Category Archives: Procurious News

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 to Be Super Normal: 5 Must-Have Traits to Get Ahead in 2021

What does it take to be Super Normal? Here are the 5 must-have traits to get ahead in 2021 without driving yourself crazy.


There’s no turning back. There’s only the here and now. And whatever you call it – the new normal, now normal, the end of the world, or as we’re labeling it, the Super Normal – it no longer matters. What matters is how you adapt, move forward and make a difference.

There’s a lot of difference-making that still needs to happen. Procurement and supply chain must lead the way, just as we’ve done in the past. According to McKinsey, “in the five years immediately following the 2008 financial crisis, total return to shareholders for companies with top-quartile procurement capabilities was 42% higher than for companies whose procurement operations were in the bottom quartile.”

That’s a significant impact. Clearly, we have what it takes to succeed. But this is not the same environment as the global financial crisis. The game has fundamentally changed and we need a new playbook to win, manage stress and get ahead.

The Super Normal: Start by Owning Your Vulnerability  

Resilience is core to the Super Normal. We’ve been talking about it since March, which begs a deep discussion: What actually makes us resilient?

It has nothing to do with our age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. Instead, according to a Harvard Business Review study, there are two driving factors. The first is exposure. The more exposed you are to the suffering or event, the higher your resilience levels are. As HBR puts it, “this strongly suggests that we discover our resilience only when we are forced to meet unavoidable suffering full in the face. It’s when we face that reality, and see ourselves and how we respond to it, that we find the basis for resilience.”

The second factor is the extent of the threat. The more tangible, the more resilient we become.

An HBR survey asked how many people had experienced workforce changes as a result of COVID-19. There were 11 possible changes to select, such as sheltering in place, layoffs and furloughs, and changing use of technology. Ninety-six percent of respondents globally said they’d experienced at least one issue. This is similar to our business study, which found that 97% of organisations experienced a supply chain disruption related to COVID-19.

This isn’t surprising – so why does it matter? Because as leaders, we need to own our vulnerabilities. Our Super Normal requires us to be open, transparent and direct. You can’t force a return to normal just to calm anxiety and stress. We have all suffered to some extent and glossing over the potential implications – whether it be layoffs, longer work hours, hard conversations with suppliers and customers, a demand for new skills, or changes at home – is counter-intuitive.

Instead, own the vulnerability, be clear about your team’s exposure and communicate what needs to change. When people understand what’s at stake, they are remarkably resilient.

The Super Normal Playbook: Heart, Brain and Vision

Resilience amidst chaos requires evolution. We need to change and adapt, even if we don’t know what the future holds. While there’s no easy button or universal blueprint, we’ve learned a lot in 2020 about how to be Super Normal.  

1.       Super Normal Professionals Think the Unthinkable

If we’ve learned anything in 2020, it’s that anything can happen. Pandemic, trade wars, recessions, natural disasters… the list goes on.

Being Super Normal requires us to come to terms with an inherent truth: Uncertainty is certain.

We need to engrain this mindset into our team, decisions and actions. Once we see that the big picture is cloudy and unpredictable, we can better prepare ourselves for success, and quickly overcome the shock factor when everything abruptly changes. Being ready for sudden change – and having a plan of action – puts you ahead of nearly everyone. 

2.       Super Normal Professional See Limitless Opportunity

Don’t let the state of our world get you down. Instead, get up, make a plan and get going. Be positive.

Changemakers see opportunity in crisis. They understand that the dynamics have completely changed, and there are limitless opportunities to improve your reputation, get noticed, move up and make an impact.

We know that procurement and supply chain operations are intrinsically linked to organisational survival and success. Whether you are at the beginning of your career or leading operations for a Fortune 100, there’s a greenfield opportunity in front of you. Thriving in the Super Normal requires you to see it and take advantage.

3.       Super Normal Professionals Invest in Themselves

Warren Buffet put it best. “By far the best investment you can make is in yourself.” 

This advice isn’t relatively new or unique, but it’s a game-changer for those that take advantage. What skills do you need to thrive in our Super Normal? What about the Next Normal? How will your day-to-day job change in the next 5 years?

Our recent survey found that the majority of organisations (93%) are investing big to propel procurement forward. The top three investments they are making in procurement are in data and analytics, talent development and technology.

Soft skills matter as well. According to LinkedIn, the top five most in-demand skills in 2020 are “creativity, collaboration, persuasion, adaptability, and emotional intelligence—all skills that demonstrate how we work with others and bring new ideas to the table.” 

If your organisation isn’t providing the necessary training or experience you need, make the time to get it yourself. The pandemic has accelerated the global tech transformation and heightened the need for modern skills, expertise and experiences, like analytics, digitisation, emerging technology, emotional intelligence and leadership. Super Normal leaders see where the world is going and stay ahead of the transformation by investing in themselves and their teams. 

4.       Supper Normal Leaders See the Big Picture and Know How to Focus

Where is your organisation going and what does it need right now? Super Normal leaders are always in the know, and when they aren’t, they are confident and proactive enough to request an immediate alignment meeting with leadership.

We only have so much time and resources and need to spend them where it counts. Today, for most procurement and supply chain teams, that means cost savings, supply chain risk and business continuity. But your actual goals and priorities may be different and could change suddenly. Going above and beyond your day-to-day supply chain and procurement operations to stay fresh on the strategic priorities of your organisation is paramount to success. Similarly, bringing modern and fresh thinking to the table that breaks through traditional results and delivers compounding value on key projects, like cost containment and savings, will make C-suite stop and take notice. 

5.       Super Normal Leaders Have a Heart

They put people first – and recognise that success starts with teamwork and human connection. They recognise that vulnerability – financial, mental, physical and social – is very real, and that people need time, space and support during difficult times. They know that talent wins 100% of the time.

While putting people first may sound simple, that’s not always the case, especially amidst the chaotic nature of our world today. Super Normal leaders are intentional about it every single day, with their decisions, actions, engagements and relationships. People are core to what they do – and why they succeed. 

You Have What It Takes: Embrace the Super Normal 

Life is chaotic and stressful. And you have everything you need to be successful now and in the future. Everyone’s Super Normal will look a little different – but if we continue to learn from each other, share our successes and look ahead, we’ll all be more than alright.

And finally, wherever this Super Normal takes us, always remember to make time for yourself and your family. Find something you love and embrace it. We are all tired, stressed and anxious. Happiness helps solve all three. If you are looking for more inspiration, check out what your peers say it means to be Super Normal.

