Category Archives: Supplier Relationship Management

Why Contracts And Cashmere Are The Future, Says Commercial Relationship Expert

Look at your latest supplier contract. Does it specifically mention Zoom catch-ups? If not, why not? Sally Guyer from World Commerce & Contracting talks with Procurious about getting the most from suppliers and technology.

Have a look at your latest supplier contract. Does it specifically mention communication like regular Zoom catch-ups or phone calls? If not, you’re missing a trick.

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently spoke with Sally Guyer, Global CEO of World Commerce & Contracting on getting the most out of supplier relationships and predictions about the future of procurement. 

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It’s been a wild year, but disruption isn’t unique to 2020. 

“I think it’s really interesting because there have been numerous supply chain upheavals inflicted by disaster in the last decade,” Sally says.

“You’ve got things like the volcanic eruption in Iceland, Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Thailand floods, numerous hurricanes, not to mention the global financial crisis which also needs to sit on that list; yet we don’t seem to have learned very much,” Sally explains. 

“Most companies still found themselves totally unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

After this crisis is over, companies will fall into two categories: those that don’t do anything and hope that a disruption like this never happens again, and those that map their supply networks.

Supply networks

You should know how your suppliers (and your suppliers’ suppliers) fit together, which is why mapping out your network is so useful.

Companies who already made the effort to document their network acted quickly when the pandemic spread. Other companies were floundering and reactive. 

“We know from our research that many organisations typically don’t see beyond the first tier of suppliers, or possibly tier two,” Sally says.

“If we ever doubted the importance of visibility, the pandemic has provided a dramatic example of why it’s absolutely essential to have insight into sources of supply.”

Sally is seeing leading organisations require suppliers to participate in supply chain mapping efforts as part of their contract.

And it serves an important part of rebuilding.

“[We’re] moving away from the linear and much more to a recognition that supply networks’ supply ecosystems are a huge number of organisations all interacting with one another where there needs to be fluidity amongst them all. 

“And that’s essential to accelerate and support recovery.”

Sustainable cashmere

Companies are also investing more heavily in technology to help them gain end-to-end visibility.

Blockchain technology is particularly noteworthy.

Sally gives the example of tracing Mongolian cashmere production. The country is famous for its luxurious fibres – producing nearly a fifth of the world’s raw cashmere

And even though cashmere is considered natural and sustainable, soaring consumer demand is fueling overgrazing and damaging the land. 

So Toronto-based Convergence.tech and the UN teamed up to create an app for Mongolian farmers, backed by blockchain technology. 

Now the UN is able to interact with over 70 different herders and eight cooperatives through a simple app.

Farmers use the Android app to register and tag their cashmere. Then their location is pinned on a map to allow for end-to-end tracking. The UN works with the farmers and other producers along the supply chain to improve sustainability.

“Farmers are willing to have their goods marked in return for training on better practises, and then open markets pay fair prices for truly sustainable and high-quality cashmere,” Sally explains.

“Everybody benefits. Everybody wins.”

Better contracts, better relationships

Another way technology is transforming the supplier/client relationship is through communication.

Sally advises all clients to include communication obligations in supplier contracts.  

“It comes down to simple things like if we want to do video conferencing does your organisation support Zoom or not, because if I do and you don’t then [that’s an issue],” Sally says.

It’s not rocket science. All good relationships hinge on good communication, says Sally.

“Fundamentally, partnerships are founded on robust and clear communication, and you know I always talk about professional relationships in the same context as I talk about personal relationships,” Sally says.

“If you don’t have clear communication with your friends, with your partner, with whomever is around you, then you are not going to have a very successful relationship.”

While you can’t provide for every eventuality in your contracts, you need a robust framework to support the relationship which means communication needs to be at the top of the agenda.

Predicting the future

The year is 2030. What are the hot topics in procurement? Here are Sally’s predictions:

1) Sustainability

“We’re still a long way from creating our sustainable planet and it has to be something that we all continue to champion,” Sally says.

“We need to be promoting best practises to reach the next level where we’re actually starting to give back. Not just to seek neutrality but actually give back.”

2) Social inclusion

“I can’t imagine that social inclusion wouldn’t be important in 2030,” Sally says. “Perhaps a scorecard of corporate performance on social inclusion and social value.”

3) Technology

“Numbers suggest we’re only using 30% of the data that we are producing,” Sally says. 

“And if organisations are genuinely on a journey of continuous improvement then they need to be using data and the likes of artificial intelligence natural language processing if they’re going to continue to advance.”

4) Integration

“We need to organise for integration,” Sally adds. “We need to break down the internal barriers that exist.

“We all operate in silos. We’ve got organisations who have a buy side and sell side and they have no idea what’s going on on either side of the organisation. So those companies are starting to look at how they create an integrated trading relationships function.”

Sally Guyer can be seen in our exclusive series The Future of Supply Chain Now.

9 Ideas To Reduce Costs Using Supplier Relationship Management

At a time when costs need reduction but healthy Supplier Relationships are paramount, here are 9 ways to reduce costs using Supplier Relationship Management.


There isn’t a procurement pro on the planet right now who isn’t looking at ways to reduce costs.  But this comes at the end of a year where we’ve all been sorely reminded that strong supplier relationships are paramount … especially during a crisis.

Common practice is to look at procurement categories with large amounts of spend and start searching for ways to reduce that spend. One of the more routine approaches is to run an RFP, inviting incumbent suppliers along with potential new partners to help drive competition for your business, with the end-goal to ultimately reduce cost.

But what if your cost base has already bottomed out? What if you are buying a good or service that is difficult to come by, thereby putting the power in the suppliers’ hands? How are you able to reduce your spend in a category where all the signs are pointing to a cost increase?

In order to answer these questions, we must start at the beginning by looking at Supplier Relationship Management.

What is Supplier Relationship Management (SRM)?

Supplier relationship management is the discipline of strategically planning for, and managing, all interactions with third party organisations that supply goods and/or services to an organisation in order to maximize the value of those interactions. In practice, SRM entails creating closer, more collaborative relationships with key suppliers to uncover and realise new value and reduce the risk of failure.

