Tag Archives: supplier relationship management

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #31 – Successful Supportive Relationships

Is procurement too focused on risk in contracts? And is this view point harming its ability to build good relationships?

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Building Successful Relationships

Chandru Dissanayeke, Deputy Director at the UK Government Commercial Function, argues that procurement focuses more on the risk aspect in contracts, rather than building on successful outcomes for both buyer and supplier.

Chandru believes that procurement can build good relationships by being interested in the success of the supplier as a business. However, at the same time procurement should be supporting the supplier to manage risk where applicable.

The final factor for the relationship needs to be sharing information and lessons openly with all parties.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 19,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Supply Chain Risk Management: Not a Procurement Priority

This article was first published on My Purchasing Center.

Procurement teams struggle with supply chain risk management. They are aware of  the consequences of not managing it, but often they don’t have the resources to focus on it as much as they’d like. Even when they do, managing supplier risk poses a challenge: Most often the best metric of procurement performance at risk is when nothing happens.

A new report, Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Supply Risk in Uncertain Times, by A.T. Kearney and Rapid Ratings International, describes the current state of procurement involvement in supply chain risk management activities, potential risks that could affect the supply chain, and ways procurement can begin to better manage risk.

Report co-authors Carrie Ericson, Vice President at A.T. Kearney Procurement and Analytic Solutions, and Rose Kelly-Falls, Senior Vice President at Rapid Ratings, did a presentation on the study for procurement and supply managers at ISM2016 held recently in Indianapolis.

Describing the report in an interview with My Purchasing Center, Ericson says she and Kelly-Falls started with the hypothesis that there’s risk along the supply chain that procurement teams simply aren’t managing. “They’re taking a kick-the-can approach,” she says. Asked if managing supply chain risk is procurement’s responsibility, Ericson responded:

“Procurement plays a big role in terms of vetting and onboarding suppliers before they even enter the supply chain,” she says. “Then, typically it’s procurement’s responsibility to put in supplier performance management programs to monitor and track behavior of suppliers throughout the course of the relationship or contract.”

The Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times report, referring to the A.T. Kearney Assessment of Excellence in Procurement, states that companies are not effectively managing supply risk and that their risk management approaches are ad hoc at best. What’s more, just 40% of companies report having key performance indicators (KPI) or metrics for supply continuity and supply chain risk mitigation.

Most cite lack of bandwidth and budget as the biggest roadblocks.

Overlooking risk management—or, rather, getting by with that “kick-the-can” approach—leaves procurement teams especially vulnerable in today’s tenuous geopolitical and economic environment, according to the report.

The report also cites A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council (GBPC)  study, Divergence, Disruption, and Innovation: Global Trends 2015–2025, which analyzes trends shaping the world today and in the decade ahead. It identifies macro trends that play a role in the current and future operating environment for businesses and global supply chains. Among the trends procurement teams are advised to watch are: geopolitical realignment, continued global violent extremism and accelerating global climate change.

Understanding these trends and how they could affect the supply chain is the first step in anticipating and planning for the future,” reads Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times.

Supplier Risk: A Closer Look 

The report also demonstrates how procurement teams can use the Rapid Ratings proprietary FHR® (Financial Health Rating) to analyze the health of public and private companies globally, with comparison across industries and regions. 

According to Kelly-Falls at Rapid Ratings, this is the first time such a study shows how combining macro trends analysis with a micro bottom-up company and industry analysis provides procurement teams with relevant industry insights to make informed risk management decisions.

Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times shows the financial health of U.S. public firms peaked three years after the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008, with an average FHR of 61.0 in 2011. Since then, they have declined to an average of 59.2 in 2015, a drop of 3%.

The peak for non-U.S. public firms (61.9), on the other hand, came in 2008 as the global financial crisis was beginning, while the low point was 58.4 in 2009 and again in 2015, a decrease of 5.7%.

While a two- or three-point change might not seem like much, it represents a very significant change based on the algorithm used to determine FHRs, the report states.

Over the same period, the financial health of non-U.S. private firms peaked in 2010 at 63.6 and deteriorated by 6.8% through 2015. U.S. private firms exhibited a decidedly different pattern of behavior. Their rating peaked in 2014 after achieving a 9.6% improvement from 2008 to 2014 and demonstrates a resilience quite unlike the other three groups. U.S. private firms declined slightly in 2015 to 64.2 but still led the others by a wide margin, indicating U.S. private firms have had an edge in terms of minimizing sourcing risk since 2012.

