Tag Archives: supplier relationship management

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…

advent calendar challenge

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.

extended payment

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?

measure success

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.

Love It or Hate It – The Importance of Supply Chain Stability

A disagreement relating to rising supply chain costs has highlighted the importance of supply chain stability.

marmite supply chain stability

Early on Thursday morning, the top news headlines weren’t about conflict or celebrity scandal, but the future of a famous British staple. Maligned and loved in equal measure, Marmite was the topic on everyone’s lips.

The sudden interest in the salty, yeast-based spread came about due to a very public spat between Tesco and Unilever over rising product costs.

According to reports, Unilever had requested that Tesco, and other UK retailers, raise the price of their products in store by 10 per cent. However, when Tesco refused to pass on this cost to customers, Unilever stopped supplying certain goods to the retailer.

Tesco responded to this by halting online sales of Unilever products. This sparked concerns of a prolonged shortage of goods on supermarket shelves.

However, by Thursday evening, the situation was resolved and the stand-off ended. It’s expected that Unilever goods will return to the Tesco website in the next few days.

It’s understood that Unilever gave some ground in negotiations, leading to an agreement between the companies. Asda has also publicly commented that it successfully negotiated with Unilever on the price increase.

Rising Supply Chain Costs

Unilever’s reason for the requested price increase was the continuing fall in the value of the pound. This has in turn led to higher import costs for goods into the UK.

While many of its products, including Marmite, are manufactured in the UK, Unilever imports products and raw materials from its base in the Netherlands.

Since the Brexit vote in June, the pound has fallen in value by over 17 per cent. As the pound dropped to its lowest level since June 23rd on Tuesday, it was reported that some airport Bureau du Change had been offering exchange rates of less than one Euro per pound.

Graeme Pitkethly, Unilever’s Chief Financial Officer, was quoted on Thursday morning as saying the price increases were part of “normal business“. But, while the price increases may be a normal part of business, experts have warned that this may just be the beginning.

As the UK’s exit from the EU comes closer, it’s expected that consumers will see rising prices for many products. As the UK imports more than 60 per cent of what it consumes, the FMCG industry will be one of the hardest hit.

Items such as bread, milk, bananas and wine are expected to increase as manufacturers and retailers stop being able to carry the increasing import costs. A rise of between 8 and 10 per cent is expected on clothing, while petrol will rise an estimated 4 or 5 pence per litre in the UK before the end of the month.

Importance of Stability

At a time when margins are being squeezed, the importance of supply chain stability is huge.

A survey published by the UK Food and Drink Federation (FDF) showed that 63 per cent of manufacturers are suffering from decreased profit margins. As well as this, 76 per cent a seeing higher ingredient costs too.

With 96 per cent of the UK’s food and drink businesses small or medium-sized, larger organisations need to be aware of the impacts of margins throughout their supply chains.

Some organisations will try to put increasing costs back on to manufacturers, without taking into account the long-term impacts. Any further supply chain disruption on top of what is happening already could potentially drive prices higher again.

While prices rises for consumers are probably inevitable, increasing supply chain efficiencies and demand forecasting can help to limit the damage.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retailers Consortium, said: “Retailers are firmly on the side of consumers in negotiating with suppliers and improving efficiencies in the supply chain to control the inflationary pressure that is building through the devaluation of the pound.

“However, years of falling shop prices and higher costs have left limited scope for retailers to continue absorbing this pressure. Everyone in the supply chain will need to play their part in maintaining low prices for consumers.”

By building a greater understanding of the costs through the supply chain, retailers and manufacturers can try to overcome a lack of stability collaboratively.

Do you work in procurement in retail or FMCG? What are your experiences of the recent price rises? Let us know below.

Away from the worries of empty shelves, we’ve stocked up on the week’s big procurement and supply chain headlines.