Getting back to the initial goal of cost savings, the question becomes ‘when cost savings is a critical driver in supplier selection, how do you balance the collaborative relationship with low cost?’

The key is internal alignment between procurement and the business units. Supply Chain leaders must be able to explain why vendors who may not be the low-cost option for reasons like customer service, on-time deliveries, payment terms, reporting, etc. are actually the best overall value option for the business.

Category leaders must be able to explain how new suppliers versus incumbent suppliers will impact the company. There are too many cases where the grass appears to be greener on the other side. Sometimes, by selecting a low cost, new supplier, operational differences get lost in the shuffle and the transition becomes a disaster.

Why is Supplier Management Important?

In plain simple terms, it creates a competitive advantage. Whether you are the procurement or the supply chain leader for your organization, having a strong supplier management system will maximise cost-reduction opportunities, value driven services and overall systematic efficiencies, which otherwise would not be achieved. 

Supplier Relationships

As stated previously, a critical component to any company’s success is their ability to maintain strong working relationships with their suppliers and vendors. Supplier relationship managers should always look to avoid complacency. You should never be satisfied with the idea of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” and be always be looking for opportunities to improve the relationship, streamline processes or procedures, or change costing models. Relationship Managers should always be looking to challenge the status quo.

Another key to strong supplier relationships is to open the lines of communication and not be afraid to ask the question, “what we can be doing better?” Here are some quick ideas how you, as a customer to your key suppliers, can help enhance your relationship and make those suppliers want to compete for your business.

·   Trust and Loyalty (treat them as more than just vendors)

·   Improve technology and automation

·   Adhere to payment terms

·   Develop communication plans

·   Differentiate between price versus value

·   Have a dedicated Supplier Relationship Manager (SRM)

·   Internal alignment between Procurement and Supply Chain Category leaders

Putting Supplier Relationship Management to Practice

Now let’s look at a specific category – supply chain and logistics – and see how we can apply some of this thinking.

How to Become a ‘Shipper of Choice’ within your Supply Chain and Logistics Network

Logistics spend often plays a role in a company’s effort to reduce costs. Logistics spend can be a substantial percentage of accounts payable, at both the direct and indirect categories. When looking to reduce spend in shipping, taking the low-cost approach can potentially cause more headaches than the savings are worth.

What are some key goals of the shipper?

·   Avoid Disruption

·   On-Time Delivery

·   Low Cost

·   Damage Free

What are some key goals of a carrier?

·   Finding the right shipper

A carrier has a valuable commodity and finding the best shipper to partner with to utilize that commodity is very important for maintaining a good operating ratio. There is a finite amount of space within the global logistics network. What would make a carrier want to move your products versus someone else? Prior to any cost negotiations, a shipper should be looking for ways to make their freight something a carrier wants in their network. They will fight for your business because they value you as a partner, and vice versa.

What can a shipper do to ensure carriers will want their freight?

·   Effectively label freight

·   Safely and adequately package freight

·   Provide accurate descriptions of the freight

·   Use standardized dimensions when possible

·   Use quality pallets

·   Provide ample lead-time when possible

·   Be flexible on your end while remaining consistent in your process

·   Provide a clean, safe and overall attractive driver facility

Achieve Supply Chain Savings: Cost Reduction Negotiations

Once the proper groundwork has been laid and a solid foundation is in place, the relationship developed between a procurement and supply chain organization and its suppliers is now, finally, ready to discuss cost optimisation. By going through the Supplier Relationship Management process, you are now well equipped to conduct cost negotiations. Here’s 9 talking points to reduce costs and build the relationship with your suppliers:

·   Contract length

·   Reduced future cost increases with caps

·   Better discounts or incentive tiers

·   Rebates

·   Volume Thresholds

·   Delivery Costs

·   Payment Terms

·   Ancillary Charges

·   Everything Else (Better reporting, more transparency, communication plan)

One of the keys to entering these negotiations is to come to the table prepared to discuss these types of cost savings opportunities. If your main goal is to just hammer down the unit price, then there is a good chance your supplier will not be overly receptive to that approach. Listen, collaborate, compromise and develop a partnership that will ultimately be a win-win for all those involved.

In conclusion

Top suppliers are always looking to do business with companies who value the partnership and are willing to make improvements in order to make the relationship smooth and efficient.

This type of partnership will lead to your suppliers offering the best possible discounts and pricing and give you the peace of mind that you are getting the most out of your supplier.

Supplier Relationship Management is key to developing a long-term PARTNERSHIP with your key vendors!

What key insights and strategies have you taken from 2020? Share your experiences and hear from the most innovative thinkers on the planet at the Global Big Ideas Summit on November 18.

Improve Resilience By Treating Suppliers As Individuals, Says Top Risk Expert

We can’t just get our own house in order. We need to help our suppliers’ suppliers if we want a truly resilient supply chain. Procurious gets expert advice from riskmethods’ Bill DeMartino


How can companies of any size manage the huge number of risks in any supply chain?

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently sat down with Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America at riskmethods, to find out about risk and the future of procurement.

Become resilient or lose credibility

The word of the moment is definitely resilience. But where do you start?

Bill says it’s a process. Not long ago, most organisations were hunting for better information to react faster as threats emerged.

“So this is what I would really categorise as being reactive,” Bill explains. “We want to get better at reacting to events (which is a fantastic place to start by the way) and what I would think of as the journey to resilience.”

The pandemic obviously changed many companies’ perceptions of their own resilience.

Yet he points to data that we’ve seen a 300% increase in disruptions of all kinds over the past three years.

“That means that for organisations who weren’t before acting the mandate is clear; this is the responsibility of supply chain leaders,” says Bill.

“If they are unable to deliver on this responsibility, they’re going to be losing credibility within the organisation.”

The good news is senior management is recognising the importance of proactive supply chain risk management, which will likely lead to more funding.

Treat suppliers better

So we’re all after resilience. But what does that actually look like?

