced to act in favour of the supplier. The risk here is that end-users and any subject matter experts (SME) could be aggrieved and upset at being excluded. It becomes even more complicated when the procurement team is decentralised.  

  • Raffle the gifts internally and donate the proceeds to a chosen charity

Ideally, the charity or NGO should be one that is already supported by the organisation.  It is best not to choose the CEO’s favourite animal shelter or any unregistered charity or one with only minority support.

  • Donate the actual goods to a charity that would directly benefit and advise the supplier of your actions

This may conflict with your corporate social responsibility policy so check first.  This action could even have some upside for the supplier who could claim this as a form of sideways philanthropy.      

Review your Gifts Policy

It may be too late for this round but let’s do it. The gift policy should state whether employees are allowed to accept gifts both within and outside of the work premises.

If a gift is allowed, the policy should define the acceptable top value and type of gift permissible. It should also note any exceptions that need the approval of a more senior-level employee. 

“A good policy will preclude employees from accepting anything that increases their self-worth – such as cash, stocks and shares, or expensive presents.”

Top Tip: Keep a centralised record with details of all gifts accepted and make it open for reference. This keeps everyone honest. 

5 Ways to Thank a Supplier this Holiday Season

Gifts are fairly common this time of year. But are you doing anything to recognise and thank your suppliers for their hard work this year?

thank you
Photo from Gratisography on Pexels

Let the gift basket parade begin!

It is the holiday season. The cheese trays, cards, fruit towers, yeti coffee cups pour in from suppliers at this time of year. Savvy sales teams and account managers might even take the time to hand write a card thanking you for the business relationship and surprise you with a very thoughtful gift. 

Of course, these gifts are then shared, according to the policies and practices of ethical receipt of gifts, around the office, increasing the festive mood for everyone. 

As in any great, or even good, relationship, the gifts are exchanged – both ways.  Therefore, I am perplexed by the one-way exchange of gifts between suppliers and their customers.  Maybe that is because traditionally the gift from the customer was their business? 

However, what if we changed that this year and offered the gift of recognition and appreciation to our high performing and high potential suppliers?  Just like anyone else, a simple gift of appreciation motivates, builds trust, and breaks down barriers in the relationship. 

Here are 5 simple ways to do just that.

1. Write a thank you note

What if each year in October you performed a quick review of suppliers, noting the ones who performed exceptionally well this year?  Then, the category teams would acquire some thank you cards and write notes of gratitude to those suppliers. 

This simple act would be something that the suppliers would find as extraordinary. And therefore, would be motivated to give their best to you in the new year. 

2. Ask them how you could help them and then do it

Great suppliers love to help you. Often sharing expertise, insights into the marketplace, and solutions to complex business problems. 

At the same time, suppliers could also benefit from the same from their clients.  What if we asked our high performing and high potential suppliers how we can help them?  First of all, the supplier will not be accustomed to this. 

Once they realise the sincerity of the question and the help is received, there will be a bond formed with that supplier, open lines of honest communication are achieved, and more innovative solutions offered. 

3. Pay on time

Seems simple enough, right? (This made me laugh.) 

After working on these processes for most of my career within Procurement, this is a constant struggle for most. Then, you layer in some of the cash flow practices around the end of the year that some do, and the late payments escalate. 

How impressive would it be if, for your best suppliers, there was a proactive review of the accounts every autumn to ensure the accounts were paid up current by the end of the year. Wow! 

Not only would that make the suppliers extremely happy, but it would get Procurement and Accounts Payable resources out of the woods on those accounts for a while heading into the new year.

4. Facilitate an introduction

Suppliers always want to meet people who you know. These people could be within your company, or external within your networks.  Facilitating the introduction would be a great way to recognise a job well done. 

It shows you trust the supplier to perform well and that you are willing to share the success with others.

5. Give them a social media shout out

Of course, you will have to check on your internal policies on this one, but there is a large trend on social media platforms like LinkedIn to recognise suppliers for outstanding performance. 

This trend creates a perfect win-win scenario – often showing off some project that the buy side organisation is implementing, the supplier who helped them achieve success, and how they partnered together to get it done.  Sometimes these are large achievements, and sometimes they are small day to day ones like providing outstanding safety to employees. 

