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9 Big Supply Chain & Procurement Ideas for 2021

It’s time to plan, budget and set your strategies for 2021. Here are 100 proven, practical and fresh ideas to jumpstart your company in the new year.


You’ve probably heard me say it before, but I’ll say it again: all it takes is one idea to positively impact your career, those around you, your organisation and the profession itself. If you don’t believe me, take it from the great and late Robin Williams: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

While this year was full of chaos and stress, the opportunity for procurement to lead and make a lasting impact in our new normal has never been bigger. But to succeed, we can no longer rinse and repeat. We need to break through the status quo, challenge our paradigms and test new approaches. 

To that end, we reached out to the profession’s best and brightest to round up 100 big, practical and creative ideas for improving all things procurement and supply chain this year. We have an idea for everyone, so you’ll definitely want to review all the ideas (get your access here) as you plan, budget and set strategies for 2021. But 100 ideas is a lot, so here are nine suggestions for priorities we know will be on your radar next year: cost control, risk reduction and talent development.

Procurement Strategies: Cost Control

Our research found that controlling costs is a top-two procurement priority for executive teams. Here are three ideas to make a bigger impact in 2021. Get more cost cutting ideas here.

  1. Idea #1: Implement zero-based spend category strategies. Every procurement professional is trying to save money right now — but simply trimming a percentage or two won’t drive the meaningful change needed in today’s COVID environment, and may hurt supplier relationships. Instead, McKinsey suggests completely rethinking what, and how much, you actually need to meet demand and run your business. Every dollar you spend should have a purpose. If it doesn’t, the category or spend shouldn’t exist. While zero-based spend strategies are not new, they offer a proven, bottoms-up approach for tackling spend management and controlling costs.
  1. Idea #2: Demonstrate more value internally by tracking spend against a market index. With budgets under intense scrutiny, procurement can stand out and increase its influence by being more strategic about how we report savings. Anklesaria Group suggests tracking at least 60% of spend against one or multiple indexes. This is an incredible way to demonstrate the value of procurement. Prices always change — and if prices go up in the market, and your price goes up at a slower rate than the index, then you’re driving a real, differentiating advantage. 
  1. Idea #3: Let the positivity shine. Far too often, supplier negotiations are negative and contentious. There’s no place for this anymore – everyone is hunting and dealing with the same economic uncertainty. Corcentric recommends using trust-based and positive reinforcement negotiation tactics in 2021. We’ve all had a tough year, and now, more than ever, positivity and mutually-beneficial negotiation strategies uncover better savings and terms than old-school, hardline approaches. 

Supply Chain Disruptions: Tackle Risk More Strategically 

The other top procurement priority for executives: risk management. Here are three ideas for improving how your team approaches supply chain risk management in 2021. Get more risk management ideas here. 

  1. Idea #4: Leverage social media and non-traditional channels to monitor supplier risk in real time. Ninety seven percent of supply chains experienced a COVID-related disruption – which means it’s time we rethink our approach to supply chain risk management. IntegrityNext recommends that procurement expand beyond the typical supply chain indicators.  Today, there’s an immense amount of information available about businesses and people online. In 2021, we need to use it to our advantage to vet suppliers, identify exposures and mitigate disruptions before they happen. 
  1. Idea #5: Make sure your contracts have clauses that protect against cyber breaches. We can no longer talk about supply chain risk without mentioning cyber. McAfee, a cybersecurity company, reported 419 new threats per minute in Q2 of 2020, an increase of almost 12% over the previous quarter.  Odesma recommends looking at all contracts to ensure, across all categories, you have clauses for the supplier to certify they are doing everything they can to protect against hacking, and should the worst happen, your vendors have appropriate insurance in place.
  1. Idea #6: Break down barriers to reduce risk. If risk really is a top priority, organisations cannot continue to manage it in silos. riskmethods suggests forming a cross-functional, multidisciplinary risk management council that includes all of procurement and supply chain’s key stakeholders — including AP/Finance, compliance, product development, manufacturing, executives and more. Meet regularly to gather, consolidate and evaluate perspectives and data points on risk as a team, and make more informed, company-wide decisions that improve risk awareness and mitigation. 

Talent Development: Build the Best Procurement Team  

With the spotlight shining bright on procurement and supply chain, you and your team need to be at your best. Here’s how to grow and improve your team, and yourself. Get ideas for growing and expanding your team here. 

  1. Idea #7: Add good story tellers to your team. During the hiring process, MRA Global Sourcing suggests prioritising a candidate’s ability to tell stories. As a result of the pandemic, procurement is getting more attention and opportunity than ever before. But sharing ideas with the C-suite and briefing executives is a learned skill. Find people who can deliver by prioritising the candidate’s storytelling ability and executive presence during the interview process.
  1. Idea #8: Seize market uncertainty to strengthen your team. The collapse of certain industries has flooded the market with talent. Ronin, LTD, recommends looking beyond your traditional candidate pipelines to go after talent in affected industries that would normally be hard to attract. Engage with your workforce management team or head-hunter to track and interview new candidates that enter the marketplace from affected industries.
  1. Idea #9: Invest in yourself. This idea isn’t new, but it’s a game-changer for those that actually put a plan in place and make it happen. Connect with your peers, find training, get procurement certifications, and develop new skills. Think about it: What skills will you need next year that you don’t have right now? What about five years from now? “Everyone wants to grow professionally in the new year. But very few people actually put a concrete plan in place. You’ll naturally grow through your experiences, but if you are intentional, proactive and really invest, you’ll be way ahead of everybody else,” says Procurious founder and chairman, Tania Seary. 

There you have it: nine ideas to jumpstart 2021 planning. Interested in hearing the other 91? Get the full report here, and add your own ideas in the comments below.