How does an organisation know that the procurement initiatives, projects, efforts really result in a quantifiable benefit to the business?
As both a former CPO and consultant, I’m often asked about the strategies I have employed to grow, reach and deliver results. Yes, I can tell you stories from past lives of wooing reluctant stakeholders and setting savings records year over year. Actually, the secret to my success in procurement is much less glamorous, and I’d like to share that with you:
Effectively planning and prioritising initiatives and meticulously tracking ROI through a rigorous project benefit validation process and governance framework are the best ways to increase your organisation’s credibility, dependability, and recognition.
Procurement plays a critical role in the cost management of an organisation. This is why many organisations are quick to tout the cost savings and bottom line benefits generated by procurement’s efforts. Procurement’s maturity journey, when done right, can last months to years, and often requires significant investments – consultants, technology infrastructure, headcount, and support services. How does an organisation know that the procurement initiatives, projects, efforts really result in a quantifiable benefit to the business? Furthermore, how can the organisation fully appreciate procurement’s value? When the results are not tracked, reported, and kept as the focal point, procurement’s full impact can be overlooked, or underappreciated at best.
ROI is your friend
Procurement intersects across the business’ most strategic functions: operations, finance, legal, while managing critical external supplier and partner relationships. This broad exposure is combined with well-honed skills in cost control, analytics, process, research, contracting, and negotiation, as well as a deep knowledge of the business and company culture. Yet, we are often not given the respect we deserve as a key trusted business partner. Why is that? Procurement teams tend to sell themselves short by not forecasting ROI and tracking quantifiable benefits for all value-add initiatives.
Identifying project benefits and estimating an accurate return on investment (ROI) can be very challenging for organisations. There are several possible reasons why ROI often goes unmeasured:
Being satisfied too early
Some organisations are satisfied with the general improvement in their financial statements after formalising a procurement strategy, because now a methodology in which to quantify “savings” or “value” has been defined. When this journey begins, controls are strengthened, initiatives are defined, “low hanging fruit” is addressed, resources are deployed, and as a result, the organisation performs better as a whole.
Focusing on tactics
Some companies focus intensely on training resources and executing projects in the early stages of a procurement journey, and place secondary emphasis on measuring ROI, believing that the benefits will come.
Can’t find the right formula
Some companies attempt to measure ROI, yet they are unsure how to quantify project benefits generated from procurement, especially if there are multiple ways to measure a successful procurement effort. It is evident that, even considering how well-known or understood the procurement function is to the world, there is still a significant knowledge gap. How can procurement quantify project benefits and truly link them to a company’s financial performance?
The well-reported results of industry pioneers that are more mature in their procurement function, as well as the pressing need to reduce costs and improve productivity, have encouraged company leaders to push their teams to undertake even more procurement initiatives. Sometimes, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, these efforts languish over time, or procurement becomes less engaged than they once were. This can often be because benefits have not been accurately estimated or verified as impacting the bottom line. In some cases, benefits can be reconciled as tangible contributions to the income statement; but in others, benefits may not be so evident during a reconciliation process. A critical key to success is to ensure that procurement does not miss an opportunity to bring true credibility to their efforts is to implement a process that directly reconciles project benefits to the company’s accounting and reporting systems.
The tools you need: project selection, benefit validation and governance
A strong project governance process is key to the successful project execution and results. A comprehensive project governance process encompasses how projects are identified, selected, executed and reported. However, in most project governance processes, a key element is often forgotten: benefit estimation and validation.
While most organisations recognise the value of properly vetting project ideas and opportunities prior to launching a project, many fail to follow the process religiously for every initiative. Some may launch projects before a proper prioritisation effort has taken place, or others may spend too much time in the idea generation phase. Often, organisations fail to estimate potential benefit prior to project chartering or prioritisation of projects.
Experience has shown that the pressure to get started, or to drive quick results, pushes teams to launch projects without taking the time to adequately plan or determine probable benefits. This ineffective approach to project selection and prioritisation means that projects are often executed without being fully linked to the organisation’s overall strategic goals, and as a result, too many projects are chartered, and few are completed to the company’s expectations.
Not only does a project benefit validation process help with initial benefit estimation during project selection, it adds rigor during project execution by defining project benefits with more accuracy and clarity. This facilitates credible benefit reporting, and establishes a foundation for post-project benefit reconciliation, where benefits can be reconciled to the organisation’s financial statements. Simply stated, the benefits driven by the procurement effort can now be fully understood as to their impact to the business.
A strong project benefit validation infrastructure can support the procurement function as it matures an evolves to take on more challenging value-add activities for the business. It provides not only the basis for identifying and approving projects, but also serves to maintain the momentum and retain ongoing management and stakeholder support to build the brand, extend your reach, and deliver better results year over year.
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