Suppliers love this type of shout out, as it gives them instant access to your network of contacts and a vote of confidence from you at the same time.

As Procurement organisations are looking to add value well beyond cost, your ability to create trusted, value adding, innovative relationships with your suppliers takes centre stage. Often big changes like the shift Procurement is going through, start with simple steps forward. 

So, this holiday season, let’s be grateful to those suppliers who achieved excellence this year by saying thank you. 

The Secret of Successful Supplier Selection

Still using cost as a primary criteria for supplier selection? Our latest webinar shares all the secrets you need for success.

Have you been tasked with running a selection process for a new supplier but don’t know where to start?  Perhaps you’ve been using the same routine for years but feel it’s time to freshen it up?  Are the old ways just not delivering the outcomes you need?

In our recent Procurious-Ivalua Webinar, Critical Success Factors for Supplier Selection, our panel of experts revealed the secrets to how they get the outcomes they want from their sourcing processes. 

Here are five great take-aways from that discussion.

Supplier Selection – Get the Balance Right

Our panel reported that many organisations are not yet on a path that leads away a cost-driven focus.  Tech tools that are available to help with future cost modelling mean procurement can go to the market with uncertainty about this type of risk reduced.  When cost risk is managed this leaves the way clear for the road to value. 

A great example quoted in the discussion was a utility contract. The focus was on value rather than cost. It led to costs being reduced and also meant a more sustainable outcome was delivered. This lowered usage and introduced measures to promote sustainability. 

Can you introduce a selection process that balances cost, value and your organisation’s wider sustainability goals to select a supplier who is right for you?

Remember, One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Making sure a supplier is a good cultural fit for the organisation is a key requirement that all our panel members stressed.  Think about the impact of a cultural misalignment on your organisation’s reputation or brand.  

Cultures vary across the world and getting a cultural fit when you’ve got a global supply chain is hard. However, there are many things on which the buyer and supplier can agree. How about meeting with your supplier’s leadership team as part of the sourcing process? This would allow you to assess their management ethos to make sure that the cultural fit is there right from the start?

The unknown unknowns

Managing external factors and risks, particularly those that are not yet known, are something that supplier selection process is often expected to address.  All panel members reported the challenge of grappling with the unknown unknowns in the current period of global upheaval and change. 

The advent of technology-driven real time data is something panel members welcomed to manage supplier and supply chain risk.  It’s also a great way to check and monitor supplier financial health. 

Make use of the new tools that are available to ensure your organisation is prepared and have a backstop position to allow a response when situational or supplier risks change.

Be a customer of choice

When it came to the supplier-buyer relationship our panel had very clear advice.  Whether we’re a supplier or a buyer, we’re all looking of a return on the investment in the relationship we’re about to have.  Focus clearly on the outcomes both sides are trying to achieve. 

Make sure you put yourself in the seat of your supplier’s sales director – how can a contract with your organisation provide a supplier with the opportunity for fair value earnings or a sustainable revenue stream?

Start the conversation

Changing the way your organisation selects suppliers will not happen overnight.  When you’re engaging with stakeholders our panel advises you to talk in their terms not the language of procurement. 

Will the change you’re proposing add value?  Why will it improve customer experience?  Why could it safeguard or improve reputation?

So, go ahead and pick one of the secrets that the webinar panel shared as being critical factors for success and start that conversation with the business today.

A recording of the Procurious-Ivalua Webinar – Critical Success Factors for Selecting Your Suppliers with panel members Gordon Tytler, Rolls Royce, Stephen Carter, Ivalua, Fred Nijffels, Accenture and host Tania Seary, Procurious is available here.

Critical Factors for Selecting your Suppliers

What critical factors do you look for in your suppliers? What does an organisation have to offer to get their foot in your door?

When you think of procurement, and get beyond the savings agenda, then the first thing that comes to mind is managing suppliers. While employees may be the life-blood of an organisation, suppliers are definitely the nourishment and support that keep organisations alive.

Without suppliers and their extended supply chains, organisations wouldn’t have any raw materials to make into products, any products to sell, or anyone to deliver much-needed services. That’s why a good supplier relationship (or relationships) can be critical to your daily operations.