The report also drills down into the health of individual supply markets (by industry). For example, it shows that deteriorating financial health is evident in non U.S. firms in the aerospace and defense industry and in U.S. firms in the chemicals and computer technologies and services industries.

What is Procurement to Do?

A.T. Kearney finds that 90% of procurement teams expect they will have more responsibility for managing risk in the next two years—and they see a growing need to implement a risk management strategy within the next three years. As a result, they are starting to invest in risk management practices that link procurement, category and supplier management strategies.

Is Your Luck Running Out? Managing Risk in Uncertain Times looks at research on developing supply risk management strategies at the category or supplier level and risk and supply base segmentation.

The report finds there are multiple points in the sourcing life cycle where procurement can use risk mitigation strategies—especially in the early phases. This is when supply or category managers conduct the most comprehensive analysis, evaluating alternative suppliers and supply scenarios.

“At no other time does a procurement team spend so many resources on developing suppliers than when it selects, negotiates with and screens potential new partners,” Ericson tells My Purchasing Center.

After that, the report states that procurement’s most important tool for identifying and mitigating ongoing risk is access to robust, relevant and current data.

Kelly-Falls adds that, “procurement teams should not be shy about starting to engage suppliers they’ve been doing business with for years in risk management. It’s going to have to happen. It’s inevitable procurement will need a monitoring system for the supplier. Maybe not every supplier, but we can’t let incumbents know they’re okay.”

As for tier-two and three suppliers, she says, “We know as we get deeper in the supplier chain, it’s possible to lose touch with some of the smaller suppliers. So, it’s a matter of having good practices and making sure to cascade them to tier-one suppliers then hopefully they will take them and cascade them down to their supply base.”

Perception vs Reality – What Your Suppliers Really Think of You

Have you ever wondered what your suppliers really think about you? How big a gulf exists between the perception (what you think) and the reality (what they think)?

marcogarrincha/Shutterstock.com

You may believe you have effective processes, but do they agree? Do your suppliers really feel like a “valued business partner”, or is that just empty rhetoric?

The Faculty is currently undertaking its Supplier Confidence Index research for 2016. Here are seven common pieces of feedback we’ve gathered across hundreds of suppliers.

1. Organisational Alignment

Some suppliers very confidently told our researchers they were treated as valued business partners. Others, however, stated that they were simply “suppliers”, not partners, but due to the non-critical nature of their product or service this was to be expected.

One recurring comment was that talk of “Business Partnerships” does not always live up to the rhetoric. Procurement frequently uses language about partnerships. However, in a cost-constrained environment, every consideration but cost “goes out the window”, and the relationship falls back to a transactional nature.

2. Relationships and Communications

Suppliers are frustrated by silos within their client’s organisations. Communication issues within your organisation, or a silo mentality where procurement isn’t talking effectively with other functions, are highly evident to suppliers. This causes extra work, as suppliers have to explain the same concepts multiple times to different stakeholders within the organisations.

Suppliers also report that they receive conflicting instructions and mixed messages from different functions. Poor communication between the central and site-based procurement teams was another area of concern.

3. Value Creation Opportunities

Organisations are increasingly receptive to new ideas presented by suppliers. Suppliers report that this area has greatly improved from 5-10 years ago, when ideas were rejected out of hand for not aligning with policy, or for simply being too difficult to implement.

New ideas are now being heard, considered, and then implemented. This encourages suppliers to keep coming back with further ideas for business improvement.

4. Commercial Strength of the Relationship

A common complaint centred around unexpected changes to scope, which increases cost-to-serve. This could be improved through better communication, flagging the changes with suppliers as early as possible so they can plan accordingly.

Suppliers also reported a large amount of discretionary (unpaid or “goodwill”) work. One point to note is that suppliers generally seemed to be understanding about restructures and redundancies, even when they affect the business relationship.

5. Product and Service Complexity

Many suppliers made comments around unnecessarily complex procurement processes, which again increases the cost-to-serve. This issue is present in both the private and public sectors.

6. Business Process Effectiveness

Demand planning is an area of concern. Suppliers have flagged that they’d be willing to help with forecasting and planning processes if there was a better flow of information.

7. Integration and Joint Initiatives

Survey and interview results indicate that systems integration is generally improving, although there are further opportunities to integrate. Suppliers note that non-aligned systems mean they have to bear the cost of extra data-entry staff who would otherwise be unnecessary.