GM in Court Over Price Bargains

  • A court in Massachusetts will heard a case last Friday, brought against GM by a now bankrupt supplier.
  • Clark-Cutler-McDermott, alleges GM knowingly led the company into a bad faith deal, and encouraged them to take on more debt.
  • GM have requested the case be dismissed, arguing CCM is trying to pass the blame for poor management.
  • The case will help to shed more light on the highly-criticised bargaining practices allegedly happening in GM’s supply chain.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 US Recall Begins

  • Samsung have begun the process of recalling a further 1.9 million Galaxy Note 7 devices, bringing the total to nearly 3 million since the beginning of September.
  • A fault in the Note 7’s battery has led to it overheating, with users experiencing smoking, sparking, or on-fire devices.
  • The recall is expected to cost Samsung an estimated $2.3 billion.
  • The company has seen $21 billion wiped off its market value since Tuesday last week.

Read more at The Guardian

MPs Call for End to Antibiotic “Overuse”

  • A group of MPs has called for the curtailing of the “systematic overuse” of antibiotics in supermarket meat supply chains.
  • Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith tabled a motion calling on UK supermarkets to adopt policies prohibiting routine mass-medication of livestock because of the emergence of antibiotic resistant bugs.
  • The motion has so far received the support of 21 MPs from across the parties.
  • Goldsmith tabled the EDM after a report found resistant E. coli in supermarket pig and poultry meat.

Read more at Supply Management

Amazon Fined by FAA Again

  • The FAA has proposed a fine of $78,000 for Amazon for breaching regulations on shipping of hazardous materials.
  • It’s the online giant’s fourth fine in as many months, with more likely to come from the UK.
  • The latest fine relates to the shipment of an ethanol-based hair tonic, without the correct documentation for flammable goods.
  • The issues highlight the hurdles Amazon faces in scaling up its own logistics and transport operations.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal

Setting KPIs for Beginners: Why Bother?

An introductory overview of the role and relevance of KPIs to support Supplier Relationship Management (SRM).

KPIs article 1

In this three-part article, we discuss some of the different KPIs that are used specifically for SRM. This list is by no means exhaustive; it can’t be, as performance indicators must be relevant to your own organisation, customers, and requirements.  However, this list can be used as a guide and can become an essential part of your toolkit.

We’ll also review some of the popular ways people measure and monitor KPIs through systems and reports. Again, this won’t be an exhaustive list because of cultural and technical requirements unique to every organisation.

You’ll also find some key tips for implementing KPIs successfully, including a checklist (more tools for your toolkit!).

We will explore how dashboards can be a fantastic tool for procurement professionals to use when communicating to stakeholders and promote hard-won benefits to the business. An effective dashboard will include KPIs that demonstrate how suppliers or categories are being managed and their impact on the business. Remember, the KPIs you set may influence senior management decisions. Therefore, you need to get it right.

Why bother with KPIs?  

To get started, let’s talk about why we use KPIs.

As procurement professionals, we’re responsible for making smart purchasing decisions that support the values and principles of procurement, such as probity and value for money. These decisions must also support the philosophy and strategy of individual organisations. Importantly, we need to be able to justify and document how (and why) we’re spending money.

KPIs can help us justify spend. In fact, KPIs can be used to identify risk, cost savings, innovation opportunities and successes, value-for-money initiatives, customer satisfaction and any number of other factors that we or our customers feel is important.

The role of a supplier KPI is vast. They set the performance standard and have measurable features used to identify areas of improvement, such as establishing a baseline, identifying where you want to be and developing a path to get there. But it doesn’t stop there – KPIs can also be connected to payment milestones, credit payment and liquidated damages.

The important point to remember is that supplier KPIs must be agreed upon by all parties involved. If your supplier doesn’t know what is expected of them, they won’t be able to comply, let alone excel. That’s just one side of the relationship.

The other side of the relationship involves the professionals within the buying organisation. How do you, the procurement professional, know which KPIs to use? Are cost savings important? Delivery times?  ISO standing? Inventory reduction? You won’t know unless you ask your customers about their requirements.

So, why are KPIs important?