However, one bad apple, one flawed contractors could not only stop the seamless functioning of your supply chain. It could also harm those two vital elements for all businesses – trust and reputation.

Your Critical Factors

If supplier relationships are key, then surely procurement should be taking its time selecting the right ones. And given the importance of this, procurement also needs to be applying the right ‘critical factors’ when selecting their suppliers.

As has been discussed in the past on Procurious, there are a number of factors that must be considered when selecting suppliers. The only issue is that these don’t appear to have changed very much over the years, begging the question – is procurement doing everything it can to adapt these criteria in line with the external environment?

Sure, it’s high time that procurement was looking past the traditional criteria of cost and quality when making their assessments. But the truth is, there’s no getting away from them.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they aren’t the only factors in the equation. As procurement professionals, you are probably only too aware of the myriad of other factors that you need to be accounting for, from cultural fit and financial stability, all the way through to ethics and sustainability.

So which are the critical factors that procurement should be using? Is there a list that we should all be looking at?

Join our Webinar

Help is at hand in the form of Procurious and Ivalua’s latest webinar, ‘Critical Factors for Selecting your Suppliers’.

Sign up now to join our panel of experts at 11am (BST) on Tuesday the 3rd of September:

  • Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious
  • Stephen Carter, Senior Marketing Manager, Ivalua
  • Fred Nijffels, Accenture Operations ANZ – Procurement & Supply Chain
  • Gordon Tytler, Director of Procurement, Rolls Royce

In the webinar, you’ll hear from a panel of experts on a range of topics including:

  • The importance of cultural fit in your supplier relationships;
  • If sustainability, social value and fair working practices are becoming more prominent for procurement;
  • What your suppliers are looking for in your organisation; and
  • How to start the conversation in your organisation to move away from just cost and quality criteria.

FAQs

Is the Critical Factors webinar available to anyone?

Absolutely! Anyone & everyone can register for the webinar and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here.

How do I listen to the Critical Factors webinar?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be able to listen to the on-demand. 

Help – I can’t make it to the live-stream of the webinar!

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask the speakers a question during the Critical Factors For Selecting Your Suppliers webinar?

If you’d like to ask one of our speakers a question please submit it via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Don’t Miss Out!

This webinar promises to provide a fascinating insight for all procurement professionals into the Critical Factors you should be considering in supplier selection.

Make sure you don’t miss out by signing up today!

Supplier Failure – Are You as Protected as You Think?

Supplier failure and collapse on a massive scale – it’ll never happen to you, right? How do you really think you’re doing to help protect your organisation from the fallout?

By Sergey Novikov/ Shutterstock

London, July 2017. Despite an “encouraging start to the year”, the warnings are coming thick and fast on Carillion. By November 2017, the company has issued its third profit warning in five months and things are looking bleak. And in mid-January 2018, despite the deferral of two financial covenants, the company collapses into liquidation.

In the days that follow, the investigations and enquiries begin. How did a company so integral to so many high value and high profile UK Government projects get into such trouble? Where and how did billions of pounds worth of contracts become over £1.5 billion worth of debt?

And, perhaps most importantly of all, how did numerous civil servants, Government contract specialists and expert financial consultants not see it coming?

2018 – The Year of Demises

The demise of a construction giant will go on to leave an enormous hole for the UK Government to fill in order to continue providing key services across the country such as school meals and hospital and prison cleaning, and ensuring that the 19,500 employees delivering public services are able to be paid.

The final cost to the UK taxpayer is estimated to be more than £148 million, but the knock-on effects will be felt for some time to come. Late last year it was reported that there had been a 20 per cent rise in insolvencies in the construction industry as sub-contractors and small businesses struggled following Carillion’s collapse.

But 2018 wasn’t finished there. Fast-forward a little more than ten months and the unthinkable happened again. Twice. First, one of Carillion’s key competitors, Interserve, issued a warning on the state of its finances and increasing debt predictions to between £625 million and £675 million in 2018.

Then just before Christmas, Healthcare Environmental Services (HES), a key provider in the disposal of medical and clinical waste, closed its doors with the loss of nearly 200 jobs and leaving the NHS and Local Authorities scrambling to ensure that services could be delivered by another organisation.

Where did it go wrong?