It starts with a shift in the way companies treat and manage suppliers, Bill explains.

“I think we’re on the precipice of moving into what I would call the era of collaboration,” Bill says. 

“Traditionally, we’ve seen working with most of our suppliers in kind of a generic manner and we treat a few of them very specially. 

“But I think that collaboration needs to extend to a broader set of enterprises and so that continuum will continue to be a major transformation element.”

From reactive to transformative

Changing the way we see supplier relationships is a good step, but it’s only the start. 

Once an organisation can react quickly and be more resilient, it’s time to transform. That’s why the most mature and forward-looking organisations are overhauling their processes right now.

“Transformation is not just enough for me to figure out how to be reactive, but I really need to think more proactively on how I can change the elements and the way that I think about the category,” says Bill. 

These advanced organisations are asking how well they understand category risk exposure. And how they can incentivise people to act on the risks they uncover.  

“So it’s really more of a holistic approach to risk resilience,” says Bill.

Automation frees up resources

The other hot topic is automation. Bill says it’s incredible how much of our supply chain can be automated. 

“Supply chain folks are just automating everything that they can and it’s crazy,” says Bill.

“We’re trying to automate all the AP functions, we’re trying to automate all the contract functions, and now we’re actually moving up into the next level and trying to automate the analysis in the diagnosis of the data and the information and insights in those systems.”

“[W]ith this automation we’re able to free up the scarce resources and get our folks to focus on some of the proactive resilience and collaboration efforts they really need for the organisation to thrive,” says Bill.

Risk management in today’s environment

What does great risk management look like today? 

Bill narrows it down to three priorities:

1) Change jobs descriptions and incentives. You need to think about culture change. 

2) Put in place technology that can standardise processes, then measure them.

3) Manage your people well. Ensure that staff are actually following those processes in the way you expect.

“That’s the shift in the maturation that we’re seeing from our customers.  Before, they would just get the information.  Now they are working out how to best utilise that information and become proactive in their risk approach,” says Bill.

Minimise risk, no matter company size

You might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I work for an SME. How does that work for a smaller company like mine?”

And it’s true. You may not have the resources or capability at the moment with everything going on, says Bill.

“A lot of smaller organisations are so busy just keeping the business going, no one is taking the time to take a look back and actually think about what it’s going to be in three to five years out,” says Bill.

“They’re  just worrying about survival today.” 

Even if your organisation is small, you’ll likely notice a rising interest in risk management – whether it’s from your customers and executive team. 

“Customers are asking them, potentially assessing them and looking to measure them in terms of their risk preparedness so that’s definitely helping [put risk management on the agenda],” Bill says.

“We are also starting to see a really strong sense of awakening from [senior leaders] and with the idea of a supply network.

“[They’re] thinking it’s not just enough for me to take care of my house, but I need my suppliers to also do the same for theirs.”

What can you do?

So whether risk management is at the top of your agenda already, or it’s just starting to gain importance, Bill suggests three key areas to get your house in order.

1) Using technology to manage risk: “There is an enormous amount of information that’s out there and the largest challenge that organisations have is how to filter through that information and uncover specific and relevant insights.” 

2) Make risk information visible: Can people in your organisation easily find information about risk? 

“We’ve seen a lot of folks who create risk scorecards or risk audits, and that information gets locked away somewhere,” says Bill. 

Instead, he suggests putting that information on your employees’ phones and laptops so they can easily access it when they’re talking to suppliers.

3) Integrate: The final step is to embed all of that risk information and data into other company systems.

As a supply chain professional, Bill says you should ask, “How can I integrate the technology and make it something that really impacts the way that we work?”

Going forward

Now that risk management is firmly on the agenda, you can use it to get ahead in your career. 

Bill predicts the most valuable procurement professionals in the future will be able to manage risk in two ways.

The first is artificial intelligence. Companies will need people who can use AI to spot patterns in suppliers to predict future events. 

“For example, if a supplier shutters a plant and fires the CFO, I could predict a bankruptcy is coming and reorganise my supplier geography to avoid disruption,” says Bill. 

“We can utilise artificial intelligence techniques to start doing pattern recognition and help folks better predict – never with 100% accuracy – but better predict what may be coming down the pipe for them.”

The second is to make suggestions on the best way to react if a threat actually comes to fruition. 

“There’s a number of different approaches that we’ve seen utilised to respond to an event, so we can bring all that information together and present to the individual in a way that allows them to very quickly assess their options, make decisions, and run.”

Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America for riskmethods, can be heard in the webcast series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

How can you limit supply chain disruption and proactively plan for market shifts? Check out this IBM report to find out.

Tough Talk: How To Deliver Bad News In A Good News Way

If you haven’t already delivered bad news to a supplier, you’ll likely have to soon. Here’s how you should do it.


Economically, this year is officially the worst year since the Great Depression. And while we, as procurement professionals, have largely been shielded from the worst of it owing to our critical importance to organisations, many others have not been so lucky. Many businesses, too. And unfortunately, some of those businesses include our suppliers. Even worse, sometimes it may be us that has to deliver some bad news to them. 

Psychologically, humans find it very difficult to deliver bad news. Procurement professionals would agree with this finding: telling a supplier, especially one that you’ve cultivated a valuable strategic relationship with, that something drastic is going to change can be nerve-racking at least, terrifying at most. But can you deliver bad news in a good way? You can, and here’s how. 

What kind of news might you have to deliver at the moment? 

So much is changing in the economy and our supply chain relationships at the moment, that there’s literally hundreds of different types of bad news that you might have to dish out to your supplier. But for most companies, bad news will fall in a number of categories. 

Firstly, you may need to tell your supplier that you have to reduce your volume. On the surface, they may see this as unfair, especially if they know that your overall output hasn’t changed much. But what they may not understand is that in the current risk environment, you can no longer be reliant on them and need to diversify. Similarly, you may not be able to use your supplier at all due to a whole host of risk-based reasons. 

Secondly, for just about all of us, COVID has meant that we’ll have to amp up our compliance. What this will mean for your supplier, and they certainly may not like it, is that you now need more documentation from them and more authentication of their sources. 