What gets measured gets done. KPIs are a way of ensuring your supplier focuses on your fundamental business needs. We can do this through:

  • Incorporating our customers’ requirements into the KPIs to align supplier performance with organisational goals.
  • Providing constructive feedback (rather than punitive criticism). Why? Because the end goal is a win-win situation where you get what you and your customers need, while the supplier gets to improve its reputation and build its business.
  • Promoting a continuous feedback loop using KPIs to drive supplier performance, initiative and improvement. KPIs should be linked to the terms of the contract but remember, the focus is on the relationship. Indicators should therefore reflect the “spirit” of the contract as much as the “letter”.
  • Bringing clarity to overly generic contract requirements to drive meaningful performance.

Challenges in KPI management

Here are some common challenges that we’ve seen through our own experience:

  • Capturing the data – identifying the relevant data and accurately acquiring the data points.
  • SRM fatigue – motivating yourself, your team and your suppliers to continue SRM activities over the life of the contract, which can be months or even years. Activities can easily become stale and sometimes you’ll need to push them along.
  • Comparing and contrasting suppliers – supplier performance will be very different depending on their size, sector and region. Ensure you’re comparing apples with apples.

Engaging end-users is important

When driving supplier performance over long-term contracts, we want to keep things moving so end-users don’t feel that nothing is happening. Keep end-users in the loop, ensure their voices are heard and let them know how things are progressing.

We often focus on senior management as our primary “customer”, but the end-user is arguably more important – especially when it comes to compliance. After all, they’re the ones who will use the product, system or tool that is being purchased.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, which will explore the different types of KPIs, complete with a KPI checklist and contract-level KPI reports.

In Search of Your Perfect (Supply) Partner

With an estimated 200 million suppliers operating around the world, how can you be sure you have the perfect partner? Fortunately, here’s where technology can lend a hand.

Perfect Partner Suppliers

Recent estimates put the total number of suppliers operating around the world at a staggering 200 million. To put this in context, that’s like having every person in the UK operating a supply business. Three times over.

The risks for procurement in this scenario are there for all to see. With an enormous number of potential suppliers, how do you know you are dealing with the right ones? Are you getting the best deal you could?

And with the suppliers you do have on board, how are you driving contract compliance? As well as being expected to deliver the value in the contracts, procurement needs to ensure that objectives are aligned with internal stakeholders, including the CFO.

Innovation in ‘Tail’ Suppliers

Common thinking in procurement now is that the profession can no longer ignore small- and medium-sized suppliers. By continuing to use the same suppliers, procurement misses out on innovation opportunities, as well as savings opportunities.

Traditionally these suppliers have been dismissed as ‘tail spend’, and ignored in terms of strategy. As we experience a period of unprecedented market change and volatility, procurement is now looking to these same organisations to help drive efficiencies, and competitive advantage.

The other factor procurement must take into consideration is how to measure the risk within their supply chain. One slight issue from a first, second, or even third tier supplier, could have drastic consequences for an organisation’s reputation.

Technology as Competitive Advantage

If organisations want to thrive in increasingly volatile climates, they need to leverage their technology. Effectively using IT capabilities and procurement technology can help develop a competitive advantage.

More and more organisations are streamlining traditional procurement activities, and freeing up resources for strategic projects. The ability to do this, while sourcing and managing suppliers, requires up-to-date IT capabilities and analytics, as well as best in class procurement technology.

Oracle’s aim is to provide its client with complete, open, and fully integrated solutions which help to reduce both the cost, and the complexity, of the IT infrastructure.

David Hudson, Business Development Director at Oracle Cloud Solutions, believes procurement needs to realise that the future is now.

“Delivering the right capabilities for Procurement professionals to drive greater collaboration, process standardisation, increased efficiency at a reducing cost remains a big challenge.

“At Oracle, we aim to help our customers achieve great cost savings and overall value, while reducing supplier risk, and increasing compliance. Technology, such as our Strategic Procurement portfolio, can help to deliver these key benefits, particularly when integrated throughout the process, as part of a modern Cloud solution,” says David.