If your procurement department was anything like mine, then all three situations dominated conversations for weeks after these public announcements. Beyond the usual, “well, I’m glad that wasn’t us”, and the frantic checking to understand exposure, questions were starting to be asked.

Give a procurement professional long enough and they’ll be able to pick through the wreckage of a broken contract and understand roughly where things went wrong. And frequently, lines are drawn back to the contract or contracts put in place and the overall management of this.

But in these cases, and particularly in the case of Carillion, there was a general disbelief that something like this could have been allowed to happen. After all, how was the overall performance of the supplier missed? And just why, even though it was clear that there were serious financial difficulties, was Carillion awarded more contracts to help bolster its financial position?

Like me, maybe you thought, “I’d like to have seen the procurement process for that one.” Or maybe you wouldn’t…

And probably just as likely, even though you tell yourself that it would never happen on one of your contracts, you go back to check. You know, just to be 100 per cent sure that all your checks and balances are in place.

Checks and Balances

What has subsequently been reported is that Carillion, in conjunction with its appointed internal auditor Deloitte, had been, “”unable or unwilling” to identify failings in financial controls, or “too readily ignored them””. This is where there may be some explanation or sympathy for the procurement process.

In the public sector, as in the private sector, procurement will work in tandem with other departments in its organisation to ensure the robustness of the contract and the suitability of the supplier. As part of public tendering exercises, there are a two stages in which this can happen for Economic and Financial standing assessment.

The first comes as part of the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD). Buyers will outline the minimum financial requirements for the contract, usually linked to contract value, complexity, volume and length, as part of their Contract Notice and ESPD. This can be, for example, a positive outcome for pre-tax profits for the previous 3 years, and/or certain outcomes linked to financial accounting ratios.

Suppliers will confirm that they comply with this and at this stage may provide evidence for this. This is backed up by the second stage for financial checks, the Request for Documentation (RfD). The RfD allows for this evidence to be requested by procurement of successful suppliers as a final check before contract award. These checks then provide the comfort that the supplier has a firm financial footing to undertake the contract.

The key issue here, and in the case of Carillion, is that the assessments are only as good as the information that is filed and provided.

Procurement’s Role and Remit

As with many of the challenges in the public sector, we’re left asking the question of what is procurement’s role and remit in this situation. There needs to be an understanding that procurement can only do so much. However, what they do have the responsibility to do needs to be done correctly.

In the Carillion example, procurement may asked all the right questions, but if the evidence provided isn’t accurate, it still wouldn’t have made any difference. Procurement can put in the ground work up front, before they even get to the stage of requesting responses to ESPDs and the like.

When looking at your next contracts, make sure that you have the following:

  • An accurate specification – this will fully outline the scope of requirements and the supplier’s responsibilities;
  • Estimated project volumes – based on historical usage data where applicable, otherwise linked to the specification requirements;
  • Market analysis – who are the suppliers that are likely to bid for this work? What is the overall market spend like with the top suppliers?; and
  • Understanding of current contracts – which suppliers have won the most business from you recently? Is anyone looking like they may have capacity issues?

Working with key stakeholders across the organisation is critical. Not only will this improve the accuracy of the data that is issued with the contract, but it will also mean that there’s an overall understanding of who is actually best placed to cope with the new package of work. Particularly if one supplier seems like they are overstretching themselves.

Then it’s back to a footing of openness and honesty with suppliers so that any potential issues with financial performance are flagged up well ahead of time. Build that relationship with your suppliers and you may help to head off a situation where it’s your contract on the front page of the newspaper next time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

Delays and Overspend – Do Your Contracts Have Your Back?

If the pot of gold at a contract’s end is realised savings, why do so few contracts provide adequate cover for completion delays and overspend? It’s time for the public sector to get serious about damages.

By Everett Collection /Shutterstock

In procurement we are no strangers to contracts overrunning or budgets being exceeded. As hard as procurement professionals try, sometimes it’s just not possible to get a contract placed in time, have works completed to schedule, or stay within the original budget.

In the public sector, the negative outcomes associated with these contracts are magnified. After all, they are usually delivering public services or infrastructure, and spending public money. The root cause for delays and overspend this can frequently be tracked to poor contract or relationship management, scope creep or unrealistic cost or project estimates at the outset.

