I recently heard someone say that sourcing was boring. "Really?" I said with a hint of incredulity in my voice. In response the person said, "all you do is deal with incumbents and execute contracts." Well, that my friend is a person who doesn't really understand sourcing. Sourcing can be one of the most interesting jobs around. You must find a creative outlet for the category you are sourcing and discover new sources of supply as well as uncover new sources of information that will make your sourcing execution successful. When someone says sourcing is boring I often think that they are very simple-minded. Every single morning when I read the paper or watch the news, I think about the opportunities/issues facing companies when they have a supplier at the precipice of a disaster. Think about the last time we had a hurricane, a tsunami, a terrorist event or something of that magnitude. Those natural disasters have far-reaching impact, including call centers that were shut down, data centers that were closed, and goods and services that were trapped at our borders unable to enter a country due to issues happening around the world. Every time we have the political unrest, we face the reality that sourcing may change our near-term future. What I think is the most exciting news about our industry is the fact that everything that happens in the news every single day, can affect sourcing decisions. Global news impacts our everyday work lives. The other exciting aspect of sourcing to me, is the fact that we are the only function that looks across the company and sees stupidity, redundancy, duplicity, and multiple contracts, for the company that employs us. One might say that Finance has a better vision of what happens every day in our company. But, coming from a CPA background, I would beg to differ with you. When I report financial earnings profit or loss, I am reporting what has happened in the past.
I don't know about you, but at the beginning of each New Year, I feel pressure to come up with something I resolve to do differently. Truth be told, I don't come up with New Years Resolutions every year, but when I do put thought into them, I do my best to see them through--mainly because I select things that are achievable and "task-oriented," like (don’t laugh) "wash my face every night before bed." Needless to say, my personal and professional resolutions have always been somewhat different. This year my resolution is slightly more esoteric. In fact, it's more of a "theme" than a "thing." I got the idea from a friend and I think it's a perfect way to merge personal and professional resolutions. The idea is to pick a word you want to live by...and every day find ways to implement it. My word this year is "do." I know, it's kind of lame considering Nike's successful "Just Do It" campaign. But I couldn't think of a better verb to capture my goal, which is to act on things, not to catalogue them for later. To remember it, I've been using the mantra "see it, do it." This comes in handy with four kids in the house. There is a lot to "do" when I "see it." But I also find it great in my professional life. It is so easy to put things on the back burner until later. But with a "see it, do it" mentality, I'm trying harder to do things as I get them. Obviously this doesn't work all the time--some things have a higher priority than others--but by focusing on "do-ing," I find that I'm more engaged. I'm reading relevant articles when I get them, adding things to my list of priorities, reading through the priorities and doing them when promised. Perhaps the better work phrase is "see it, schedule it, do it." That way it gets the appropriate weighting before "doing." If you aren't a regular resolution-maker like me, maybe this can help motivate you to pick a word, theme or phrase to live by for the year. Me? I'm seeing it and following through on it!
I had a completely different blog ready to go today, but realized that we are on the cusp of Member Appreciation Week, so my "New Years Resolution" blog is just going to have to wait (and how apropos...putting off those resolutions just a little longer)... As we get ready to celebrate our members next week with tokens of appreciation, phone calls and a drawing for a Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet, I'd like to say what I personally appreciate most about our fabulous SIG members:
CFOs and other executives know that the order to cash (O2C) cycle in any business is its backbone - it extends out and touches just about everything in a firm's back office and customer facing departments. They also know there are numerous opportunities for problems and breakdowns, any of which can seriously impact customer service, cost and financial results. What's the best way to diagnose these problems? How can they be fixed permanently, with reduced overall costs and improved overall results? This can be very challenging – like operating on the patient while the patient is working everyday. Additionally, it's often difficult to get these fixes done from within the business. The first step is to take a hard look at each of the key areas of O2C – credit management, order fulfillment, invoicing, returns, logistics, payment processing, collections and reporting – to identify opportunities to improve, reduce cost, and smooth out problems that may be causing headaches for internal and external stakeholders. The problems can be varied. It's not uncommon to see high volumes of order entry errors, too many orders delivered after date promised, extraordinary number of returns, inconsistent use of SKUs, high level of customer complaints and repeated escalations relative to the order volume, price lists/promotions not up to date, and manual handoffs between teams that don't go well. We have also seen inappropriate metrics, some of which actually drive the behavior of the O2C staff in the wrong direction. The next step is to drill down to the root cause, understand what's really required, and then implement the changes needed. Investing time in diagnosing a company's O2C "pains" is the first step in optimizing order to cash processes and well worth the effort.
