Tag Archives: vendors

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.

How Dawn Tiura Built The Largest Sourcing Network In The US

If you’re an ambitious procurement or supply chain professional, there’s plenty to learn from Dawn Tiura about the power of networking, and upskilling yourself in the important areas of third party risk.


“You’ve got to meet Dawn,” said Gabe Perez from Coupa.

“You’ve got to meet Dawn,” said Chris Sawchuk from Hackett Group.

“You’ve got to meet Dawn,” said Alpar Kambar from Denali.

So, I said to myself – “I’ve really got to meet Dawn!”

There’s literally only a handful of women in the world who own and operate their own businesses serving the profession.

So… it was great to finalIy meet the much-admired Dawn a few years ago at the LevaData conference in San Francisco. Finally – I had found someone out there just like me – someone who also believed in the power of bringing our profession together.

Dawn and I are still really getting to know each other. We next met up at the SAP Ariba conference in Austin. Then she did a fantastic job keynoting at our Big Ideas Summit in Chicago last year (on third party risk…which is her specialty and very timely for what we were about to experience this year!).

SIG is a powerhouse. They dominate the U.S. Their member companies are a who’s who of Fortune 500 and Global 1000 companies who get together frequently. Their upcoming Global Executive Summit will feature insights from senior executives and disruptive thought leaders; they host weekly webinars, one-day events and CPO Roundtables; drive thought leadership in Future of Sourcing; and they have a training and certification program for sourcing, procurement and risk professionals.     

So, I wanted to make sure the Procurious community knows all about Dawn and her amazing company….so I asked for this interview..

When you started SIG, what was your vision? Were you trying to build the largest sourcing network in the U.S.? 

I actually am not the founder of Sourcing Industry Group (SIG). I took over the leadership in 2007 and my original intent was to remake it from a “good ole boys” network into the leading organization for sourcing, procurement and outsourcing professionals. My vision was to be a disrupter to the industry, pushing the latest ideas to members and to help elevate the role of the CPO.

Has your vision become a reality? Has SIG become what you thought it would be?

Yes and we’re making progress everyday as we continue pushing the envelope to adopt emerging technologies and find new ways to streamline the process of procurement. Over the last 10 years, SIG has become the largest network for sourcing professionals in the world. But more important than the size of our membership is the collegial nature and information sharing that we have fostered. SIG brings people together to share best practices and next practices in a non-commercial manner that creates success.

What have been your secrets to success?  And what advice would you give to others thinking about starting their own entrepreneurial venture?  

The secret to my success is surrounding myself with people who are smarter than me. They are my inspiration and they never say “no” to my new ideas. I also pride myself with only hiring people who volunteer in some capacity in their personal lives. For me, I think that people who give back to their local community or for a nonprofit says a lot to me about their character. We also allow people to take time off work, with pay, to support their own causes. The people I have recruited to the team often come from my volunteer work where I’ve seen their work ethic up close and personal. 

Why do you think people join networks? And, in particular, your network, SIG?  

The reason people join is most likely not the reason they ultimately stay.  People join SIG to network, share best practices and to become better educated. They stay largely due to the network itself and the fact we are non-commercial. People enjoy the camaraderie, the fun we have and most importantly how we lift one another up and help each other.  Our members are all great people, they participate fully and care for one another.  

Why did you decide to have both buyers and suppliers in your network? 

This was easy for me, I came from the supplier side, having consulted in sourcing for more than a decade. I know first hand that consultants/suppliers/advisors/tech companies each work with hundreds of clients and therefore bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. I encourage this interaction and these relationships. 

I really admire how you have very clear guidelines on how your suppliers, vendors and sponsors can interact with your members. What are some of those guidelines and why did you put them in place?  

I am proud of our Provider Code of Conduct and it is critical that providers acknowledge the fact that our practitioners are very sophisticated and won’t buy from you if you are a “slick salesperson.” They engage you because you have the right thought leadership that strikes a chord, or the right technology at the time they are ready to investigate it. They don’t buy from brochures or from being “sold to.”  If you are found to be actively selling, you are given one warning and the second time your membership is revoked and you have to sit out of SIG for two years. At that time we will allow you to come back into the SIG Tribe.  

When we caught up last year at the Big Ideas Summit in Chicago (by the way, you did an amazing job talking about Third Party Risk!  Very timely!), I really learnt how busy your life is – running your business, organising your major events, hosting webinars, mentoring young people….you fit a lot into your day, week, month, year!  What’s your advice to others who are trying to manage and prioritise their time better? 