While many of the issues can be attributed to internal process, with the public sector very much its own worst enemy, sometimes external suppliers and contractors are at fault. However, in many cases, the contracts that have been agreed and signed lack the clauses that would help protect procurement and the wider organisations against the costs associated with the delays.

As the challenge of delivering projects on time and in budget increases, we have to asked the question – why is public sector procurement so bad at using liquidated damage or penalty clauses in contracts?

High Profile Failures

Before taking a closer look at the clauses that could assist the public sector in their contracts, let’s have a look at some of the most high profile examples of projects that have suffered colossal overruns or budgetary overspends.

It won’t take you very long to find some examples in the media of these projects. What these 4 have in common is that even though some of the fault lay or lies with contractors, the public sector (and therefore the taxpayer) was and are the one to shoulder the burden of additional costs.

In 1997, a plan was put in place to build a new home for the recently re-established Scottish Executive (to become the Scottish Government). Initial estimates for the project were a total budget of £10-40m and an opening date of January 2004. By the time the building opened in October 2004, the total cost had risen to £414.1m (a figure confirmed in 2007).

Despite an enquiry stating that the wrong type of construction contracts had been used at the outset, and claims of contractors overcharging, no legal action was taken against contractors to recoup any costs.

  • London Olympics and Paralympics

Although the Games frequently have Olympic-sized budgetary overruns, the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 took the gold medal for the most expensive summer games ever. When London won the right to host in 2005, the budget was estimated at £2.4 billion. By the time the games were completed, the total cost ran to over £8.7 billion.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog), essentially a private company, were criticised for the contracts it put in place, particularly for security for the Games. However, in the end, the UK taxpayer ended up footing the bill for the new budget.

Another project that looked to re-introduce a service that had been lost to the City of Edinburgh, the trams were originally budgeted at £545 million and be completed by 2011. In the end, the network delivered was only a third of what was originally planned, cost £776 million and didn’t start operating until 2014.

Again the finger was pointed at the contracts being used and courts found against Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), the public company responsible for project delivery, on a number of dispute with the main contractor. However, there was never any money recovered from contractors, leaving the taxpayer out of pocket again.

  • Crossrail

The most recent and still incomplete example of the group. At the time of writing, the project is already 9 months delayed to start operating, received 3 bailouts in 2018 totalling over £2 billion, and is already £600 million over budget. Even these estimates may prove to be lower than the actual final cost, and currently there is no agreement on who will shoulder this burden.

It’s all very well saying that contracts were at fault for these delays and budget issues, but the specifics of this are rarely highlighted. For example, were clauses put in place in the contract to help return money to the Local Authority or Government where delays occurred? This brings us round to our focus – Liquidated Damages.

Your Contract Shield

Liquidated Damages – A fixed or determined sum agreed by the parties to a contract to be payable on breach by one of the parties.

Before we do anything else, let’s caveat that in the examples above, and in many other cases, the fault may lie with the contracting authority in part or wholly. In this case, Liquidated Damages would be as much use as a chocolate fireguard. But where it can be proven that the contractor is at fault, then we’re in business.

The important part of the definition above is that the damages are a fixed sum, agreed by both parties up front. Damages which aren’t agreed in advance and have no set value are classed as penalty clauses, and are unenforceable in most contracts.

The key is for work to be done up front on this between the contracting parties. This means that levels of damages are agreed and aren’t subject to challenge further down the line. The damages also have to be realistic in line with estimates of the costs of a breach of contract, including delays to completion or commissioning.

For example, if you have a construction project, you might look at the day rate being charged by the contractor and agreed that this will be the rate used for damages per day in the event of delays. For the most part, Liquidated Damages will likely be capped at a certain value (say 20 per cent of the total contract value), providing a level of fairness for both sides.

Setting Up Your Clauses

Clearly, given the intricacies of the laws surrounding contracts, this isn’t something that procurement should be approaching in isolation. If you do feel that your contract would benefit from a Liquidated Damages clause, then you should engage at the earliest opportunity with your Legal department.

Make sure the clauses are set up correctly and called out clearly in the contract. Once you have awarded your tender, you should take time to speak to the successful supplier. This will ensure that the clause is agreed to and everyone is aware of the full implications of it.