It’s Time To Collaborate Not Compete, Says YouTube’s Top Supply Chain Influencer

Supply chains are under intense scrutiny right now. That increases pressure on supply chain leaders, but also creates new opportunities to do things better for everyone: companies, customers, and the planet. Top influencer Rob O’Byrne gives his take on where we’re at and what’s coming next.


Procurious founder Tania Seary recently talked with Rob O’Byrne, CEO of Logistics Bureau, and a top 10 supply chain social media influencer.

Here’s his take on where we are, how we got here, and what’s next.  

“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from factory to store.”

Not long ago, many of us struggled to explain supply chain management to our friends and family.

Now? The pandemic hit and suddenly everyone’s a supply chain expert, says Rob.

“Now, everyone knows how toilet tissue gets from the factory to the store, and it’s really put supply chain in the spotlight,” Rob says.

With that extra awareness comes an expectation that supply chains should work more efficiently — and that will change the way we all operate.

“We lost touch with local markets.”

Before we can make impactful changes, we need to understand how we got here.

Rob says the two biggest trends that shaped the pre-Covid era are centralisation and rationalisation.

Increasingly, large global players were centralising their supply chains through regional or global hubs.

Why? To improve management, visibility, and consistency — all of which are important for optimizing supply chain operations. But centralisation comes at a cost.

“The challenge is [these companies] are a lot more remote from their markets and sometimes you actually need to have a finger on the pulse,” Rob says.

“[You have] headquarters in one part of the world trying to dictate what happens in a supply chain in another part of the world. Sometimes they lose touch a little bit.”

Rationalisation led to similar challenges.

For all of the cost savings and visibility benefits, rationalising led to less contact with markets.

“[Companies] are tending to rely a lot more now on AI-based communication systems to talk with customers,” Rob explains.

Great for the bottom line, but frustrating for customers who often want to speak to an actual human instead of a bot.

“We can be in danger of alienating our market.”

“Companies still don’t understand the ‘cost to serve’ in their supply chain”

One of the greatest challenges right now in supply chain management is managing costs, says Rob.

And it’s more than “total cost of ownership.” It’s about knowing the end-to-end costs.

“So many companies still don’t understand the cost to serve across all the different channels in their supply chain. And that’s become even more critical during the pandemic because our distribution channels have changed,” Rob says.

“In the current climate, it’s really challenging because there’s so much expediting going on. We’re having to use different transport modes than perhaps we would normally.” 

Visibility is also a struggle.

“That really came to the fore during the pandemic because everything was moving so much more rapidly,” says Rob.

“Supply and demand peaks and troughs have been so much more severe. The visibility of that real demand was so important, so there’s a much greater need for improved demand planning and inventory management.”

“Forecasts are always wrong”

To illustrate that need, Rob points to the huge demand for one specific medication during the pandemic. 

Patients who used the drug to treat symptoms of a specific disease,  were stocking up, while other people were buying it because they thought it might fight the virus. Hospitals also stocked up because people who needed the drugs would need more if they caught the virus. Demand skyrocketed.  

“So I think that’s part of the challenge in terms of inventory visibility,” Rob points out. “It’s separating the true demand from the noise…that’s where we’re going to see much more sophisticated inventory management tools coming in the future.”

Although some companies still use spreadsheets for forecasting, “on the other end of the scale, there’s some really, really advanced tools being used and all of that is giving us much greater visibility of our supply chains.

“We can use the weather to predict food sales.”

One example is creating demand forecasts based on weather, not previous sales.

Companies can actually predict food requirements at a shopping mall food court by analysing parking spaces and the weather.

They harness data on parking space occupancy, (from those red and green lights) combine it with the weather forecast, and predict how many people will turn up at the shopping centre.

“That’s real forecasting,” says Rob. “It’s not looking at what we sold last month or the month before.”

“Less lean and more fat.”

Along with smarter forecasting, what does the future hold?

Rob says a rapid retreat from lean management might be on the cards for many businesses.

“Lean was all the fashion for the last 10 years or so,” Rob recalls. “And at the time it was probably the right thing to do for the right businesses and the right products.”

But that’s all changed now.

“I just wonder for a lot of supply chains whether it was a step too far when we’ve seen the fragility of our supply chains over the last six months or so,” Rob says.

Where you have the traditional supply chain like an automotive factory, lean and ‘just in time’ works really well, but where you’ve got volatile markets we’re starting to see the cracks appear.”

“I think we’re going to see a little bit more fat, certainly in terms of inventory, just to buffer for uncertainties.”  Because it will be a long time before market demand becomes anywhere near normal, and it may never look like pre Covid demand again, as alternative distribution channels become more popular.

Rob also says we can expect the decline of ‘traditional’ third-party logistics. 

“There are a lot of companies around that ‘uberised logistics’ – whether it be transport or storage, and I think we’re going to see third party logistics particularly moving much more towards the gig economy. There’s no reason why not.”

“There are people delivering to my home at the moment who are doing it a few hours a day, and that’s where third-party logistics is going.”

“Let’s not waste packaging.”

Rob also predicts swelling interest in circular supply chains.

“We’ve got to wake up and start making our supply chains much more sustainable in every element of the supply chain,” Rob says.

“We’ve paid lip service to it and there are companies around the world that we hold up and say, ‘Look what they’re doing; they’re amazing.’

“But I think generally as an industry we’re just not really very good at it. People think it’s about reverse logistics but it’s not. It’s about removing waste in our products too.” 

“Let’s not waste transport; let’s not waste packaging.”

“Supply chains aren’t competing against each other.”

Finally, Rob says supply chains have the opportunity to work together.

“We’ve been very slow in collaboration,” Rob says.

“I think in supply chain, a lot of companies have been fearful of sharing warehousing sharing transport – that physical end of the supply chain – because their competitors are going to see what they are doing.”

“We’ve had that mantra for years that supply chains compete, not companies. I don’t know that they do anymore.

“I think it’s more about brands and it’s about service. I really don’t see a reason why we can’t see a lot more collaboration in our supply chains.”

Rob O’Byrne is CEO of Logistics Bureau and one of the top 10 supply chain influencers on social media.

This interview is part of “The Future of Supply Chain Now” – a week of webcasts with the fresh opinions from the most influential people in supply chain. Brought to you by IBM Sterling Supply Chain and Procurious. Read more on Digitally Perfecting the Supply Chain and How Inventory Visibility will Drastically Effect the Customer Experience.