Thirdly, you may need to adjust payment terms. In an ideal world, especially if you work with small businesses, this adjustment may mean that you’re paying earlier. But for many reasons, this may not always be an option due to cash constraints. A conversation about longer payment terms is always challenging. 

Finally, COVID has forced many of us to change our requirements. Whether this be a changing product or input spec, whatever these changes are, it will most likely affect your supplier’s business, so may be a difficult conversation. 

How should you deliver this bad news? 

Businesses all over the world are struggling right now, especially many small businesses. So what may have been a difficult conversation last year, may now mean the difference between hanging on and financial ruin for your supplier. For this reason, you need to approach all conversations with suppliers delicately. When you do, make sure you employ all of the following: 

  1. Listen – before you speak 

Usually in organisation-supplier relationships, procurement professionals are used to having the ‘upper hand’ – so to speak. Essentially, we are effectively the ‘client’ of our suppliers, and we expect a level of professionalism and respect as a result. Interestingly, in relationships where the power lies more with one party (even if we may not act like it), the individual that holds the power usually does more of the talking.

Yet given the precarious economic situation, now might be the time to do less of the talking, and more of the listening. Even if you do have to give bad news to your supplier, it pays to first listen to how they have been going, and what, if anything, you might be able to do to cushion the blow of the bad news you’re about to deliver. 

  1. Have empathy – not sympathy 

In situations like these, it’s tempting to want to show sympathy to suppliers, especially if they’re struggling. But research shows that sympathy is often misguided, and empathy is better. But what’s the difference? 

Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone, and pity them on account. For example, showing sympathy to your supplier when they tell you that they may be going into administration would be to say ‘That’s awful – I understand how you feel.’ This statement could be a little frustrating to them, as in your position, you don’t actually understand how they feel. 

Empathy in these situations is always a better response. Empathy is when you take the time to listen to someone and understand what emotions they are feeling, but you acknowledge that you don’t necessarily feel their emotions. For example, an empathetic response might be: ‘I’m so sorry to hear that. I couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through.’ 

  1. Be upfront – but also see if you can give, a little 

When it comes to delivering bad news, it’s best to simply be honest and upfront about what it is that you need. Prolonging delivering the bad news drags it out and will most likely make your supplier frustrated and nervous for the future. 

But after you’ve delivered your news, don’t just leave it there. See if there is anything you can do for your supplier, and then genuinely try and do it. This may include negotiating a slightly longer contract, flexing payment terms, or referring them elsewhere. Little things help and in this economy, those little things could be everything. 

Have you had to deliver any bad news to your supplier? How have you done it? Let us know in the comments below. 

Harnessing The Value Of Strategic Suppliers

We should care more about strategic supplier management right now, despite this being the time of COVID, budget cliffs, and “everything is on the table” portfolio reviews.


While procurement’s roots sometimes feel operational, based on the tactical action of turning a requisition into a PO, the trunk of the procurement tree is strategic sourcing. In even moderately mature organisations, we see teams organised around execution of an n-step sourcing process designed to consolidate volume with fewer suppliers and generate cost savings.

For those teams that have advanced to category management, there’s an effort to better understand stakeholder needs and the external market, and to build out a longer-term project plan to drive value beyond savings. Think of those projects as the branches that continue to grow and generate new value. Check out this post for more on cost savings opportunities and this one on post-COVID strategy.

It’s often not until we get past a certain stage of organisational maturity that supplier management really becomes an area of focus. In a seedling organization with a thin trunk, the idea of spending time out on thin branches may feel wasted when there is fresh spend to be sourced.

However, now that most procurement organisations are mature enough to be thinking about value beyond savings – and I believe most are, whether they are recognised for it or not – we need to think about the opportunities hanging off those branches. Where do we want to spend our time? On the thickest, strongest branches that can support our future objectives, with many offshoots for new value, of course.

Stepping away from the tree analogy (sorry if that went too far), what many of us in the function have learned over time is that more value can come from nurturing our existing supplier relationships than from sourcing events with new suppliers. In fact, when growth stagnates and we rely on these partners to see us through hard times, strategic supplier management can become a competitive differentiator. Companies with access to the latest technology, the best support levels, and the freshest ideas, are the ones winning in the modern world.

My first research study on Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) was back in 2006, and these concepts were just coming into vogue. Then I did two more studies, each five years apart, with very little difference in industry maturity.

In that time, I had numerous large organizations come to me saying, “we need to build up an SRM program.” Sometimes the same company, five years after the last attempt had failed and management was back to square one. Here I am again, testing the market with another study, this time focused on the practices and outcomes from our most strategic suppliers.

Why should we care about strategic supplier management right now, in the time of COVID, budget cliffs, and “everything is on the table” portfolio reviews? It’s important for a few reasons:

In times like these, we rely on our partners even more

As much as we want to run out and negotiate cost reductions, we all know many companies would not have made it through the last six months without a strong supply base. Monitoring risk and financial stability is critical right now. Knowing enough about the financials of a key supplier is important when seeking out savings – some are hovering on the brink of collapse, while others are doing just fine. (Talk to me about outsourcers’ margins here).

Innovation will get us out of this

If you thought digital transformation was a buzz phrase, wait until you are the only company handling paper mail from customers in a work from home environment while your peers have digitised their customer interactions. For those behind the tech curve, the last six months were more painful and lit a fire under some management teams to start investing. Who will enable that technology? Unless you have vast internal resources and capabilities, you’ll be leveraging third party partners (i.e., suppliers) to realize that vision. Categories like IT services are exploding with demand, and managing the outcomes of the largest partners will be critical to stay competitive.  

Portfolio reviews should be fact-based

What does that mean in this context? It means that if you are deciding which suppliers to keep and which to phase out, RFP away, or replace, you need to have a quantitative understanding of past performance. Too often, opinions, anecdotes, and emotions are brought to the table to keep or remove a partner. Strong performance management processes mean decisions can be rooted in actual performance, and perceptions can be validated or addressed proactively.