The Supplier Confidence Index is part of The Faculty Roundtable’s annual research program. Please contact Sally Lansbury for more information.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #28 – Outcome Focused Engagements

Procurement needs to focus on the outcome, the why, of every conversation it has with suppliers and stakeholders.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Focus on the Outcome

How can procurement professionals drive value for their organisations? For a start, they need to focus on the outcome of their conversations and supplier engagements before they have them.

Chris Cliffe, Director at CJC Procurement, believes that an outcome focus can help procurement in a number of ways. From inspiring their suppliers to wanting to work with them, and also understanding the needs of the other party, it will all ultimately drive a better relationship.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 18,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Is Trust The Key to Successful Alliance Management?

Pharmaceutical procurement teams need to change their approach to alliance management. Is trust the key to success?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to be part of a ground-breaking initiative with our suppliers. We sent a team to the boards of some of our major suppliers and asked a simple question: “Why is it that you are always late and come in over budget?”

To which they said: “Why is it that you always change your mind about what you want and interfere in the way we deliver it?”

It was then logical to respond: “If we promise to not change our mind and to leave you in control, will you deliver on time and budget?”

They agreed and so a new contract was created.

20 years on and the same questions still seem to remain, and now, more than ever there is a need to change our approach.

I believe that the solution to the challenges of clinical development today do not lie within our own organisations, but between our organisations, and should be accessed through increased collaboration unpinned by deliberate trust

To investigate this, it’s useful to consider three questions:

  • Why do we need to change?
  • Why should we collaborate?
  • How can we trust someone outside our own company?

Why do we need to change?

The pharmaceutical industry has seen the need for change for years, and the same underlying factors remain:

  • A clear constraint on resources;
  • The number of NCEs per year decreasing dramatically; and
  • R&D costs rising, reportedly having doubled in the last decade alone.

Meanwhile, we need more specialised patient populations, there is a lack of easy wins as drug targets, and we face the continually tougher regulatory environment. All of these have contributed to longer development times and rising costs.

These same problems are threatening the level of potential investment. We have witnessed the death of the blockbuster as the magic answer, while at the same time seen cost pressure on sales.  The patent cliff is a real problem in many companies, there is generic competition, and sadly mega-mergers have been ineffective, cutting staff costs without delivering efficiency.

If we do what we have always done, we will get what we have always had.

Why should we collaborate?

Basically there is no alternative! In a world of increasing communication, it is hard to keep knowledge secret. Employees no longer stay decades at the same company, and staff turnover is far higher than it was.

The Internet allows for very quick sharing of data. It’s also a reason why information leaks. So let’s stop keeping so many secrets and start to share information first.

The market place is very complex. The top pharmaceutical companies hold only around 6 per cent of market share, while the top 7 Contract Research Organisations (CROs) combined hold only around 50 per cent of the market.

In this situation innovation is critical and anyone (regardless of size) is a potential source of the answer. This includes totally new players, as any quality questions can be managed. Someone else knows something you do not. If you want something, it is out there!

How can we trust someone outside our own company?

We have to start by wanting to trust – trust is necessary to access new solutions. This means that we have to be open, to accept others, to make sure that we are reliable in ourselves, and live congruently with our values. In this way we communicate trust.

Of course it is also important to have a right worded contract. After all, incentive is better than enforcement, and a new way of working may need new contract wording.

In this we should look carefully at what is being bought and make sure this is reflected in the T&Cs. For the lawyers – a standard template may not be appropriate. In any contract, payment should be linked to goals and should incentivise both parties. There are many other relevant contractual matters.

There is nothing wrong with walking softly and carrying a big stick.

Trust is the only way forward. But this is not a short path, we need to be ready for the long term, trust takes a while to establish and can too quickly be lost.

We need to do something different.  We need to access new innovative solutions.  It is time for increased collaboration with partners, underpinned by deliberate trust.

Be Like Two Turtle Doves – Spread the Love

On Day 2, the true love gifted two turtle doves. This festive season, be like the doves, and spread the love with suppliers and customers.

The traditional 12 days of Christmas might not start until the 26th of December. But this festive season, we’ll be bringing you the 12 days of procurement Christmas in the run up to the big day. Catch up with Day 1 here.

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…two turtle doves.”

Turtle doves traditionally represent love and faithfulness because they mate for life, and work together to build nests and raise their young.