4 Reasons You Can’t Miss The Big Ideas Summit This Year

At the end of a year when all our plans fell through, the Big Ideas Summit sets the tone, agenda and cements the possibilities for 2021. Here’s how.


Back in 2010, when you were making your ten year plan, what did you say your end game was? Multiple promotions? An overseas secondment? Perhaps a holiday home? Whatever you put on your plan, we’re pretty sure it didn’t include a pandemic, and we’re almost 100% sure that if asked if the last decade prepared you for this, you’d say a loud and clear no. 

But that’s exactly why our Big Ideas Summit is more important than ever. Back in February, we knew that COVID-19 would represent a watershed moment for procurement professionals everywhere when 94% of the world’s supply chains were interrupted. And what we predicted (if you could even call it that!) has come true: procurement and supply chain management has irrevocably changed, and so has our world. This year’s Big Ideas Summit is dedicated to that very transformation, so here’s four reasons you simply can’t miss it: 

  1. We’ll learn to think the unthinkable 

The global pandemic has been described as ‘unthinkable’ by many, but the truth is that world leaders had, in fact, planned for a pandemic, even if their response in reality was  a little different. So this begs the question, was COVID really as unthinkable as we all initially thought? 

While the jury is out on the answer to that, it’s clear that we’re living in increasingly uncertain and volatile times which require a vastly different set of skills than before. One person that knows this better than anyone is Nik Gowing, TV presenter and journalist. He recently completed an in-depth study into global leadership, and he has some truly fascinating insights into what attributes are now required to lead businesses into the future. 

  1. We’ll decipher today’s risk landscape 

This year, new risks have emerged so fast that many of us have barely been able to update our management plan before we’ve had to throw it out the window and start again. In 2020 (and likely, in the years to come), risk management is going to look vastly different to what it does today. 

Increasingly, change is happening more quickly than ever and there are more larger-scale risks that we all need to consider. These, perhaps unbelievably, may pose even larger challenges than the pandemic, in fact, The Economist implores us all to consider ‘What is the worst that could happen?’ and plan accordingly. Scary, right?

At this year’s Big Ideas, we’ll hear from prominent CEO Dawn Tiura on how we should approach risk, especially from a third-party relationship perspective. 

  1. We’ll ask the important questions about business continuity

When it comes to global business, we always thought where there was a will, there was a way. And thankfully, in the face of harsh lockdowns and enormous supply chain disruptions, many of the world’s industries have found a way to continue in some form, even if everything is done virtually. 

Yet not all industries have fared equally as well, with the aviation industry losing more than $84 billion dollars this year, and the tourism industry losing an equally eye-watering $24 billion.

For businesses like this, how does business continuity work? And does it even apply? One thing that the inspirational Kelly Barner, MD of Buyer’s Meeting Point, knows is that you need to be prepared for surprises. We’ll delve into exactly how we can all do that from a business continuity perspective plus much more. 

  1. We’ll discuss how we can all protect our careers 

While many of our colleagues may have been furloughed or laid off altogether, procurement and supply chain professionals have fared increasingly well career-wise throughout the pandemic. But while we may still have our jobs, how are our careers going in this increasingly uncertain landscape? It’s fair to say that while there may have been many opportunities, there may also have been various reasons why we couldn’t or didn’t take them. 

But in good news, 2020 isn’t finished yet. There is ample time to analyse the year that has been, and decide how to best protect – and grow – your career. We’ll discuss this at length in a panel at Big Ideas with four of the globe’s best procurement and supply chain recruiters. 
The catch phrase of the year is staying apart keeps us together. Now, it’s time to get together for real (virtually!), learn from those who have managed best, and plan for whatever 2021 may hold. Join us at The Big Ideas Summit here.

Procurement Innovation – What’s Next?

Procurement has seen some revolutionary changes over the last two and a half decades. From manual processes to powerful P2P Suites, there is no denying that procurement is becoming more innovative and tech savvy. But as a whole procurement tends to lag behind other professions – it’s time to lead the way for innovation, but where do we go from here?


Technology is driving industry forward at an exponential rate, globally. It’s hard to think of an industry that hasn’t adopted a new technology, at least to some extent, in the last several years. Technological breakthroughs are changing the world over, both from a consumer perspective, but also from a business one. From smart phone companies using fingerprint scanning and facial recognition to car companies implementing park-assist, adaptive cruise control, and in some cases, even self-driving capabilities. This is truly a world driven by innovation, and most industries and business sectors are investing heavily to that end. But what is procurement doing to keep up?

Where We’ve Been

To answer that, first it is important to see how far the profession has come. Although it has taken longer than other markets – the progress has been remarkable.

·   Manual Processes – Like most, this is what dominated the industry for a large period of time. Everything was done manually, from drawing up contracts, to sourcing and purchasing materials. This was quite a time-consuming process at a time when procurement lacked the complexity of today.

·   Emails & Spreadsheets – As technology began to become more mainstream the manual communications started to give way to emails, no longer requiring procurement professionals to travel onsite as often. The use of spreadsheets began to build the framework of an organizational system with excel becoming the main database of choice for many in procurement.

·   ERPs – Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a software that handles business process management it allows an organization to use a series of integrated applications to control and automate many functions related to technology, services and human resources. This is one of the most widely adopted pieces of technology used in procurement today.

·   S2P Systems – This is the current cutting-edge procurement technology. A good S2P suite can bring cost savings, efficiencies and data visibility to your business. Our source-to-pay (S2P) platform, JAGGAER ONE, is a comprehensive suite that automates, optimizes and provides insights across the source-to-pay spectrum. Integrating seamlessly with your ERP, JAGGAER ONE can provide data transparency and visibility, while giving access to a powerful suite of end-to-end supply chain and sourcing solutions.

Procurement is at a Cross-Roads

Procurement has long been a cost-focused profession, largely relying on siloed processes and teams, taking a reactive and tactical approach. And, at one time, that was all that procurement needed to do. But it is now time for procurement to move into a new role – one that takes charge of the business and leads the way, becoming an integral part of the overall business strategy.

I believe that procurement professionals around the world stand on the threshold of a new age. The old paradigm of cost reduction, being reactive and only focusing on purchasing is drawing to a close. In this dynamic, complex and disruptive era, procurement leaders and experts the world over are searching for a secure, successful future.

With technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) becoming more mainstream, the applications for procurement are virtually limitless. Technology like JAGGAER’s Smart Assistant, which is powered by AI, is one such possibility. This conversational platform designed for procurement is a powerful tool, which will eliminate much of the tedious and manual processes that still plague the procurement profession today. AI will be a driving factor in the development of the procurement profession.

Where We’re Going

The result of all these technological advances in several years’ time will be autonomous procurement. As I’ve written in a previous blog “autonomous procurement is a platform with embedded intelligence, but a system that also continues to build on those capabilities to automate the full source to pay process without human interaction. However, this will happen only in instances where human input isn’t necessary or desired, such as repetitive or time-consuming tasks”.

It is incredibly important to remember that autonomous procurement is not meant to eliminate human input or the role of procurement professionals. The end goal here is to augment people, freeing up time to focus on value adding tasks and strategic thinking. Human insight is crucial in business – but this is all about using technology to eliminate mistakes, monotony and cut out repetitive patterns. The future platform will assist you at every step of the source-to-pay process and over time it will manage more & more complex activities autonomously, so we can focus on doing strategic analysis to unlock new opportunities.

The procurement leaders of the future will need to combine strategic thinking, along with an analytical mindset. Leaders are crucial in today’s times, especially with the rise of AI, algorithms and automation. In order to stay ahead of the curve procurement professionals will have to evolve – becoming more data-driven and strategic, because that is something that will always require a human touch. 

To find out more about where procurement has been, where it’s going, and what you can do to stay ahead register for our webinar with Gartner, Deloitte and Blue Shield.

Where do you think procurement is headed? Let us know.

Improve Resilience By Treating Suppliers As Individuals, Says Top Risk Expert

We can’t just get our own house in order. We need to help our suppliers’ suppliers if we want a truly resilient supply chain. Procurious gets expert advice from riskmethods’ Bill DeMartino


How can companies of any size manage the huge number of risks in any supply chain?

Procurious Founder Tania Seary recently sat down with Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America at riskmethods, to find out about risk and the future of procurement.

Become resilient or lose credibility

The word of the moment is definitely resilience. But where do you start?

Bill says it’s a process. Not long ago, most organisations were hunting for better information to react faster as threats emerged.

“So this is what I would really categorise as being reactive,” Bill explains. “We want to get better at reacting to events (which is a fantastic place to start by the way) and what I would think of as the journey to resilience.”

The pandemic obviously changed many companies’ perceptions of their own resilience.

Yet he points to data that we’ve seen a 300% increase in disruptions of all kinds over the past three years.

“That means that for organisations who weren’t before acting the mandate is clear; this is the responsibility of supply chain leaders,” says Bill.

“If they are unable to deliver on this responsibility, they’re going to be losing credibility within the organisation.”

The good news is senior management is recognising the importance of proactive supply chain risk management, which will likely lead to more funding.

Treat suppliers better

So we’re all after resilience. But what does that actually look like?

It starts with a shift in the way companies treat and manage suppliers, Bill explains.

“I think we’re on the precipice of moving into what I would call the era of collaboration,” Bill says. 

“Traditionally, we’ve seen working with most of our suppliers in kind of a generic manner and we treat a few of them very specially. 

“But I think that collaboration needs to extend to a broader set of enterprises and so that continuum will continue to be a major transformation element.”

From reactive to transformative

Changing the way we see supplier relationships is a good step, but it’s only the start. 

Once an organisation can react quickly and be more resilient, it’s time to transform. That’s why the most mature and forward-looking organisations are overhauling their processes right now.

“Transformation is not just enough for me to figure out how to be reactive, but I really need to think more proactively on how I can change the elements and the way that I think about the category,” says Bill. 

These advanced organisations are asking how well they understand category risk exposure. And how they can incentivise people to act on the risks they uncover.  

“So it’s really more of a holistic approach to risk resilience,” says Bill.

Automation frees up resources

The other hot topic is automation. Bill says it’s incredible how much of our supply chain can be automated. 

“Supply chain folks are just automating everything that they can and it’s crazy,” says Bill.

“We’re trying to automate all the AP functions, we’re trying to automate all the contract functions, and now we’re actually moving up into the next level and trying to automate the analysis in the diagnosis of the data and the information and insights in those systems.”

“[W]ith this automation we’re able to free up the scarce resources and get our folks to focus on some of the proactive resilience and collaboration efforts they really need for the organisation to thrive,” says Bill.

Risk management in today’s environment

What does great risk management look like today? 

Bill narrows it down to three priorities:

1) Change jobs descriptions and incentives. You need to think about culture change. 

2) Put in place technology that can standardise processes, then measure them.

3) Manage your people well. Ensure that staff are actually following those processes in the way you expect.

“That’s the shift in the maturation that we’re seeing from our customers.  Before, they would just get the information.  Now they are working out how to best utilise that information and become proactive in their risk approach,” says Bill.

Minimise risk, no matter company size

You might be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I work for an SME. How does that work for a smaller company like mine?”

And it’s true. You may not have the resources or capability at the moment with everything going on, says Bill.

“A lot of smaller organisations are so busy just keeping the business going, no one is taking the time to take a look back and actually think about what it’s going to be in three to five years out,” says Bill.

“They’re  just worrying about survival today.” 

Even if your organisation is small, you’ll likely notice a rising interest in risk management – whether it’s from your customers and executive team. 

“Customers are asking them, potentially assessing them and looking to measure them in terms of their risk preparedness so that’s definitely helping [put risk management on the agenda],” Bill says.

“We are also starting to see a really strong sense of awakening from [senior leaders] and with the idea of a supply network.

“[They’re] thinking it’s not just enough for me to take care of my house, but I need my suppliers to also do the same for theirs.”

What can you do?

So whether risk management is at the top of your agenda already, or it’s just starting to gain importance, Bill suggests three key areas to get your house in order.

1) Using technology to manage risk: “There is an enormous amount of information that’s out there and the largest challenge that organisations have is how to filter through that information and uncover specific and relevant insights.” 

2) Make risk information visible: Can people in your organisation easily find information about risk? 

“We’ve seen a lot of folks who create risk scorecards or risk audits, and that information gets locked away somewhere,” says Bill. 

Instead, he suggests putting that information on your employees’ phones and laptops so they can easily access it when they’re talking to suppliers.

3) Integrate: The final step is to embed all of that risk information and data into other company systems.