I feel best when I have a lot of projects to take on, from building curriculum, to mentoring and parenting. The more I have to do, the more deadlines I have, it motivates me. Without deadlines, I would achieve very little. For example, you didn’t ask me for a deadline for this article, so it didn’t get done for over a month. I set my priorities by keeping them balanced. I must do something to help someone else every day, that is one thing that I believe in. Whether it is donating time or money to a good cause, shopping for an elderly neighbor or mentoring youth, we have an opportunity to be kind and to give back every single day and we should take advantage of that opportunity. 

What’s your advice to ambitious professionals out there? What should they be doing right now to make sure they succeed into the future? 

Learn to open your mouth wider so you can drink more easily from the fire hose, because technology is going to change at an increasing rate of acceleration. Accept it, embrace it and never fight it. Also, bring your authentic self to your role, whatever it is. You can’t be successful without living your own truth. Don’t try and be what someone else wants you to be, be who you are and who you want to become. Err on the side of kindness always. 

Most importantly, how are you personally right now? Florida is being hit hard by COVID. Are you and your family OK? What’s happening in Florida right now? 

Thank you for asking, we are doing well. I have a high school senior in virtual school and kids in college all working from their apartments. 

Summary

Wow!  Whichever way you look at this, Dawn is an inspiration.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur out there, you have hopefully been inspired by Dawn’s vision and determination.

If you’re an ambitious procurement or supply chain professional, there’s lessons to be learned in the power of networking and upskilling yourself in the important areas of third party risk.

If you’re a supplier, looking to truly partner with our profession, SIG provides a trusted and valuable conduit into the important buying community.

What did you learn from today’s story? Let us know.

The Dangers Of Dirty Data

Is your organisation working with ‘dirty data’? How would you know? And, what impact is it having? This article has everything you need to know about doing a quick spot check, spotting procurement problems, identifying savings, and more importantly, making sure your data has its COAT on.


We all think we know what dirty data is, but it can mean very different things depending on who you speak to.  At its most basic level, dirty data is anything incorrect.  In detail within procurement, it could be misspelled vendors, incorrect Invoice descriptions, missing product codes, lack of standard units of measure (e.g. ltr, L, litres), currency issues, duplicate invoices or incorrect/partially classified data.

Dirty data can affect the whole organisation, and we all have an impact on, and responsibility for the data we work with.  Accurate data should be everyone’s responsibility,  but currently across many organisations data is the sole responsibility of a person or department, and everyone trusts them to make sure the data is accurate.

But, they tend to be specialists in data, analytics and coding, not procurement.  They don’t have the experience to know when a hotel should be classified as accommodation or as venue hire, or what direct, indirect or tail spend is and its importance or priority.

How many times have you been working with a data set and noticed a small error but not said anything, or just manually corrected something from an automated report, just get it out the door on time?  It feels like too much of an inconvenience to find the right person to notify, so you just correct the error each time yourself, or you raise a ticket for the issue but never get round to checking if it’s resolved. 

These small errors that you think aren’t that important can filter all the way up to the top of an organisation through reports and dashboards where critical decisions are being made.  It happens almost every day.

How does this affect my organisation?

There are many ways, but one of the most widespread and noticeable impacts is around reporting and analytics.  If you’re in senior management, you will most likely receive a dashboard from your team that you could be using to review cost savings, supplier negotiations, rationalisation, forecasting or budgets.

What if within that dashboard was £25k of cleaning spend under IBM?  I can already hear you saying “that’s ridiculous” – well, it is obvious when pointed out, but I have seen with my own eyes IBM classified as cleaning.  It can happen easily and occurs more frequently than you might think.

Back to that dashboard that you are using to make decisions, you’ll see increased spend in your cleaning category, and a decrease in your IT spend, which could affect discounts with your supplier, your forecast for the year, monitoring of contract compliance etc…  It could even affect reporting of your inventory,  it appears you need more laptops, and unnecessary purchases are made. 

When there are tens or hundreds of thousands of rows of data, errors will occur multiple times across many suppliers.  And for the wider organisation, this could affect demand planning, sales, marketing and financial decisions.

And then there are technology implementations.  Rarely is data preparation considered before the implementation of any new software or systems, and there can even be the assumption that the software supplier will do this, which may not be the case, and if they do provide that service it might not be good enough.

It can be very far into the process of implementation before this is uncovered, by which time staff have lost faith in using the software, are disengaged, claim it doesn’t work, or they don’t trust it because “it’s wrong”.  