Build Your Competitive Advantage

Procurious Founder, Tania Seary, has previously stated that, “Today’s supply chain executives must be brave and bold. They are expected to handle cataclysmic events and act with extreme agility.

“There’s one qualification – and I would go so far as to say that it’s the defining qualification for today’s supply chain leaders – that separates the highest performers from the herd. And that’s courage.”

This courage can be bolstered by understanding the role and benefits of technology, especially Cloud software and platforms, in procurement strategy, planning and decision making. By being more informed, procurement leaders can make these bold decisions, and ensure they are staying ahead of the competition.

Web

To find out more on how procurement can better manage risk and complexity, and integrate technology to help them thrive in a changing world, join Tania Seary and David Hobson for a free webinar on 7th November. Find out more information and register here.

10 Ideas to Encourage Suppliers to Go the Extra Mile

Are your suppliers willing to go the extra mile for you? What can you offer them to drive the extra effort?

Extra Mile

Buyers rely on suppliers to perform numerous requests from the very beginning of their relationship.

From the first RFx, to the laundry list of requests on tight timelines, suppliers play an integral role in the sourcing process. And having them wanting to help can make a huge difference.

What can supplier enablement do to encourage suppliers to meet their deadlines, and even go the extra mile beyond the bare minimum?

Here are ten potential ‘carrots’ to offer suppliers: 

1) Invite to Assist with eProcurement Pilots

Suppliers welcome getting as much exposure as possible. Particularly if they are a new supplier, or you’re rolling out a new eProcurement system.

You can let suppliers know that if they can meet or even exceed your requirements that you’ll highlight them during testing and User Acceptance Testing (UAT). You can include them in your test scripts, and call them out during demos, amongst other things.

2) Feature on eProcurement System’s Home Page

Some modern eProcurement systems give admins the ability to display whatever you’d like on the homepage using business enabled CMS blocks.

Offering this prime real estate to highlight suppliers who have excelled (e.g. provided an awesome catalogue or offered heavy discounts) would be a huge inspiration for a supplier.

3) Float Sales Items to Top of Search Results

Modern eProcurement systems allow admins to affect search results giving specific items more weight or even float to the top of search results.

Similar to how suppliers promote sales items on their B2C sites, you can offer suppliers to boost items they agree to put on sale for at least a period of time.

4) Invite Onsite for ‘Meet and Greet’

Most suppliers will welcome the opportunity to come in and informally meet with their end customers. Maybe even allow them to setup their trade show booth or a table in the office lobby.

I’ve seen some buyers even create some co-branded marketing material, including booth signs or posters, stating that the supplier’s products were available on the eProcurement platform.

5) Visit Them Onsite

When suppliers have to come in to meet with you in your office, it’s typically a nerve-racking experience for them. They’re probably all dressed up and a little nervous as they enter your, likely relatively lavish, corporate office building.

But offering to come to their office for an informal tour/meet-n-greet would likely be an enjoyable honour for them. 

6) Promote in an Email Blast

How every supplier wishes they had the ability, and their buyer’s blessing, to send even one email to all your employees.

Offer them the chance to promote their offerings in a company-wide email blast and every supplier will jump at the opportunity. 

7) Display an Ad on your Intranet

It’s in a buyer’s best interest to entice more employees to use their eProcurement system to make purchases. The buyer’s intranet is probably a popular place where employees go daily.

You can display an ad on your intranet to let employees know they can procure that supplier’s category via the eProcurement system. For example, “The New iPhone 7 – Now on eBuy!”

8) Offer a Testimonial

Suppliers are very proud of their relationship with their customers. They’re especially proud of being selected to tightly integrate with a customer’s internal eProcurement system after all the effort both have put in. 

When a buyer gives a supplier a testimonial that they can use to grow their business. It’s often a very welcome shot in the arm for the supplier’s marketing efforts.

9) Blessing for a White Paper

A step up from a testimonial would be a buyer’s blessing to allow the supplier to create a white paper on how they’ve helped you.

For example, getting the supplier to tell the story of how they exceeded requirements for the buyers on a new project. 