With these current day realities in mind, Everest Group recently launched a Pinnacle Model® study specifically targeted at management of strategic suppliers. Our Pinnacle Model methodology maps capabilities to outcomes and attempts to find the correlation between best practice implementation and results. By plotting organizations against each other, we can clearly see what is working and what is not.

In this study, we endeavor to understand how procurement organizations are handling the following challenges:

  • Lack of clear stratification of the supply base. With most organizations having thousands of suppliers per billion dollars of spend, it’s important to know where to focus your efforts. If the squeaky wheel is getting the grease, it’s easy for category managers to spend too much time chasing issues with less impactful suppliers.
  • Inconsistent or ill-defined internal roles. Many organisations have groups managing suppliers throughout the business as well as SRM efforts from procurement. If roles and responsibilities of various groups are not well defined, there can be overlapping work and missed opportunities. We delve into the objectives and activities of Vendor Management Organizations (VMOs) and other supplier management teams.
  • Too much manual effort due to lack of automation. Service management tools are well developed within IT but may not be broadly used across spend categories. There are now Supplier Performance Management (SPM) tools on the market using AI to tie contracts to service levels. Without proper tools in place – and adoption is still fairly low – tracking performance, monitoring risk, and planning actions across the supply base becomes highly manual. This is, in my experience, a primary reason many SRM initiatives failed. When we rely on spreadsheets and sweat, without a hard ROI, this is the first initiative to drop.
  • Poor outcome measurement. Even if the functional scorecard measures outcomes – and many don’t – are individual category and supplier managers rewarded for work done to manage suppliers? It’s typical to, at best, measure activities such as number of business reviews. Too often, teams are focused on savings to the detriment of value driven by innovation, performance improvements, and risk mitigation, and other stakeholder valued metrics.

Taking all these factors in consideration, are YOU giving your strategic suppliers enough attention? Take our Pinnacle Model study here to find out. I look forward to reviewing the results with you soon.

Is It Fair Game, Or Not OK, To Send Your Supplier A Letter Demanding Cost Cuts?

Is it acceptable – or not – to send your supplier a letter asking for a discount? You would be surprised…


Here at Procurious, we’re always trying to be progressive, challenge the status quo and push for our profession to be more innovative and value-adding. And in good news, we’re starting to see that many in our community feel the same. How do we know? 

In a now-viral post on LinkedIn, our Founder, Tania Seary, posited the question: Is it fair, or not okay, to send your supplier a letter asking for cost cuts? 50,000 views and 60 comments later, we now know this is a hot topic for our community!

It’s something we’ve debated before, but not to this degree. So in times where businesses all over the world are struggling, and there’s more pressure on procurement than ever before to secure discounts and keep organisations moving (or afloat?), is it fair game to demand cost cuts from your suppliers? Here’s a snapshot of what everyone thought … see if you agree. 

‘A stuck in the nineties’ approach

The vast majority of people who commented on our post did agree that this year has been a particularly challenging one for businesses and by association, for procurement. One Senior Procurement Director summed it up when he said: 

‘Procurement leaders need to be looking for cost reductions to support the strained financial positions of their organisations.’ 

Yet should those cost reductions come from a demand letter sent to your supplier? Many people did not think it was okay to send your supplier a letter demanding cost cuts, regardless of the organisation’s circumstances. In the main, procurement professionals thought this approach was akin to a ‘power play’ and was a little arrogant, giving off the attitude that a big organisation is simply ‘a big brand, doing it because they can.’ 

Many procurement professionals recognised that while this tactic may have been appropriate at some other time, it no longer was. In fact, many people made reference to the nineties as a time where this may have been acceptable … but realised that those days were far gone. One person noted: 

‘This practice [the practice of demanding reductions] was used at Volkswagen in the 90s under its famous CPO. Though it showed a lot of success at the time, I believe such a practice belongs to the 90s – a lot has changed since then.’ 

Why doesn’t this approach work? 

Beyond the fact that the practice of sending a letter asking for a discount seemed ‘old-school,’ many professionals noted that for at least a few reasons, this tactic doesn’t actually work. 

The first reason why people thought this wouldn’t work was because essentially, demanding a discount goes against all the good work that procurement usually does in developing meaningful and strategic supplier relationships. Procurement professionals always need to remember that suppliers exist within a delicate business ecosystem, and it’s best to manage this responsibly: 

‘Customers depend on suppliers and vice versa. It’s a big ecosystem, and [we all need to remember that] if you squeeze out small suppliers and competition lessens, costs will inevitably increase.’ 

Beyond this, though, when making demands of suppliers, procurement professionals need to remember their negotiation training, insomuch as: 

‘Blind one-size-fits-all letters are a forced outcome, not a negotiated win-win discussion.’ 

What’s the alternative? 

It seems that within the procurement community, sending letters requesting discounts is absolutely a no-go. But in a time where discounts might, for some companies, be needed more than ever, what is the alternative? 

Being the savvy community that it is, procurement professionals had plenty of better options when it came to negotiating a better price. 

The most popular suggestion was to employ a process to assess cost saving opportunities in partnership with your supplier. This would lead, according to a few different people, to the supplier further negotiating, and then a potential automatic reduction in expenses for both. 

The other option available is to negotiate better terms, a tactic used often, but which should be done through a strategic lens. One person recommended that we all should: 

‘Engage with our suppliers and explain what we need in terms of realistic cost savings and the end goal.’ 

‘You’ve got many tools at your disposal, including SRM and category management, so much so that you need never revert to the dreadful “give me money off or else” letters.’ 

Do you agree? Or would you still send a letter requesting a discount if you needed it? Let us know in the comments below.

Your Supplier Made The News … For The Wrong Reasons. What Does This Mean For You?

What should you do if your supplier ends up in the news? Here’s what effect it could have on you and how you should mitigate the damage.


Let’s face it, 2020 has been the year that changed everything. Anytime you even go near a media website, you’re hit in the face with the latest pandemic disasters. 