What’s that got to do with procurement, we hear you cry? Well, if you’re looking to build world-class procurement performance, you need to value your relationships. Be it your suppliers, customers, or internal and external stakeholders, they should be the focus of your attention.

Take the Lead from the Turtle Doves

If you’re not feeling the love in your supplier relationship, you’ll need to put some hard work in. As Tania Seary says here, there will come a time when the romance fades. But you can bring it back to make sure that you and your supplier are working in tandem.

It takes time and commitment to build this relationship, there are no short cuts. And once you have built trust, you’ll need to work even harder to maintain it. This is where good Supplier Relationship Management comes in. Here’s a brief refresh:

Building the relationship (much like our turtle doves) helps build that feeling of faithfulness, and both parties are less likely to drop the relationship at the first sign of trouble.

So what are some of the tactics you can use to keep you relationship fresh and mutually beneficial:

  • Spend time with your supplier, and make time to visit their offices/factories/premises. They’ll appreciate it.
  • Give due reward for good work. Often a simple thanks will work best, but how about letting them in on the ground floor of future contracts?
  • Be open, honest, and truthful. Nothing destroys a relationship quicker than a lack of trust.
  • Got a problem? Invite them into see if they can help with a solution. You never know, you might just get a great gift of innovation from them.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

And it’s not just your suppliers that you need to build strong relationships with. Your customers, internal and external, are just as important for procurement. The customer is always right after all (even when it seems like they aren’t!).

Customer (or stakeholder) engagement comes down to three critical skills for procurement professionals:

  1. Good communication
  2. Effective questioning
  3. Stakeholder mapping

Want to know more? Funny you should ask that – you can catch up on another top Procurious video here.

Much of this can be linked back to the well-known, and oft-trodden, procurement process. Stakeholder engagement should underpin the entire process – we used this example yesterday when we talked about creating a specification.

People naturally want to be kept in the loop, and don’t like unexpected surprises. But, at the same time, most people will be more understanding of issues if they are made aware of them. So, much like your supplier relationships, open and honest communication will take you a long way.

Although we’re on Day 2, consider this as step 1 in the process. Get everyone onside at the start, and you’ll save yourself a lot of pain in the future. And, with any luck, you’ll manage to build a lasting relationship.

Do you still feel like you’re speaking a different language to the rest of the business? Still struggling to communicate procurement’s value. We’re talking Three French Hens on Monday.

Supplier Engagement – The Advent Calendar Challenge

This Christmas, why not turn your advent calendar into a supplier engagement challenge? Sorry, there’s no chocolate involved…

Mahony/Shutterstock.com

An idea came to me during a recent commute. With the shopping days to Christmas rapidly counting down and as we start to look forward to the season’s festivities, I thought about my son’s advent calendar and the treats he’ll find behind each door.

Then I thought about a way to turn this into a powerful and productive challenge to build, reinforce and develop relationships with suppliers.

Here’s my idea. There are 17 working days this December – 17 doors. Behind each day’s door could be opportunity, problem resolution and innovation!

The challenge is simple – to call a different supplier each day and have a conversation. Simple. Too simple perhaps. So there’s a Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced challenge depending on how comfortable with supplier engagement you are.

Beginner Level

The easiest suppliers to speak to ‘should’ be the ones you currently do business with.

Call one of your current suppliers each day during December. Thank them for their help this year. Tell them what they’ve done well, how they’ve helped you and your business. Also, tell them what you’re looking forward to improving on with them in 2017.

Practically too, this is a great opportunity to find out what the supplier’s business hours will be over the festive period to ensure that contact arrangements and any contingency plans are in place if required.

Be interested in their plans for the festive break. Finally, make sure there’s something in the diary for 2017 to continue the conversation.

Intermediate Level

The intermediate level is to call a supplier you’ve never spoken to before (but which might be relevant to your business of course).

Find out what they do and how they do it. What have been their biggest achievements this year and what have they got planned for next year.  By this stage you are likely to have either ruled them in, or out, as interesting for the future.

If of no interest, that’s fine – but maybe they’ve got something very relevant to offer you in 2017 and they could help you. If that’s the case, book a follow up meeting for January! And yes, Public Sector friends, this is ok!

Advanced Level

The hardest group of suppliers to pick the phone up to might be those that have responded to your RFx and Tender processes this year, but which have not secured any of your business. Or suppliers whose contracts have expired and you’ve gone your separate ways.