10) Issue a Press Release

While I’ve never heard of it being done, there is one absolute ultimate carrot (apart from a multi-million dollar contract) which would ensure the extra mile from the supplier.

This would be to give the supplier their blessing to issue a press release to let the world know about the partnership. Ideally the release could also include a quote from the buyer.

Admittedly, this would only make sense if it was a very strategic and unique arrangement, and that a press release would make BOTH companies look good.

Some of these may be out of the question for your organisation. But hopefully they’ll at least give you a sense of what’s often valuable to suppliers, and some ideas on how you can help them to help you.

What are some other examples of ways you’ve been able to encourage suppliers to go the extra mile?

Has Procurement Dehumanised The Sourcing Process?

It’s only a matter of time before the procurement profession realises that it’s dehumanised the sourcing process, a move that will negatively impact the industry.

Sourcing Process Relationships

Procurement needs a new measure of success that reflects its impact, not its output. This is according to a Melbourne-based procurement coach, and self-proclaimed procurement disrupter, Matt Perfect.

Procurement with Purpose

Just as conscious businesses are learning that profit is a by-product of business with purpose, so too savings will be a by-product of procurement with purpose.

Perfect argues, “What have we really ‘saved’ if we drive down our suppliers’ pricing to unsustainable levels?

“Levels where they are forced to compromise on service and quality, or worse, safety and ethics? Procurement needs a metric that reflects the exponential impact of its decisions throughout the supply chain.

“The impact on suppliers and their employees…and suppliers’ suppliers and so on. This metric must measure real human value. Not just economic value,” Perfect says.

Cost at Any Cost

The Melburnian has carved an enviable niche in the Australian procurement landscape. Perfect has worked in numerous procurement roles, including for FreeMarkets, National Australia Bank, Toll and The Faculty.

Now as an independent coach and facilitator, he advocates the importance of supplier relations, and feels that major disruptive change within the procurement industry is only a matter of time.

Perfect writes about the disruption of the procurement sector in white papers. One, titled Supplier Love and Why You Need More of It, published in July last year, explains that as much as 70 per cent of revenue now goes to third parties (according to Proxima Group). Never before have suppliers been more important stakeholders in an organisation’s success.

Yet, despite significant investment in procurement capability and strategic focus over the last few decades, many supplier relationships remain transactional at best and at worst, adversarial.

Businesses continue to prioritise shareholder value above all else, sometimes even at the expense of customers, employees and the environment, but almost always ahead of suppliers’ interests.

One might be forgiven for thinking that ‘cost at any cost’ is the primary operating model for these businesses.

Conscious Business

Conscious businesses understand that this is not sustainable. Fortunately, there is a better way, but it requires a fundamental shift in the way we define stakeholders and value.

“We need to be looking at ways to win the hearts and minds of suppliers, rather than purely relying on negotiation tactics. When you look at the mindsets of procurement professionals, relationships just aren’t playing a big enough part at the moment,” Perfect says.

“You need to look at supplier relationships and help improve those relationships to get better outcomes. I work to improve that level of trust in a relationship, with the view of generating greater impact. I also look at the broader impact of relationships, which comes down to how it affects the lives of people.”

Perfect says that procurement is ripe for disruption, and is in fact on the cusp of a major shift. Part of this shift should include the consideration of whether procurement accurately sums up the role – supplier relations could be closer.

“There will be a shift to a new age. A human age, which is a process that procurement doesn’t have its head around yet as a profession. We need to be more engaged with vision and purpose moving forward as a profession.”

Perfect believes the younger generation will drive the changes as they strive for a more human-centred career.

Remembering the Human Element in Sourcing Process

A focus on supply chain issues, and the human elements within supply chains, is another driver for change.

Other industries embrace change more readily than procurement has to date. Marketing, for example, understands that to be really effective and cut-through, it has to touch the lives of people.

The human relations industry has also moved away from seeing staff as a number and has improved the way it operates within the business environment by focusing on the people. Procurement hasn’t made this leap yet, he says.