Yet the domination of the news with COVID crisis has meant that there’s little room for much else, which, strangely, may have been a blessing in disguise for some of our organisation’s PR departments – and our own supply chain obligations. From whispers that much of the world’s current PPE is currently the product of modern day slavery to suppliers who have been caught out using substandard (and even contaminated) ingredients in food, there’s mounting evidence that while we’ve all been distracted this year, supplier standards may have been slipping. And while that may not have spelled disaster for us just yet, what do we do when the news catches up with them? 

It’s not good for them, and it’s not good for you. Here’s why … and what you should do about it. 

If your supplier makes the news, will your customers blame you? 

If you think that your customers are savvy enough to distance you from the reputation of your suppliers, think again. Ever since the Nike sweatshop scandal rocked organisations worldwide, it’s been clear that if your suppliers take a fall, you will too – and it can be highly damaging, if not deadly, to your reputation going forward. Businesses are just as – if not more – responsible for their suppliers than ever before. 

Concerningly, recent research has also found that even when a supplier mishap has, in essence, nothing to do with your product quality, consumers will still start to believe that your product is inferior. This means that if you were to have something like a COVID outbreak in your factory and it was widely publicized, even if you were able to maintain production, your reputation would still be tainted in your consumer’s eyes. Unfortunately, the reputational damage occurs no matter what the issue is: even if, for example, your supplier was caught polluting or even embezzling, your reputation would be the one to take the hit. 

If this sounds terrifying, it’s because it is. Even worse, conditions are currently ripe for it to happen. With our supply chains becoming more and more global and complex, it’s becoming harder and harder to track the activities of our suppliers, let alone our second and third tier ones. And with the rise of social media, the world is becoming more and more savvy – and any issues are becoming more likely to be exposed. Take, for example, Change.org’s famous campaign against Hersheys, which exposed, through social media, the continued use of child labour in its cocoa production in Africa, and forced the company to quickly change track. 

The conclusion? If your supplier has something to hide and the media finds out first, you need to be prepared to weather the reputational and financial hit. 

If it’s just slightly bad news, does it matter so much? 

As talented and thorough procurement and supply chain professionals, most of us already have an oversight of the worst risks and issues within our supply chain – and thankfully, we’ve mitigated them. So if something small slips through the cracks, will it really matter? 

Unfortunately, yes. Firstly, humans have a predilection towards bad news. Decades of psychological research have shown that we’re all naturally drawn towards bad news, so much so that even if nine out of the ten news stories we read are positive, we’ll always remember – and act on – the negative one. What this means is that we, as supply chain professionals, need to be extra cautious about what mishaps might slip through the cracks. 

Secondly, consumers don’t rationalise the ‘degree’ of bad news. In what psychologists call the ‘spillover effect,’ consumers were found to equally condemn companies for supply chain failures, even if the news wasn’t, technically, that bad. On every occasion, bad news in the supply chain meant that consumers were less willing to buy from the organisation for an extended period of time. 

How do you mitigate the damage? 

By now, you’re probably frantically checking and rechecking all of your suppliers, terrified that something may have gone wrong. And while the response is justified, and we should always aim to have as much insight as possible into our suppliers, know this: you can mitigate the damage done if your suppliers do end up in the news for the wrong reasons. 

And the best way to do this is to simply try to help find a solution, and communicate this to all involved. 

In positive news, research into the spillover effect has found that while damage can be done quickly, it can be undone at just the same speed. Organisations that act quickly to rectify issues, for example, those who instantly clean up environmental spills or put an end to labour issues, can rescue their reputation, if they take responsibility and put mechanisms in place to do better. And while consumer’s buying behaviour may not revert instantly, if you are able to win back the trust of your customers, the damage need not be long term.  

Managing risk and reputation 

Given the complexity of supply chains these days, maintaining accountability of your suppliers has long been an issue, especially when it comes to tier two or three suppliers. Yet just because this task is challenging, it doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Thankfully, if reputational damage does occur, it is possible to reverse it. But do we want to take the risk of finding out? 

Has your supplier ever ended up in the news? What did you do about it? Let us know below.

Do Supplier Panels Deliver On Expectations Or Leave You Wanting More?

Are supplier panels as outdated as your nan’s rug? Do they stifle innovation? Or are they a basic essential for every procurement pro’s toolkit?


Supplier panels have been around forever. They are as old and ubiquitous as the crocheted rug on your nan’s couch. Just because they’re part of the furniture, does it make them a good solution? Are they old fashioned? Or worse, do they limit innovation? Why do we still use panels?

Read on to find out!

What is a supplier panel?

A supplier panel is a list of suppliers who have been pre-approved / vetted and have agreed to the terms and conditions for supply which is generally ratified by the supplier signing a standardised head agreement. Panels are suitable when there is an ongoing need for the goods or service and there is enough volume to support multiple suppliers.

It’s an (approved) little black book of key suppliers that you can call on in your time of need.

Why bother?

The two major benefits.  You can secure a list of verified suppliers who you know can deliver what you need.  The terms and conditions are locked in, which often includes rates. The major benefit to the suppliers is that they become a preferred partner and will get first dibs on any work coming out of your organisation.

Are they still relevant?

Traditionally supplier panels were established to create efficiencies in sourcing. The premise is simple, agree the majority of terms up front and call off what you need when you need it through a slimmer form of contract, like a statement of work or purchase order. Easy right?

Well, not entirely. There are several pitfalls to avoid when it comes to supply panels.

  • The initial process can be exaggerated and onerous. There are supplier panel processes that have taken over a year to run, can you imagine?!
  • Once the panel is established, there can be a lack of work due to a large volume of suppliers being selected or the business not using the panel
  • The energy and enthusiasm of the establishment phase can disappear, stringent scopes in the head agreements can narrow what the panel can be used for, therefore stifling innovation
  • The secondary processes (where the work is actually awarded) can often succumb to  supplier bias / familiarity and not be competitively tested

Supply panels do have a place in procurement; they just need to be established with the right motivation in mind and be right-sized to the requirements.  Don’t dress mutton up as lamb, just call it like it is. If you need a phonebook of suppliers, then do a simple registered suppliers list.