Call one of these suppliers each day during December to thank them once more for their participation in your process or previous contracts. Find out how business has been for them this year, and whether the feedback you gave them has been useful to them and how they have developed or improved.

Ask them what they are looking forwards to next year and think about whether there might be an opportunity to re-engage in future.

Reward

Whilst an advent calendar themed challenge is a bit of fun, the benefits of this challenge I hope are obvious.

From practical information like opening hours over Christmas through to discussing, and potentially solving, real business problems. From identifying potential innovation opportunities to just finding out what your account manager is doing for Christmas, these conversations could add real value to you and your organisation.

Remember, as you walk past shop windows at this time of year, that you are your own personal shop window. And you are your company’s shop window to its suppliers, past present and future.

These conversations will build your personal brand and your company’s brand too. You might even have a list of ideas and opportunities to look forward to on that difficult first working morning after New Year too!

Share your Stories!

As it is the season for sharing. Please comment or reply and share your feedback on this challenge and on some of the conversations you’ve had. No one is going to check you’ve made 17 calls, but if everyone makes some calls, I’m sure there will be some direct value from it.

Enjoy connecting, and Season’s Greetings to you all!

How To Solve The Extended Payment Term Problem

Extended payment terms can be a huge burden for buyers and suppliers. Not to mention the negative press. But there is a solution at hand.

In response to the financial recession of 2008, many supply chain and procurement departments began pushing their suppliers for extended payment terms as a means to improve cash flow and limit the need to acquire credit, which was in short supply.

While the recession has long since past, the practice is still very much in use today. In fact, major companies such as AB InBev, Kellogg, Diageo, and Mars commonly establish payment terms that extend anywhere from 90 to 120 days. Additionally, a 2016 study revealed that buying teams are planning to extend their payment terms even further.

This push for extended payment terms makes sense for buyers. Extra cash in the coffers can be used to fund R&D, buy back stock, and invest in strategic initiatives. It also never hurts to have more free cash as working capital.

However, while buyers benefit greatly from extended payment arrangements, they can pose a tremendous burden to suppliers – especially small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

How Extended Payment Terms Hurt Suppliers (And Buyers)

Extended payment terms can be detrimental to suppliers for a variety of reasons, including:

1. Curbed Productivity

Many SMB suppliers have limited resources in terms of manpower and production capability. As a result, they can only take on so many projects and contracts at a time before reaching capacity.

When funds are tied up waiting for cash to come in, these companies are precluded from investing in new equipment, replenishing stock or adding to their workforces. This brings the company to a standstill, and could put it out of business altogether.

2. Lack of Financial Flexibility

While large corporations and buying teams have the purchasing power to demand extended payment terms, smaller suppliers do not.

As a result, these suppliers are forced to receive payments late while paying their own suppliers early. This creates a cash flow crunch in working capital that many can’t escape.

In fact, most firms operate on a month-to-month basis with cash reserves built to last only 27 days.  

3. Lower Employee Morale

In addition to the financial consequences of extending payment terms, the practice takes a human toll as well. Going three-to-four months without receiving payments from buyers makes it difficult for businesses to make their own payroll – usually the largest expense for a SMB.

As a result, small suppliers suffer from reduced morale and engagement. This can, in turn, lead to a decline in quality and production delays.

4. Limited Credit Options

With limited cash on hand, the only financial lifeline available to many SMBs is to apply for more credit. However, 50% of small businesses receive no money at all when they apply for credit loans.

SMB Credit
Source: Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Atlanta, Cleveland and Philadelphia

Extended Payment Terms Can Hurt Buyers, Too

In the end, buyers end up paying the price for extended payment terms as well. That’s because it introduces risk into their supply chains. If a trusted supplier is forced out of business or suffers a decline in productivity, it hurts the procuring organisation.

In addition, suppliers have long memories. Many will compensate for extended payment terms with higher costs, while others include steep late-payment penalties in their contracts.

Lastly, a high quality supplier whose products or services are in-demand supplier may simply choose to work with other companies that offer friendlier payment terms, and forego bidding new opportunities that come with onerous payment terms.

Reverse Factoring May Be The Solution

Reverse factoring allows a buying organisation to leverage its strong credit rating to acquire favourable financing, which is used to pay suppliers in a more timely manner.