No-one wants to use these clauses in contracts – it suggests that something has gone wrong in the contract management, plus the damages aren’t going to cover the full extent of the costs too. But by having them in place to begin with, procurement can help to limit the possible damage to their organisation in the event that budgets or schedules go awry.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

7 Negotiation Tricks Procurement Professionals Must Know

Every procurement professional has a special bag of tricks when negotiating– let’s see if you recognise these seven tips from experts in the field…

By Lia Koltyrina/ Shutterstock

The benefits of countless hours of negotiation experiences is that you know what you should be doing more of and what to stop doing. We discover the key traits and tools that make us perform better and are better armed for our next negotiation.

Giuseppe Conti, Founder and Managing Partner of Conti Advanced Business Learning interviewed seven procurement leaders to find out their favourite negotiation trick that played a key part in their business success.

1. Making the first proposal right away

I like to come to the negotiation table well prepared and well-aware of the market alternatives. Making the first proposal allows me to anchor conditions to a level close to the bottom of the market offer, immediately reducing the amplitude of the BATNA of my counterpart. Then I try to improve the conditions that are more valuable for me by making and requesting mutual concessions.

Francesco Lucchetta, Director Strategic Supply – Pentair

2. Preparation, Target, Value

I make sure I follow these three steps at the starting point in any negotiation where I am leading. The first is undoubtedly being well prepared. Secondly, to have a clear understanding of the desired outcome with a predefined “target range”, and thirdly, to fully understand the “value” of the business in the context of the potential suppliers being considered.

Les Ball, Chief Procurement Officer, ABB Motors and Generators

3. Profile your counterpart

Understand whom you face before negotiating! I use initial negotiation meetings to pique the interest the person I’m negotiating with – letting them discover all the potential benefits of working with my company. Then I encourage the speaker to talk as much as possible whilst showing genuine interest in their activities. I try to understand the way they work, their objectives and challenges. Having key objectives clearly in mind, I can better understand where our common interests are and how to shape the deal accordingly. From this moment onwards, I consider it the precise point where the negotiation starts.

Olivier Cachat Chief Procurement Officer, IWG

4. Asking yourself the right questions

It depends on the scenario but for mepersonally, negotiation always starts from knowing your position versus the market. You need to ask yourself ‘what you need to achieve’ and ‘what is the nature of the parties and the cultures you are engaging with’. Nothing beats preparation and being able to explain ‘what you need, why you need it and what is in it for the other party’. My go-to-guide for knowing the best methods in discussions are those from ‘Getting to Yes’ and its methods of principle negotiation. Be firm on your expectations, be open how to get there.

Jon Hatfield, Director Global Supply Management, PPG

5. Do your homework!

Preparation is the essence of a successful negotiation. Knowing your targets, your limits, and your BATNA is extremely important however it is useless if you fail to understand the other party. Put yourself in their shoes to know what they are looking for and how they would conduct research about your company. Do they really need your business? Are they looking for volume, for margin, for market share or for a combination of these? With these insights you will be able to drive and steer the negotiation to your preferences.

Christophe Schmitt, Head of Strategic Supplies, Omya

6. Make them love your vision and strategy

My preferred technique is to make the strategy attractive to the supplier and develop a common vision. Once the supplier is onboard, you can design an agreement in a very favourable direction.

Fabrice Hurel, Director Global Indirect Sourcing, Emerson

7. Questions, Questions, Questions

Asking questions, particularly the ones carefully prepared for in advance. I recall a negotiation with a professional services provider where the negotiation lasted for 3.5 hours. They started the negotiation feeling very confident about winning the business. After two hours of thought-provoking questions, they decided to substantially reduce their prices and ambitions. At the end, we reached a satisfactory agreement for both parties (good for them, great for us!)

Giuseppe Conti, Founder and Managing Partner, Conti Advanced Business Learning

The following answers were collected by Giuseppe Conti, Founder and Managing Partner of Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a consulting firm that specialises in negotiation & influencing. This article is part of a series aimed at collecting real-life negotiation experiences from Procurement executives.

Check out Part One of this series: Seven Negotiation Fails We’ve All Experienced