“We’ve also got to be thinking about how to appeal to the hearts and minds of consumers. We need to head into this space as a broader industry if we’re ever going to survive. I urge my clients to be the change they want to see in the world.”

At the moment, the industry is narrowly focused on shareholder value, rather than a broader stakeholder orientation, which is drawn from the realm of conscious capitalism.

“There needs to be an interdependence that creates value without trading off one another,” he says.

People Over Process

Matt Perfect
Matt Perfect

Perfect has an undergraduate degree in economics from Cardiff in the UK, and pursued a consulting career before landing an analyst position, specialising in e-sourcing and online technology. This kick-started a procurement career spanning multiple consulting and management roles in a variety of industries.

He left The Faculty a couple of years ago to focus on coaching. He works to help his clients create better and more conscious relationships with their internal and external stakeholders.

“This is where I focus my energy now. Looking at all spending in procurement and how that impacts on people. I believe we all need to have a greater focus on people than process.

Since working as a procurement coach, Perfect has worked with Social Traders, CPA Australia and The Trusted Negotiator, among others.

You can follow Matt at mattperfect.com or on Twitter at @m8ttperfect.

Procurement Turns to Supplier Relationships for Innovation

As procurement seeks to increased its involvement in innovation, it’s turning to its supplier relationships to drive change.

Supplier Relationships

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director at Wax Digital.

Wax Digital’s Procurement Innovation Pathway research is based on 100 interviews with the UK’s senior procurement professionals, to canvass their opinions of the key topics in the profession.

Previously, we highlighted that procurement wants to be more involved in innovation. However it is the risk averse nature of procurement that appears to be holding it back.

In this article, we assess the importance of good supplier relationships.

Mutually Beneficial Relationships

Achieving effective, mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers can be a great way for procurement to drive positive change. That’s just one reason, according to new research, why procurement professionals are prioritising suppliers in their quest to innovate.

In fact, Wax Digital’s research showed that procurement’s top two innovation areas relate to working with suppliers.

In first place, 57 per cent cited supplier relationship management as an area that can aid innovation. Sourcing suppliers for product innovation came in second, with 49 per cent. Reducing supply-chain risks also scored highly.

Turning to Supplier Relationships

Compared to lower scoring areas, like automating processes to save time/resource, and improving spend management by empowering people, the supplier is clearly where procurement is turning its attention to innovate.

New ways of engaging with suppliers, through self-service portals for instance, and ensuring supplier compliance through automated contract management, are key priorities.

But it’s equally about what suppliers can do for procurement. There’s a desire to find partners who can be a catalyst for innovation at the core of the organisation’s products and delivery.

Technological Investment

These priorities remain the focus into 2017 too. This means the future could see an even more supplier-focused innovation mind-set in the procurement function.

Adding weight to this, the two most commonly used procurement technologies are also heavily supplier-focused. 51 per cent of organisations favour supplier information management, while 49 er cent are looking to contract management systems.

And the most common technology investment planned for the coming 12 months is supplier relationship management (SRM) tools. Procurement is clearly doing more than talking the talk on supplier innovation.

Challenge of Involvement

The future looks promising in this regard but there are challenges ahead. Procurement sees the value of supplier focused innovation but it is not always in control of it.

84 per cent of respondents said they were currently involved in innovations around supply chain collaboration. However, less than half of these, 40 per cent, said that they were leading it. Although this figure rises to 50 per cent in the future, there’s still some way to go before procurement fully takes the reins of innovation.

Now that many procurement professionals have already achieved some of the more transactional and process based quick wins, it’s natural that we see more and more looking to strategic supplier management as the next frontier to conquer.

Building better relationships with the right suppliers, whether existing or new, is clearly uppermost in their thinking.

The Innovation 2016 research was conducted by Morar Consulting. The research involved 100 interviews to canvass the opinions of UK senior procurement professionals, working in small to large UK enterprises.

You can find out more about the research, and download the report, by visiting the Wax Digital website.