Here’s how it works:

  • Supplier submits the invoice to the buyer.
  • Buyer approves the invoice and submits it to a 3rd party financial institution or factor, who bases interest terms on creditworthiness of the buyer.
  • Financial institution pays the supplier at their desired early term of net 30 days, discounting the invoice payment by the agreed-to discount rate.
  • Buyer pays the financial institution the face value of the invoice at their agreed-upon date, say net 90 or net 120 days.

The concept is fairly new, but it is already proving to be a great solution for buyers that want to reap the cash flow benefits of extended payment terms without putting their suppliers in jeopardy.

That’s because it is beneficial to every participant in the process. It allows both buyers and suppliers maintain cash flow while forging positive working relationships in the supply chain. The financial institution also benefits by generating a return on the funds lent to the supplier and reimbursed by the buyer’s payment.

Offering friendlier payment terms is just one way to build stronger relationships with suppliers. Discover more on how to improve your relationships with SMBs in our latest tip sheet.

Ed Edwards is Audience Outreach Manager at THOMASNET.com. He leverages his extensive experiences in engineering, manufacturing and procurement, to educate procurement and engineering professionals on how to streamline and improve their work.

Ed provides customised training to organisations’ engineering and sourcing teams and helps buyers with their challenges and finds them new opportunities.

Setting KPIs for Beginners: Measuring Success

Now we have our KPIs agreed, how do we measure our data in order to ensure success in supplier relationships?

Catch up with part one and part two of this three-part introductory overview of the role and relevance of KPIs to support Supplier Relationship Management (SRM).

So, we’ve established the why, the what, and the how for setting KPIs. Now we need to understand how we are going to measure the KPIs in order to provide meaningful reports, and set a recipe for success!

Systems for Capturing KPI Data

In a perfect world, KPI data should come from automated systems. However, when you receive the data from the supplier, you may want to corroborate some of it with your own.

Commercial software vendors like SAP-Ariba, Coupa, Oracle, Emptoris and others have features that monitor and track some KPIs. The base functionality comes through the core purchasing systems. Some organisations, however, choose to develop their own reporting systems to ensure they have the features and flexibility they need.

Another option is to use manual systems and processes. This could include disseminating data through spreadsheets, email or any other format that users have access to.

These methods are simple and can be very effective if applied consistently, but obviously take a lot more time than automated reporting. One concern with manual systems is the higher potential for human error.

Typical Data Points for Measuring KPIs

The types of data points you can collect depend on the system you’re using. Below is a sample list – keep in mind that your list will depend on your organisation’s tools, systems and reporting requirements.

  • At the point of ordering: you can check the order against the contract to track compliance.
  • At the point of receipt: you can verify whether goods are delivered in full or delivered on time.
  • At the point of invoicing: you can check invoice accuracy and blocked invoices.
  • At the point of inspection or usage: you can collect quality metrics, including defects and out of specifications.
  • At the completion of the order: you can poll end-users to gather feedback on the ordering process and the goods or services delivered.

Multi-Supplier Performance Dashboards

These dashboards can be used to compare several suppliers across the same or multiple categories, depending on your objectives.

Comparing the suppliers in this way can be powerful motivator. For example, you could use the comparison data to push your suppliers towards best practice.

Alternatively, you could identify the least competitive suppliers for elimination, or identify other improvement opportunities. If your objective is to reduce your number of suppliers, KPI data could help you make a decision based on the suppliers’ ranking.

Recipe for Success

Keep the following five tips in your procurement toolkit for the next time you’re drafting KPIs and thinking about how to get the most out of your supplier relationships:

  1. Avoid an adversarial approach. Remember, this is all about relationships – and about people. People are more relaxed and inclined to come to an agreement when they aren’t in an adversarial environment. As a procurement professional, you’re going to lead your supplier to success through innovative and progressive means. Essentially, you are the champion of their cause to your senior management.
  1. Work collaboratively with your supplier to develop each KPI and agree on how it will be used. Let the supplier know which KPIs are critical to your organisation – the ones you’ll be listing on the dashboard and sharing with senior management. This enables the supplier to work with you to develop the best approach for success.
  1. Have regular reviews with the supplier – both formal and informal. Always keep the lines of communication open.
  1. When issues do arise, address them as soon as possible. Workshop with the supplier on how to best solve the issue. Remember, don’t focus on the symptom, but try to identify the root cause of any problem and find a solution that will work for everyone.
  1. Let your supplier know how they’re performing compared to others suppliers, while keeping their identities anonymous. This is a form of benchmarking and can help motivate suppliers to improve.