Where to start – plan for success!

Many panels have failed to deliver. Imagine, all that effort up front only for it to never be used! It can damage the reputation of the buyer when suppliers feel jilted at having invested so much into a process, only to “hear crickets” from the buyer. Avoid this situation procurement pro’s!

Follow this useful guide to ensure you only invest your valuable time where it’s actually needed.

Five winning strategies for panelsAction stations!
The first key decision is do you need a panel? Really? Really, really?Let data drive you – not your customer or management team. Make sure you invest the time to test the need.  Back it up with evidence.
What’s the goods / services? What category does it fit into?The type of goods and services should define what type of panel you should establish. Don’t design a Rolls Royce if you only need a mini!   Use Kraljic’s purchasing matrix to help.
What relationship management style do you want and need?If you are buying a bucket load of pens, then you don’t need to follow any fads and produce a 400 page partnership agreement, pens are usually goods / units and tactical procurements.   The relationship management style should drive the type of panel you establish.   Relationship Management Spectrum contained on page 12 of this guide
How are you seen as a buyer?It’s important to know your position in the market to understand your attractiveness and what leveraging power you have.   Power and dependency model
Where does this product / good / service fit in context of the total spend of your organisation?What is the criticality of this service to your business? How dependent are you on this supplier? And what is the value of the contract in comparison to your total spend?   These questions help inform the contract style, the effort you should put in and the relationship style.   Supplier positioning matrix

The work is not complete when the contracts are signed, in fact it has only just begun.

To get the most out of your panel, ensure you:

  • engage regularly with the suppliers
  • Issue pipelines of upcoming work to incentivise them
  • Communicate regularly with your internal users
  • Try to ensure all panel members are utilized either through competitive quotes, rotating contract opportunities

What are your top tips for managing supplier panels?

Suppliers: Who And Where Are Your 1%?

You might think that your most strategic suppliers are the ones you spend the most with. But supply chain crises may shine a light on which suppliers are actually strategic.


Modern-day supply chains are truly global, highly complex and getting longer and longer. 20 years ago, most of a company’s suppliers were probably within a very short radius. Today they could be on the other side of the world.

The reality is that organisations have more difficulty than ever keeping track of their entire supply chain – from Tier 1 all the way down to the smallest supplier organisations. This poses enough challenges for organisations when it comes to issues like environmental performance or modern slavery, let alone with supply chain efficiency or continuity of supply.

With so many suppliers to keep track of, organisations have to make decisions about who their strategic suppliers really are. Traditionally, organisations (and their procurement departments) have fixated on the suppliers with the largest spend volumes. In reality, they should be most concerned about a supplier’s risk profile.

This risk profile is thrown into light at times of crisis in global supply chains. This may come from volcanic eruptions disrupting global flights and travel, or from a global pandemic, such as COVID-19.

What Does the 1% Look Like?

All suppliers are unique, bringing different things to an organisation beyond the goods and services they provide. When assessing which suppliers to manage as ‘strategic’, procurement departments have traditionally focused on their visible suppliers. This usually is defined by spend profile and determined using traditional methods such as the Pareto 80:20 principle.

However, it’s the less visible, hidden suppliers that are often the most strategic. These are the 1%.

This group is made up of the suppliers who are easiest to ignore as they supply something low-cost and apparently trivial to the organisation. In truth, this trivial component may be manufactured from an expensive or rare raw material, be a proprietary item, or come from a supplier who has a monopoly or dominance in the market. Despite this item costing very little, the likelihood is that it is difficult, if not impossible to replace. This makes the potential impact on the supply chain huge should the supplier fail to deliver.

Assessing these suppliers using another procurement favourite, the Kraljic Matrix, they would fall into the ‘non-critical’ or ‘bottleneck’ categories (see below).

Figure 1 – Kraljic Matrix via Forbes.com

However, in many cases, the risk aspect of supply is downplayed or removed entirely, leaving the focus solely on profitability. This is where the issues with your 1% lie.

The Role of Technology

In times of supply chain crises, every supplier – even your ‘transactional’ and ‘bottleneck’ suppliers – need the same attention in order to ensure you’re not missing something. What may have once seemed like an impossible and highly inefficient task has been aided considerably by the advancements in procurement solutions and technology.

Organisations have gone from a reliance on their transactional systems, such as their ERP, and the knowledge and experience of their procurement teams to manage their suppliers. This has left organisations exposed through a lack of data to define and manage strategic suppliers, as well as the loss of knowledge when people leave to join another organisation.

Procurement technology and solutions have developed to the extent that they can help provide the necessary foundation for tracking an entire supply base. This has moved the profession from a position of weakness, to a position of strategic responsibility. In the current climate, people are now actively talking about supply chains and procurement’s role now and in the future.

Therefore, the profession cannot undermine itself by failing to manage its 1% effectively. Even big organisations, with highly developed supply chains can be caught out, as we can see below.

Real World #1 – Keeping Supplies Zipped Up Tight

The fashion industry has taken some very public, very high-profile hits for its supply chain. Organisations have a uniquely complex situation to contend with – finding suppliers who are flexible, reactive and usually low cost on one hand, while on the other ensuring that the highest ethical standards are still achieved.

Suppliers can frequently be small, family-owned and geographically challenging too. However, you might consider an everyday item on many items of clothing a product of a 1% supplier – the zip.

You might overlook it, but a zip is a critical item for manufacturers and designers. The market is dominated by two major suppliers, YKK and SBS, but there are other players there too. However, the majority of these are geographically focused in Asia – specifically Japan and China. Switching supply is unlikely to be easy, so all it takes is a supply chain crisis in this region, say a lack of key raw materials or alloys for production, and supply could be disrupted, without viable alternatives.

Low value compared to other items in the fashion design process, but very high risk.

Real World #2 – Bearing the Risk

Manufacturing is another industry with highly complex and multi-layered supply chains to manage. In automotive manufacturing, supply chains have moved towards the ‘Just-in-Time’ method pioneered by Toyota, making continuity of supply and supplier reliability critical at all times. It’s no use having 99% of the parts available to use, when the 1% is stuck in its factory, two tiers down your supply chain.