As a supply chain professional, Bill says you should ask, “How can I integrate the technology and make it something that really impacts the way that we work?”

Going forward

Now that risk management is firmly on the agenda, you can use it to get ahead in your career. 

Bill predicts the most valuable procurement professionals in the future will be able to manage risk in two ways.

The first is artificial intelligence. Companies will need people who can use AI to spot patterns in suppliers to predict future events. 

“For example, if a supplier shutters a plant and fires the CFO, I could predict a bankruptcy is coming and reorganise my supplier geography to avoid disruption,” says Bill. 

“We can utilise artificial intelligence techniques to start doing pattern recognition and help folks better predict – never with 100% accuracy – but better predict what may be coming down the pipe for them.”

The second is to make suggestions on the best way to react if a threat actually comes to fruition. 

“There’s a number of different approaches that we’ve seen utilised to respond to an event, so we can bring all that information together and present to the individual in a way that allows them to very quickly assess their options, make decisions, and run.”

Bill DeMartino, Managing Director of North America for riskmethods, can be heard in the webcast series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

How can you limit supply chain disruption and proactively plan for market shifts? Check out this IBM report to find out.

Tough Talk: How To Deliver Bad News In A Good News Way

If you haven’t already delivered bad news to a supplier, you’ll likely have to soon. Here’s how you should do it.


Economically, this year is officially the worst year since the Great Depression. And while we, as procurement professionals, have largely been shielded from the worst of it owing to our critical importance to organisations, many others have not been so lucky. Many businesses, too. And unfortunately, some of those businesses include our suppliers. Even worse, sometimes it may be us that has to deliver some bad news to them. 

Psychologically, humans find it very difficult to deliver bad news. Procurement professionals would agree with this finding: telling a supplier, especially one that you’ve cultivated a valuable strategic relationship with, that something drastic is going to change can be nerve-racking at least, terrifying at most. But can you deliver bad news in a good way? You can, and here’s how. 

What kind of news might you have to deliver at the moment? 

So much is changing in the economy and our supply chain relationships at the moment, that there’s literally hundreds of different types of bad news that you might have to dish out to your supplier. But for most companies, bad news will fall in a number of categories. 

Firstly, you may need to tell your supplier that you have to reduce your volume. On the surface, they may see this as unfair, especially if they know that your overall output hasn’t changed much. But what they may not understand is that in the current risk environment, you can no longer be reliant on them and need to diversify. Similarly, you may not be able to use your supplier at all due to a whole host of risk-based reasons. 

Secondly, for just about all of us, COVID has meant that we’ll have to amp up our compliance. What this will mean for your supplier, and they certainly may not like it, is that you now need more documentation from them and more authentication of their sources. 

Thirdly, you may need to adjust payment terms. In an ideal world, especially if you work with small businesses, this adjustment may mean that you’re paying earlier. But for many reasons, this may not always be an option due to cash constraints. A conversation about longer payment terms is always challenging. 

Finally, COVID has forced many of us to change our requirements. Whether this be a changing product or input spec, whatever these changes are, it will most likely affect your supplier’s business, so may be a difficult conversation. 

How should you deliver this bad news? 

Businesses all over the world are struggling right now, especially many small businesses. So what may have been a difficult conversation last year, may now mean the difference between hanging on and financial ruin for your supplier. For this reason, you need to approach all conversations with suppliers delicately. When you do, make sure you employ all of the following: 

  1. Listen – before you speak 

Usually in organisation-supplier relationships, procurement professionals are used to having the ‘upper hand’ – so to speak. Essentially, we are effectively the ‘client’ of our suppliers, and we expect a level of professionalism and respect as a result. Interestingly, in relationships where the power lies more with one party (even if we may not act like it), the individual that holds the power usually does more of the talking.

Yet given the precarious economic situation, now might be the time to do less of the talking, and more of the listening. Even if you do have to give bad news to your supplier, it pays to first listen to how they have been going, and what, if anything, you might be able to do to cushion the blow of the bad news you’re about to deliver. 

  1. Have empathy – not sympathy 

In situations like these, it’s tempting to want to show sympathy to suppliers, especially if they’re struggling. But research shows that sympathy is often misguided, and empathy is better. But what’s the difference? 

Sympathy is when you feel bad for someone, and pity them on account. For example, showing sympathy to your supplier when they tell you that they may be going into administration would be to say ‘That’s awful – I understand how you feel.’ This statement could be a little frustrating to them, as in your position, you don’t actually understand how they feel. 

Empathy in these situations is always a better response. Empathy is when you take the time to listen to someone and understand what emotions they are feeling, but you acknowledge that you don’t necessarily feel their emotions. For example, an empathetic response might be: ‘I’m so sorry to hear that. I couldn’t possibly understand what you’re going through.’ 

  1. Be upfront – but also see if you can give, a little 

When it comes to delivering bad news, it’s best to simply be honest and upfront about what it is that you need. Prolonging delivering the bad news drags it out and will most likely make your supplier frustrated and nervous for the future. 

But after you’ve delivered your news, don’t just leave it there. See if there is anything you can do for your supplier, and then genuinely try and do it. This may include negotiating a slightly longer contract, flexing payment terms, or referring them elsewhere. Little things help and in this economy, those little things could be everything. 

Have you had to deliver any bad news to your supplier? How have you done it? Let us know in the comments below. 

Who’s Using Blockchain in 2020, And How?

Far from being a solution looking for a problem, Blockchain is revolutionising jewellery, tea and coffee, beverage, food and automotive businesses.


While there is still some question as to whether blockchain technology can live up to the hype it has generated, it is making inroads into the supply chain environment.

The diamond and gold, tea and coffee, beverage, food, and automotive industries all have participants with blockchain applications under test, operating as pilots, or implemented as digital solutions to improve supply chain operations.

In most cases, these companies are using blockchain as an aid to supply chain visibility and product tracing, but some have applied it as a tool to streamline transactions and speed up the flow of information, goods, and materials.

In addition to private enterprise, blockchain’s interest among commercial organisations, authorities, and governmental bodies is also intensifying, increasing the technology’s credibility as a useful supply chain tool, although not the cure-all or panacea that early hyperbole may seem to have suggested.

The days of blockchain technology being considered exclusively synonymous with BitCoin and other cryptocurrencies have long been behind us.