That wraps up our three-part series on setting Key Performance Indicators! Hopefully this will set you on the path to KPI success, but if you have any comments or questions, you can ask them in our new Procurement Tools and Templates Group.

Setting KPIs for Beginners: Types of KPI

We know the why in the role of KPIs in Supplier Relationship Management. But we also need to be able to identify which type of KPI will bring the best results.

KPI for beginners

Catch up with the first part of this introductory overview of the role and relevance of KPIs to support Supplier Relationship Management (SRM).

So now we have established the role of the KPI in the SRM process, we need to think about the type of KPI we’ll use. Much of the decision making around this will be based on what procurement is measuring with the KPIs.

Remember – procurement should discuss KPIs with other stakeholders and, where possible, involve suppliers too. This engagement could make the difference between success and failure.

Types of KPI

Here’s an overview of the three different types of KPIs:

  1. Quantitative – these are measurable, numeric and objective, like rating on a scale of 1 to 10. An example of a quantitative KPI would be the number of late deliveries per quarter.
  1. Qualitative – these KPIs are more subjective. An example could be how responsive the supplier is to a request – let’s say you have a special order that needs to be delivered to an unusual location. It’s a one-off request, but if the supplier makes the delivery it would save you significant costs in transport and you know they make deliveries to that location for other customers. Is the supplier reluctant to change the delivery location, and is there a fee involved? Is the fee reasonable?
  1. Cultural – are the KPIs aligned with your organisational values? Let’s say your organisation has a drive to always buy locally-made products. You want KPIs to capture whether your suppliers are buying locally as well.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all set of KPIs. Whether you are working on direct or indirect categories, manufacturing or distribution, you need to match the KPIs to the supplier.

For your Toolkit: KPI Checklist

This checklist is a quick summary to confirm if your KPI will stand up to scrutiny.

  • Is it measurable? If it’s not measurable, than what good is it? How will you know if your supplier is meeting the required standards?
  • Is it meaningful? Do you or anyone else in the organisation care about it – if not, why collect it?
  • Is it actionable by the supplier? There’s no use measuring a data point and feeding that information back to the supplier if the supplier is unable to act on or improve the situation. If it’s not within their sphere of influence, they probably won’t accept the KPI to begin with.

Keep the KPIs simple, easy to understand and easy to measure. Ensure they support your overall business strategy and objectives by aligning them to your customer requirements.

Experience shows it’s better to capture a few vital measures that can be tracked consistently and repeatedly. This is much more effective than measuring randomly and or inconsistently.

Institutionalising the measurement process and regularly reinforcing it with suppliers and stakeholders will provide a common ground and common language, support a collaborative environment and make it easier for everyone to understand, participate and achieve.

Finally, you want to reinforce the value of the data collection to support improved business performance – that is, now that you’ve collected the information, make sure you tell the right story.

Contract Level KPI Reports

The dashboard (or scorecard) summarises your KPIs and measures them against a particular supplier.  This tool can be used internally to review a supplier’s past or current performance. It’s also important to share this information with the supplier so they are aware of the data and can act upon it.

KPI status reports should be delivered in a timely manner to enable you to address stakeholder concerns quickly and responsively. The reports need to include all the relevant information your stakeholders require – this includes the good and the bad.

You don’t want the senior management finding out bad news from the inter-office grapevine or worse, the media. This is your chance to deliver important details relevant to the success of the business. It’s your news and you want the kudos that go along with identifying and sharing it first.

You also want to define a clear escalation process to address issues and problems as they arise. For example, in a supplier review meeting you may realise the supplier’s data doesn’t match yours.

The supplier is reluctant to change their process based on your data, when their own data says everything is okay. You need an agreed escalation point to review and resolve this disagreement.

Finally, you want KPIs that will deliver predictive measures, not just historical. This allows you to stay one step ahead by being in a position to identify and act upon issues before they become serious.  Predictive measures will also help you to identify targets for the supplier to meet and beat over the course of the contract.

All of this information fits into the reporting documentation to demonstrate how and why you’re spending your organisation’s money. The highlights of this report can be summarised in the dashboard and presented to senior management.

Stay tuned for the third and final article in this series, which explores systems used to capture KPI data, typical data points for measuring KPIs, and multi-supplier performance dashboards.