Tag 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.

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.

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?

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. 

Suppliers: Partners not Punching Bags

If suppliers are treated as part of the team, rather than punching bags, it can actually help to accelerate procurement’s ability to add value.

Photo by i yunmai on Unsplash

When you are hiring employees, do you focus just on the salary negotiations?  With the only goal being to get the lowest cost talent?  No, because we know the value we are going to receive from that individual is through many years of ideas, quality work and the leadership they provide to others.   

The price negotiation is a point in time, while the relationship is the multiplier.   

The same holds true with suppliers.   

As you look across our supply base, procurement has a range of suppliers from “high potential” to “needs improvement”.  As we do with top performing teams, procurement has the opportunity to cultivate high potential suppliers through exposure, stretch assignments, and trust. 

There is also an opportunity to manage up or out the “needs improvement” suppliers by developing their capabilities and giving them the opportunity to improve.  Through this approach, procurement now has the ability to discuss with their new-found talent how to creatively reduce total cost of ownership, to solve problems, and to provide innovative solutions.  

When trusted are offered development opportunities, suppliers will go above and beyond for the customer.  They assign their best people on the account.  They look for ways to improve the relationship, reduce costs, and proactively call out risks.  And, in times of short supply, will serve their preferred customer of choice first.   

Through one change in perspective, one change in a relationship, procurement achieves lower TCO, lower risk, more innovation, and a reliable supply chain – this is the key to delivering value.   

The Next Big Idea in Procurement  

Procurement is on the brink of significant change, as are many more areas of our lives.  There will be many big ideas that brilliant procurement professionals implement into their organisations to support the advancements in technology, the new expectations of talent, and techniques to add value well beyond cost.  These are exciting times to lead, inspire, and create within procurement.   

Each year a small group of influential procurement thought leaders gather in Chicago for the Procurious Big Ideas Summit.  Participants are inspired and take back many big ideas for their personal growth as well for their organisations.    

While technology advancements often receive a lot of focus, perhaps the biggest shift within procurement is the expectation to move beyond cost to becoming value providers.  Procurement is being challenged to find new ways to reduce risk, increase sustainability, to help solve complex business problems, to increase revenue, to generate new innovations, to become an internal consultant to their stakeholders to obtain the best out of every investment. 

This expectation is becoming more pronounced and will allow procurement to analyse how they measure success, the skills their talent need, and even what technology they might need to deploy.   

Those organisations who make this change exceptionally well will also realise that their suppliers offer a limitless capability to accelerate procurements’ ability to add value.  When suppliers are treated as an extension of the supply chain, as part of the team, the relationship with suppliers also moves beyond cost.  In fact, one could argue that becoming a customer of choice to suppliers is the key to unleashing value, reducing risk, increasing innovation, and achieving agility within the supply chain.    

Leading the Supply Base 

An idea is just an idea until it is implemented, so how do procurement organisations get started with this change?  Below are some low investment ways to start this journey. 

  • Toss out outdated segmentations – Start looking at the supply base like one would talent.  Understand high potential suppliers, remain in role, and need improvement suppliers.  This does not need to be complicated nor does this need to be scientific.  Without putting much effort into this, the top performers and the lowest performers could be listed.  Start there.   
  • Offer development programmes – As one would with their internal talent, offer programmes that will help suppliers operate with excellence.  These programmes can even be supplier funded, but it shows suppliers that procurement cares about their success.  It develops a relationship where it is understood that procurement is only as good as their suppliers.  When suppliers perform at their best, procurement, suppliers, and the communities around them all benefit. 
  • Think differently about procurement’s role – When procurement starts thinking about their role as a hiring manager to suppliers, it creates a change within every interaction.  Set the expectation that a procurement manager’s role is to lead their team of suppliers to success.  This will have downstream impacts around measurements and skills needed but starting here will start the cultural change needed for success.   

Procurement is on the move.  These are indeed exciting times to renew the spirit of what procurement is all about.  Let’s not be overwhelmed and paralysed by the amount of opportunity.  The best thing to do now is to start.  Start taking the small steps that will create big change and the next big ideas.   

As the Big Ideas Summit Chicago facilitator, Amanda Prochaska will be harnessing the biggest and brightest ideas presented. You don’t need to be “in the room where it happens” – you can register as a digital delegate and get up-skilled and uplifted from the comfort of your own desk.  Register now by clicking here.

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.

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!

How Networking Can Help You Find The Best Suppliers

How can procurement professionals use social networking to find competitive suppliers?

By Rawpixel.com/ Shutterstock

As procurement professionals continue to look for more efficient ways to grow and optimise their supply network to meet demands, the supply market analysis (sourcing) process should be streamlined through online networks, such as Procurious, and offline networks including industry conferences, mixers and memberships.

I recently conducted a research study to investigate how social networking, both online and offline, influences the relationship between supply market analysis and cost reduction. Through online survey responses from existing and former procurement professionals, data was collected to establish the foundation of this concept. Pursuant to a seven-point Likert scale, a total of 51,485 survey participants were asked a series of questions in the context of three areas: supply market analysis, social networking, and cost reduction.

In general, it was discovered that procurement professionals do use social networking to find competitive suppliers. However, the study also revealed that social networking, in and of itself, is not a universal solution for identifying competitive suppliers. Rather, it is another option for finding suppliers that ultimately impact cost reduction. When considering the competitiveness of the supply market, roughly 77 per cent of procurement professionals indicated that their supply market was highly competitive. This suggested that most professionals have the option to switch to alternative suppliers. Social networking revealed that when looked at as a linear combination of network range, network size, and network strength, it amplifies the relationship between supply market analysis and cost reduction. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for professionals to enhance the way they source by concentrating on certain dimensions of social networking.

The post hoc analysis uncovered two key insights regarding the dimensions of a procurement professional’s social network:

1. There is a lack of significance related to network size

2. Network range and network strength foster more social networking value.

Procurement professionals can accomplish this by cultivating closer relationships with their social contacts, and by increasing the communication frequency with their contacts. By doing so, they can effectively organise their social network to source suppliers who ultimately provide improved reduction in costs. When procurement professionals reflected on cost reductions achieved from purchasing decisions, they agreed that they experienced a cost reduction. Approximately, 44 per cent of professionals conveyed that they experienced cost reductions considerably higher than expected based on their actions. This suggested that purchasing decisions can have an impact on cost reduction.

The constructs of supply market analysis, social networking, and cost reduction were adopted from existing research to substantiate the framework of the study. Supply market analysis was measured according to a supply market profile, which considered the competitiveness of the supply market, the number of capable suppliers in the supply market, and the switching costs of the supply market. Social networking was measured through three dimensions of social networking: network size, network range, and network strength. Network strength considered the interaction frequency, relationship duration, and emotional intensity of a connection. Network range contemplated the diversity of contacts in a social network. Network size assessed the total group of links that a person has with another one’s total of information channels. Cost reduction was measured through cost performance, in terms of broad retrospective results. For example, higher than average cost reductions were achieved and cost reductions were considerably higher than expected.

This study revealed opportunities to expand sourcing strategies without limiting the sourcing approach. Social networking can be integrated as part of a hybrid sourcing approach of traditional sourcing schemes to improve cost. When compared to traditional strategic sourcing tactics, understanding the role of social networking can be a viable way to link innovation with the sourcing process. The linkage thus relates to improved cost performance as confirmed by the data collected from procurement professionals.

The content of this article was taken from Adam Cockrell’s dissertation – Supply Market Analysis: The moderating effect of social networking on cost reduction – DePaul University.