Indeed, in the last couple of years, it has been hyped by many as the next big thing in revolutionary digital developments. Meanwhile, other, less-convinced observers have suggested that blockchain is a solution looking for a problem.

So how well is blockchain living up to commercial and organisational expectations?

Let’s look at some of its real-world uses in 2020 across the public and private sectors to see which prominent players have embraced blockchain, to what end, and what kind of inroads it’s making into the supply chain environment.

Blockchain in the Jewellery Supply Chain

Technology oriented participants in the jewellery industry, or more specifically, those in the diamond and gold businesses, began to adopt blockchain-based traceability solutions a couple of years ago. Today, at least two or three platforms are well established, and being exploited by several companies.

De Beers 

As diamonds, and to a lesser extent, perhaps gold, are resources with origins that can sometimes be controversial, companies like De Beers have seized upon blockchain to provide evidence that their gems come from sources that don’t involve insurgency funding or forced labour.

De Beers’ Tracr can provide provenance data for diamonds and track them from the mine to the retail outlet. The system has been enjoying success throughout its early phases.

As a result, plans are now in place to spin it off into an industry-wide association accessible to any organisation needing to track diamonds through the supply chain. At least two jewellery retailers are already taking part in a pilot of the platform.

Berkshire Hathaway

 A platform similar to Tracr is in use with American conglomerate Berkshire-Hathaway. This multinational enterprise counts jewellery retail chains and precious-metals companies among its vast portfolio of holdings.

TrustChain Jewelry is a blockchain initiative focused on the gold and gemstones used in rings. Its objective is to give confidence to the 70% of consumers concerned about the ethical background behind their jewellery purchases.

Some smaller enterprises in the jewellery industry, too, are either taking advantage of blockchain technology already or planning to do so as a way to improve supply chain transparency.

The sector appears to be one that does not need to look for a problem that blockchain can solve. It already has one in the form of conflict gems, and reputable industry participants believe blockchain can help them disassociate themselves from the controversy by proving ethical sourcing and refining.

T is for Transparency, and Tea

Lest you perceive that blockchain solutions are exclusively for high-value products such as diamonds and jewels, one industry that produces a far-less-costly, but highly treasured commodity, is also using the technology to improve supply-chain transparency.

Not too many of us are prepared to go for more than a few hours without the restorative effects of a cup of tea or coffee. But are we sure we’re drinking the real McCoy and not something with somewhat less beneficial effects being passed off as the most delicate Darjeeling?

Combating Counterfeiting

It appears that the tea industry, in particular, has a problem with counterfeiting. Unscrupulous merchants pass off inferior tea as that made from much higher-quality leaves originating in the world’s celebrated growing regions — and the more significant and well-known the brand, the more vulnerable it is to counterfeiting.

Even more nefarious practices exist in the tea trade, such as cutting real tea with other organic, or sometimes inorganic products to increase yield from a plantation’s crop.

It is against that backdrop that tea producers and even India’s government are hoping that blockchain will help deny counterfeiters access to consumer markets—and boost profits for producers and merchants that deal only with the best quality tea.

It’s Teatime for Blockchain

Unilever owns tea plantations in Africa and is using blockchain to improve sustainability and combat counterfeiting. It’s not that tracking and tracing tea through the supply chain is a new departure for the company: Unilever has been doing that for some time. However, blockchain technology is improving the speed and efficiency of the activity.

The blockchain solution, called Trado, is the result of a partnership between Unilever, Sainsbury’s, and the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).

Initially convened as an experiment, the participants, including farmers who received a financial incentive to feed data into the system, have deemed it a success, claiming that it has increased visibility in the tea supply chain and brought down the costs of financing sustainability incentives.

In a similar experiment, the Indian government’s Coffee Board of India is using blockchain to monitor coffee supply, and has already received some 30,000 registrations from farmers wishing to participate. The Tea Board of India is now planning to introduce a similar system as an end-to-end traceability solution.

Examples of Blockchain in Food Supply Chains

The examples we’ve looked at so far illustrate the uses of blockchain to promote sustainability in the supply chain and assure consumers that they are buying ethically sourced products. However, this fledgling technology also has the potential to save shoppers from harm to their health or safety, and perhaps even save lives.

 Walmart’s Blockchain Projects

Blockchain’s potential has been recognised and seized upon by consumer-goods giant Walmart, which has already undertaken several projects and proofs of concept in supply chain traceability. They include:

  • Tracing the origins of mangoes sold in Walmart’s US outlets
  • Tracking supplies of pork for sale in the company’s stores in China
  • A drone communication solution based on a blockchain platform
  • A new project in partnership with KPMG, IBM, and Merck to create a blockchain solution for tracing products in pharmaceutical supply chains

Among the objectives of these projects, is to enable fast responses on the rare occasions that quality issues arise in consumer-packaged-goods, requiring batches to be identified quickly and quarantined.

Walmart leaders believe blockchain technology can prevent, or at least minimise, the impacts of food contamination issues such as the e-coli contaminated lettuce and melamine-adulterated milk crises that rocked the US and China, respectively, several years ago.

With all movements of produce recorded immutably in a distributed ledger, tracing quality-compromised food or commodities back to the source can be achieved in hours, rather than the days, or even weeks, otherwise required for such an exercise.

Big Names are Backing Blockchain

Other opportunities presented by the use of Walmart’s blockchain solutions include the ability for consumers to scan products in-store and receive instant information about them, including their sources and the logistics processes involved in their journeys from origin to retail outlet.

Walmart has stamped its name in the blockchain early-movers hall of fame, not only with the projects already mentioned, but also as part of a partnership with several other food companies including Nestle, Dole, and Unilever, and technology behemoth IBM. The result of the collaboration is the Food Trust Blockchain, a distributed ledger solution capable of recording data associated with more than a million individual products.

Other Food Industry Blockchain Initiatives

Further examples of blockchain’s use in the food supply chain, with solutions either already operational or at the proof of concept stage, include the following:

  • An initiative by standards body GS1, in collaboration with IBM Food Trust, SAP, ripe.io, and FoodLogiQ, to solve interoperability challenges in food-industry blockchains.
  • The entry of Kvarøy Arctic, a large salmon producer, into Food Trust, as a way to facilitate the capture of provenance data for arctic salmon and the feed upon which they are raised.
  • The Norwegian Sea Food Association’s implementation of a blockchain for its members, enabling records about catches to be maintained relating to catch time and location, storage temperature, customs clearance, and details of fish feed used

Blockchain for Beer and Beverage

 Brewing companies, both large and small, are tapping into the potential of blockchain, with benefits ranging from the visibility of ingredients and processes for interested consumers, to the empowerment of subsistence farmers in third-world and developing countries.