At this point, it either costs a lot of money to fix and you have to hope staff will engage again, or the project is abandoned.  In either case, this can take months and cost thousands, not millions of pounds/euros/dollars in abandoned software or reparation work.

You might also be considering using, or engaging with a 3rd party supplier that uses AI, machine learning or some form of automation.  I can’t emphasise enough the importance of cleansing and preparing your data before using any of these tools. 

Think back to the IBM example, each quarter the data is refreshed automatically with the cleaning classification, that £25k becomes £50k, then £75k the following quarter, it’s only when the value becomes significant that someone notices the issue.  By this stage, how many decisions have been based on this incorrect information?

How can this be resolved?

Truthfully, it’s with a lot of hard work.  There’s no magic bullet or miracle solution out there to improve the accuracy of your data: you have to use your team or an experienced professional to get the job done. Get your team to familiarise themselves with the data. If they are reviewing and maintaining it regularly they will soon be able to spot errors in the data quickly and efficiently.

If you think about data accuracy in terms of COAT, this will help to manage your data.

It should always be Consistent – everyone working to the same standards; Organised – categorised properly; and Accurate – correct.  And only when you have these things will it also be Trustworthy – you wouldn’t drive around in a car without a regular inspection would you?

How to spot procurement problems and identify savings

Accurate data is important, but in its raw state, it’s not the whole story.  As a procurement professional you’re tasked with ensuring the best prices for products or services, as well as ensuring contract compliance on those prices, along with cost reductions and monitoring any maverick spend … to name but a few!

Accurate data alone will not help achieve this, I strongly recommend supplier normalisation and spend data classification to help quickly and efficiently manage spend and suppliers, monitor pricing and spot any potential misuse of budgets.

How do I get started?

With a spreadsheet of spend transactions over a period of time such as 12 to 24 months, the first step should be Supplier Normalisation, where a new column is added to consolidate several versions of the same company to get a true picture of spend with that one supplier.  For example, I.B.M, IBM Ltd, I.B.M. would all be normalised to IBM.

Data can be classified using minimum information, such as Supplier Name, Invoice/PO line description and value. To get more from the data, other factors can then be added in, such as unit price. Where unit price information is not available, the quantity can be divided by the overall value.

A suitable taxonomy will then need to be found to classify the data.  It can be an off the shelf product such as ProClass, UNSPSC, PROC-HE, or a taxonomy can be customised so it’s specific to your organisation or industry.

This initial stage may take months if you are working with large volumes of data. It might be worth considering outsourcing this initial task to professionals experienced in this area, who will be able to complete the project in a shorter time, with greater accuracy.

Avoiding common pitfalls

There are a number of ways to classify the data> However, to get started, look for keywords in the Supplier Name and then the Description column.  The description of services could include ‘hotel, taxi, cleaning services, cleaning products, etc., however, it’s important to carefully check the descriptions before classifying, or errors could be introduced.  A classic example is “taxi from hotel to restaurant”, depending on which keyword you search for first, it could end up being misclassified as transport, or venue costs.

I wouldn’t advise classifying row by row, as it could take more than twice as long to complete the file using this method.  Start with keywords, followed by the highest value suppliers which you can get from a pivot table of the data if you’re working in Excel.

Identifying opportunities

Once classified, charts can be built to analyse the data.  The analysis could include, ‘top 80% of suppliers by spend’; ‘number of suppliers by category’; ‘unit price by product by month’;  ‘spend by category’; or ‘spend by month.’

Patterns should start to emerge which could reveal unusually high or low spend in a category, irregular pricing, higher than expected use of services, or a higher than expected number of suppliers within a category. 

Why you should strive for data accuracy and classification?

Data accuracy is an investment, not a cost.  Address the issues at the beginning: while it might seem like a costly exercise, you will undoubtedly spend less than if you have a to resolve an issue further down the line with a time-consuming and costly data clean-up operation.  And by involving the whole team or organisation, it will be much easier to manage and maintain the most accurate data possible.

Spend data classification shows you the whole picture, as long as it’s accurate.  You can get a true view of your spend, allowing improved cost savings, better contract compliance and possibly the most important – preventing costly mistakes before they happen.

So, does your data have its COAT on? What does ‘dirty data’ mean to you? Let me know below!

Susan Walsh is the founder of The Classification Guru, a specialist in spend data classification, supplier normalisation and taxonomies.  You can contact her at [email protected] https://www.procurious.com/professionals/susan-walsh