As such, a greater focus on quality over price is required, but even this is not fool proof. Fiat Chrysler announced in February that it was halting production at one of its factories in Serbia as it couldn’t get parts from China. Manufacturers who would traditionally hold minimal stock to remain competitive and agile are faced with a situation where that very strategy could pose a huge risk to their organisation.

As the impact of COVID-19 related factories closures around the world continues to grow, even large manufacturers may actually stock out before there’s a chance to re-align. And these items could be as simple as ball bearings for wheels – very low value, but huge risk at this time.

De-risking the 1%

Is there a solution that overworked procurement professionals can take advantage of in the face of a supply chain crisis? When it comes to supplier risk, there are a number of actions that may be taken immediately in order to reduce this.

According to KPMG, these can include setting up a response team to manage the flow of information across key stakeholder groups, reviewing key contracts with customers and suppliers to understand liability in the event of shortages, and conducting a full risk assessment to provide a list of actions to take, which may include shortening supply chains and assessing alternative options.

In the long-term, however, the focus needs to be more on supplier management and the creation of truly ‘strategic’ relationships, built on risk profiles rather than value. This should be done across the entire supply chain and aim to go down through the various Tiers that exist in it. This is defined as ‘Holistic Supplier Management’, a concept explored in more detail by JAGGAER in their latest whitepaper.

JAGGAER’s research uses a similar model to the Kraljic Matrix for supplier positioning, but with the key difference that it focuses on risk and cost to the business (rather than cost of supply) in the event of supplier failure.

Figure 2 – JAGGAER Supplier Positioning Matrix

A concept is all very well but being able to deliver Holistic Supplier Management and manage suppliers on risk and cost requires being able to access data on current performance, the impact of an individual supplier on your organisation, as well as the value that they deliver. This is where technology comes to the aid of procurement and it’s what is offered within the JAGGAER Supplier Management solution.

The solution not only provides the data and analysis that is required by procurement for key decision-making, but also gives a deeper understanding of suppliers to help construct better contracts that deliver greater value to the organisation. By using technology like this, procurement can effectively and efficiently de-risk their supply chains, keeping them better prepared for managing crises when they inevitably hit.

Don’t Get Caught Out

The key message, as every procurement professional knows, is that good communication is key to maintaining a strong and stable supply chain. However, as supply chains grow more and more complex, geographically dispersed and multi-tiered, individual procurement professionals and departments need to make use of all the resources at their disposal.

Holistic Supplier Management can help procurement be better prepared, mitigate risks and start to understand what strategic procurement and strategic suppliers really are. You can find more information on the JAGGAER website, or by downloading their latest whitepaper, ‘How To Achieve Holistic Supplier Management: Orchestrating Supplier Management for Maximum Benefit’.

No matter how safe you think you are, how stable you believe your supply chain is and how strong your links are with your strategic suppliers, there is always an inherent risk within that 1%. By being better prepared and truly understanding your supply chain, you can avoid being caught out in time of crisis.

What You Need To Know About Supplier Payments, Bankruptcies And The Financial Impact Of COVID-19

Considering this macro-economic turmoil, new research shows that most contracts and supplier partnerships held strong during the pandemic


The early days of COVID-19 were financially tumultuous and incredibly stressful. For most business executives, uncertainty ruled the day: Would my contracts hold? Will I get paid on time? And will I have enough funds to pay my team and suppliers?

The issue is exacerbated in the supply chain, where late payments and cancelled contracts in one part of the world create chaos for unrelated businesses located millions of miles away. Of course, these short-term concerns were ultimately trumped by even bigger issues relating to bankruptcies, business closures and unemployment.

Considering this macro-economic turmoil, Procurious’ latest research shows that most contracts and supplier partnerships held strong and stood up to the stress test – which is a major testament to procurement’s response and the strength of existing buyer-supplier relationships.

Our survey of 600-plus procurement and supply chain leaders found that nearly 60% of organisations (58%) are still operating and paying their suppliers per their contract. In fact, 14% of organisations are speeding up payments to suppliers and 6% are providing direct financial support. On the other end of the spectrum, 10% said they are delaying payment to all suppliers, and another 11% said they were delaying payments to non-strategic suppliers. Overall, this is positive news – for buyers, suppliers and the broader economy.

However, the longer the crisis plays out, the more financial strain it will cause. Despite the positive news on payments and contracts, there has already been substantial financial hardships and fallout among suppliers. Our research found that as of May 12, 2020:

  • 6% of organisations said they had a key supplier go out of business
  • 11% said they had multiple key suppliers go out of business
  • 20% said they had a supplier declare fore majeure on contract obligations

Our analysis shows that the companies hit the hardest by COVID-19 were more than 50% likely to have multiple key suppliers go out of business compared to other organisations.

The Economic Forecast: Cloudy with 100% Chance of Unpredictability

Predicting what’s next economically is difficult, and possibly even an exercise in futility. We’ve heard it all from the experts, with projections changing by the day: V-shaped recoveries, U-shaped recoveries… and even the swoosh.

What’s not hard to predict: regardless of how fast the economy recovers, the response from procurement teams will continue to play a critical role in ongoing business continuity and financial resiliency. During the pandemic, 65% of organisations had to source alternative supplies for affected categories. Procurement responded quickly and effectively – with 53% able to lock down new suppliers in less than three weeks, and 18% finding new suppliers in a week’s time.

Post-pandemic, it will be interesting to watch if and how contracts evolve, and the weight put behind different conditions and KPIs. We are already expecting macro supply chain strategy shifts , which will naturally impact sourcing decisions and contract negotiations. Expect to see even more emphasis put behind collaborative supplier relationships, and new investments in predictive analytics and supplier risk monitoring, specifically as it relates to financial viability.

The financial picture remains uncertain at best. How are procurement and supply chain leaders responding? Get the latest in our “Supply Chain Confidence and Recovery” Report.