Farmers Can Bank on Blockchain Benefits

Anheuser-Busch Inbev is the largest brewer globally. With the help of blockchain software, this giant of a company is helping subsistence farmers in Africa become more commercially capable, and connecting them directly to its supply chain without the need for expensive intermediaries.

Working with a blockchain startup called BanQu, AB Inbev is using a distributed ledger solution to build a relationship of trust with some 2,000 farmers in Zambia that supply raw materials for its beers.

The blockchain serves two primary purposes. The first is the one most commonly acknowledged as a supply chain benefit—transparency.

The second has a direct impact on the welfare of these impoverished farmers. The immutable records generated by the blockchain allows them to prove creditworthiness, open bank accounts, and develop their farms into commercially viable businesses.

Blockchain Passes the Alpha Acid Test

Other projects in the beer industry highlight the value and suitability of blockchain for SME’s supply chains. For instance, in the United States, a regional brewer in the San Francisco Bay area, Alpha Acid, has teamed up with tech giant Oracle to develop a blockchain-technology platform that’s accelerating and automating supply chain transactions.

The venture has provided Alpha Acid with an end-to-end dashboard view of its supply chain. It allows digital sign-offs for each stage in the beer-production process, from hop harvesting, through malting, brewing, and maturation.

This level of visibility is invaluable in brewing supply chains. The consistency of beer products depends on always following a precise formula, using ingredients that are inherently volatile in their chemistry, such as yeast, hops, and malt.

Alpha Acid’s blockchain solution receives sensor data from the brewery’s fermentation vessels and the company’s yeast, hop, and malt suppliers.

With all this information on record, any issues with a finished batch of beer can quickly be traced, enabling it to be isolated for problem resolution. Before the availability of blockchain, a much broader product recall would have been necessary, as it would not have been possible to quickly identify the affected batch.

Blockchain in the Automotive Supply Chain

Vehicle manufacturers have long been among the most avid adopters of digital supply chain technology, so penetration of blockchain into the sector should come as no surprise. Ford, BMW, Renault, General Motors, and, most recently, Tesla, all have solutions either in their sights or already in use.

Ford and BMW Among the Early Movers

For Ford, the blockchain is a potential answer to assuring the ethical procurement of cobalt — a mineral increasingly used for the batteries in electric-powered cars. Like several of the companies already mentioned in this article, Ford has teamed up with IBM to develop a blockchain for end-to-end supply-chain transparency.

Currently running as a pilot, the platform traces the provenance of cobalt and records all supply-chain events—from the bagging of the mineral at the mine, through refining and shipping, to delivery at car manufacturing facilities.

BMW, meanwhile, has piloted its PartChain platform, initially using it to track the supply chain movements of vehicle headlights, including all raw materials and components, and intends to broaden the scope to include suppliers of several other car parts.

Tesla is Trying it Too

As for Tesla, a blockchain partnership with port and shipping companies is all about improving supply chain speed and effectiveness. The progressive carmaker, known for its focus on clean fuels and electric power, has tested a blockchain application for imports to its factory in Shanghai, China.

Working alongside COSCO Shipping and Shanghai International Port Group, Tesla successfully used the technology to streamline the inbound supply chain to its production plant, achieving the following benefits, according to a report by Business Blockchain HQ:

  • Accelerated cargo pickup processes
  • Shortened release times for cargo offloaded at Shanghai port
  • Faster delivery times to the factory
  • Improved efficiency in the supply chain

All these gains arose because the blockchain solution enables faster transactions, helping materials move through the supply chain faster than would be possible using conventional handoffs.

Blockchain Gaining Real Traction in the Supply Chain

From high-value products such as jewellery and motor vehicles, through to everyday commodities like tea and packaged consumer foodstuffs, enterprises are finding that shared ledger systems can solve some of the issues they face, at least those relating to visibility and information flows.

Blockchain is proving itself a versatile solution, as applicable in the small-business environment as it is among the corporate giants. The examples we’ve looked at in this article are just a few of many projects, pilots, trials, and tests that companies across the world are undergoing.

Blockchain might not be a silver bullet to end all supply chain ills, but, like many other emerging digital technologies, it appears to be a welcome tool to aid supply chain management in most, if not all, industrial sectors.

We’ll be sure to keep an eye on its progress here at Logistics Bureau, and will continue to update and inform you about the growth and development of blockchain in the supply chain.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with kind permission. Rob O’Byrne is our special guest in our exclusive IBM Sterling Supply Chain series The Future Of Supply Chain Now.

The Big Ideas Summit 2020, You Deserve It!

Here at Procurious, we saved the best for last. Register today to reflect, re-energise and refresh for another year of innovation at the most inspiring supply chain and procurement conference of the year.


We’ve (finally) entered the homestretch. However, before we can bid farewell to 2020 – the year that quite literally turned our world upside down – we still have quite a bit of planning and ideation left to do. That’s why now, more than ever, you deserve a distraction.

But do not head for the couch and sign into Netflix just yet. Instead, step back from the day-to-day chaos and join us virtually for the 2020 Big Ideas Summit (BIS). Reflect on the year that was and the opportunities ahead; represent your organisation and all its accomplishments despite the pandemic; regroup and re-energise among like-minded professionals.

Procurious itself is proof that great things can happen when we come together. As a community of 42,000-plus supply chain and procurement professionals, we adapted to survive and thrive under the conditions of the “new normal”.

BIS 2020 takes us a step further. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve gone above and beyond what was asked of us. Now, together, we’ll welcome 2021 stronger than ever – both individually and as a community.

Take, for example, our response to the challenges McKinsey & Company presented us with earlier this year:

  • We redefined the procurement mandate and fostered a culture of innovation to evolve beyond the traditional, transactional stereotype.  
  • We made investments in digital and analytics, integrating automation and digitisation to optimize performance and leverage untapped data that enhanced productivity across the board.
  • We future-proofed our organisations by making proactive investments that develop existing talent and enable a more agile workforce.

Somehow, we were able to find the silver lining, increase our influence and succeed against all odds, positioning our function for a watershed 2021. So, together, let’s make next year full of innovation and shared success. That journey starts at BIS 2020.

Big Ideas: Make a Difference and Get Ahead

All it takes is one idea. A single idea can change the trajectory of your company and your career. A single idea can make a difference. A single idea can solve problems for people and businesses across the world. 

But good ideas don’t always come easy.

You need time to think, create, learn and share. We’ll provide this in a BIG way at BIS 2020 – and give you everything you need to ignite your passion, fuel your creativity and THINK BIG.

BIS 2020 will have dedicated sessions on everything that’s top of mind for you right now: leadership, supply chain threats, supplier management, digital transformation, supply chain continuity and more. 

Together, our community will present and share hundreds of ideas and best practices to help you make a difference, advance your career and get ahead in 2021. But remember, you only need one. 

Think the Unthinkable and Prepare for Anything

Those that have joined us at Big Ideas in the past have learned the importance of thinking the unthinkable. Never has this lesson been more true than in 2020.

We’re in the midst of a  transformational journey that is changing business and life as we know it.

The good news: our digital-first network is designed to change the face of the profession from the inside out, starting with each individual member of the community. The BIS and our Procurious community will help you think differently: we provide big ideas, first-hand experiences and lessons learned – from the best and brightest from across the world – to help you navigate through this unchartered territory and stand out from the rest of the pack.

Trust me, events don’t have to be in-person to be inspiring. Come ready to share what you are proud of and encourage others to do the same. The more you put in, the more you get out. It’s time to lead, thrive and take back control of your professional development. Rest assured; you’ll leave with everything you need to do just that.

If you haven’t already, make sure to let us know you’re joining us. In the meantime, head to the discussions board to brush up on your virtual networking skills.

6 Elements Of A Robust Category Strategy

A robust Category Plan and a Strategy will guarantee significant impact for your organisation with these 6 elements.


In my last article The #1 Reason You Need a Well- Defined & Formally Documented Category Strategy!, I purposefully oversimplified what a category strategy is by stating that it answers the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why) as well as the How of a particular group of spend. Ultimately, it will act as a guide to the Category Manager in his/her application of different procurement levers & tactics to generate value in the assigned spend area. I want to dive a little deeper on this topic by discussing 6 key elements that make up a robust category strategy:

1) Internal Needs Assessment: this should set a baseline for the category and provide a basic understanding of sub-categories, major suppliers, key requirements & stakeholders, internal controls/policies currently in place, and a brief category history and some of the challenges & successes it experienced. This section is particularly useful when reviewing your category strategy with someone who is unfamiliar with the category and it scope.

2) Spend Analysis: the foundation of any category strategy depends upon a solid understanding of the historical and (ideally) forecasted spend. Without accurate and granular detail, it’s hard to imagine how you can formulate any worthwhile strategy that you can feel confident in. If you didn’t do anything else in developing a category strategy, at least conduct a thorough spend analysis before making any type of recommendations to stakeholders or your leadership. There are a million different ways to slice and dice your data, however, at the bare minimum you should break your spend down by sub-category, supplier, location, and business group/facility. Data visualisation is worthwhile to mention here and a skill in itself: how do you take data and transform it into an eye-opening story that opens the door to powerful business insights? There are several data visualization tools out there like Tableau that can help with this, but you can never go wrong by simply utilising Excel or PowerPoint. One of my go-to formats to visualize spend data is the infamous Pareto!

3) Supply Market Analysis: understanding of the supply market is key to developing a robust strategy. You can begin by gathering market intelligence and benchmarking information via a myriad of places and sources, however, Beroe Live is a decent place to start and it’s free. Commonly used market analysis tools are the Porter’s 5 Forces model as well as the Structure, Conduct, Performance (SCP) model. Personally, I feel Porter’s 5 Forces model is more useful when entering a specific sourcing event or deal negotiation as it will help analyze the level of competition that exists at a specific point in time. Therefore, I tend to utilise the SCP framework as party of my category strategy development process.

4) Category Segmentation: segmentation modeling really sets you up to effectively apply the appropriate strategies for the goods/services you are sourcing and should help prioritize where you spend your time and with who. The Kraljic Matrix, developed by Peter Kraljic, is a segmentation model that evaluates two key factors:

1) the overall importance of the good/service (commonly based off total spend, profitability impact, or value-add to the company) and

2) market complexity or supply risk.

These factors are then evaluated on a Low to High scale across 2 x 2 matrix creating 4 quadrants or categories: 

Strategic Items(High Value + High Market Complexity/Supply Risk)

Leverage Items (High Value + Low Market Complexity/Supply Risk)

Bottleneck Items (Low Value + High Market Complexity/Supply Risk), and 

Non-Critical Items (Low Value + Low Market Complexity/Supply Risk).

Similarly, this tool can also be used to segment your suppliers. This is important to note because your counterpart on the other side of the table has most likely engaged in a similar segmentation process in helping them evaluate the strategies to deploy with their customers. Do you know where you fall in their model? Does your supplier/category segmentation align with how your supplier views you as customer?

5) Strategy: all the fact-based analysis that has been conducted up to this point should highlight and allow you to articulate 2-3 high level strategies that will guide all procurement activity that will occur (I highly recommend anyone engaged in Category Management to read The Purchasing Chessboard as it is a great tool to stimulate thinking around category strategy, procurement levers, and tactics that can be deployed). It should also include goals or KPIs to help measure the effectiveness of its implementation. Leveraging 1 of the 4 general strategies in the The Purchasing Chessboard, if my strategy is to “Leverage Competition Among Suppliers” one of my goals or KPIs could be “Achieve 15% year-over-year costs savings in x good/service for next three years”.

6) Category Plan: now that you have this amazing strategy with lofty goals to save millions, a list of initiatives, projects or tactics must be developed that will deliver the results. The Category Plan should call out the name of the project, description of the project or tactic to be used, strategy alignment, value, and timing. A Project Prioritisation Matrix is a useful tool here to help you through this process. Although you may not formally develop criteria to plot your project on the matrix, it’s important to think about the Business Value and Ease of Implementation of the initiatives you have listed.

In summary, a category strategy is much more than a document that answers the 5 W’s as it becomes the critical guide to the Category Manager in his/her application of different procurement strategies, levers & tactics to generate value for the company they represent. By including these 6 elements in your category strategy, you are sure to deliver significant impact for your organisation and see transformative results.

Let me know your thoughts and the tools you utilize to develop your category strategies (I’ve created a Category Strategy template for those who may be just getting started!)