Mark Davison, Senior Director, Order to Cash Services, Corbus
Picture this in a high-pitched, Valley Girl voice..."Really??" I was both entertained and amused when Michael Shaw invited me to join his board for the "American Council of Sourcing and Procurement Executives (ACSPE)." Do we really need another association in the sourcing space? Although it is tempting to sit on a board with a potential "competitor," I'm not sure I agree with the methodology behind this organization. Why would I join the board of an organization that appears to include more sell-side members than buy-side? In fact, why would buy-side practitioners be interested in this group? The organization quotes that "our intention is to make this group a valuable resource differentiating it from generalized procurement groups." How? Seriously. How? I received a form letter telling me that our organization was nominated as a potential partner...I know it was a form letter because I saw one written to another company with the same language, including the: "indicate yes/no" response. It reminded me of a country song about a boy liking a girl and asking her to check "yes" or "no" if she does/does not like him back. So SIG was nominated by the Board to be included in the Board, but they haven't had their first Board meeting? Hmmmm. How can you call a Board a Board if their first Board meeting isn't taking place until June? For what it's worth, at SIG, we bring buy-side and sell-side together in a safe and collegial environment to eliminate the commercial side of Sourcing. With a ratio of 70:30 buy-side to sell-side and no booths or selling allowed, practitioners can focus on what really matters--sharing, learning and networking. Okay, my rant is done (borrowing a Jason Busch term) and I am back to work on helping SIG meet the objectives of our amazing members in a non-commercial manner!
Procurement organizations will evolve from cost centers or even shared services centers to be measured as true "profit centers" that are accountable to executive management and shareholders to deliver specific, measurable ROI targets - or risk being outsourced to more efficient third parties. Procurement organizations will continue to be challenged with finding new savings opportunities – a Capgemini Consulting survey of over 1,000 CPOs indicates that 39% say their organizations expect procurement to increase savings, with 35% of respondents expected to generate savings in excess of 6% and 5% targeting better than 10%. However, many organizations may be reaching a point of diminishing returns as evidenced by Hackett Group Benchmarks that point towards a leveling-off of savings achieved by World-Class performers, whose Total Spend Cost Savings as a percentage of Annual Spend (Cost Reduction and Avoidance), are forecast to decline by more than a full percentage point (7.56% to 6.46%) from 2012 to 2013, but are still posting better than 2X greater savings than those achieved by the non-world class peer group (2.93%). In this climate, where savings expectations are increasing while savings opportunities are increasingly hard to come by, procurement organizations will be under the microscope to demonstrate their ability to contribute to corporate profitability by achieving world-class ROI from their procurement operations – 10.72 in 2013 as compared to just 3.89 for the Peer Group – as calculated by dividing spend savings by the cost of procurement. Those procurement organizations that are unable to demonstrate world class Procurement ROI, risk being outsourced. Already, the Capgemini survey indicates about 10% of organizations have chosen to outsource some form of their procurement operations and another 25% are considering that option. Procurement organizations have a real opportunity to be seen as a profit center.
Richard Waugh, Vice President, Corporate Development, Zycus Inc.
Are you having trouble attracting and retaining talent? If so, have you considered your social media presence as part of the issue? People post about your company on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Glass Door and all over the world of social media. Do you Google/Bing/Yahoo your own company and see what people are saying? Do you search your own name to see what people are saying about you as an employer? Have you searched for pictures of your work and worksite that show your company in a bad light? Within the SIG membership, we have many of "the best places to work" in the USA, so we know good employer brands well. Can you imagine if you work in sourcing for Dish Network and the top searches about your company are about how you are the meanest employer in the United States? How about if you work for Radio Shack and the complaints are mostly about middle and upper-level management and the lack of a consistent turnaround plan? While these reviews may not be focused on sourcing management, a potential employee might make an incorrect inference based on what they see on social media. I have a few suggestions you might consider:
"I've noticed that when I'm selling a lot of records, certain things become easier. I'm not talking about getting a table in a restaurant." - David Byrne How does YOUR sourcing or procurement team sell themself to internal stakeholders? The concept of "partnering" or "selling" internally to raise awareness of Procurement's value is becoming a conversation at higher levels. Marketing and Legal are two of the more challenging departments to convince that Procurement can help. Whether your story is providing more money in the budget because of savings or weeding the budget down, both these departments are substantial expense line items in a corporate P&L and Procurement can provide value on either front. The marketing department may well be your best bet at front-line partnership in lieu of creating a case study to sell corporate-wide. Why not leverage a strong relationship with them, and then have them "market" Procurement internally with case studies that prove value-add? Being able to provide the marketing department with well-qualified procurement professionals who have marketing category experience may be key. A marketing category manager will understand the necessary relationships between people involved in agency selection and negotiation versus the contract itself. This professional will also understand that cost, while critical in the equation, is not the only driver. The intricacies of strategic marketing partnerships can be a gray area, and the Marketing Department will be more apt to give up their contract-side negotiations to someone who understands this and can align priorities instead of using typical procurement tactics. 'Tis the season to take your CMO or Vice President of marketing out for a peppermint mocha...and align your strategy with theirs. In turn, you may end up finding your best advocate to internal stakeholders.
In the final installment of this series, I have the honor of covering our closing keynote speaker, Brian Biro, who delivered an interactive session on leading with passion. I might add that he spoke passionately about the subject too. I have to say, I was a twittering (tweeting?) fool when Brian spoke. He had so many little snippets of wisdom, it was hard to keep up. In our final lunch session, Brian had the entire crowd on our feet and gathered around the stage cheering together as two women in the audience (one, our very own tiny Mary Zampino) broke through a board with a single (well, in one case a double) punch. It was awe-inspiring to watch. In both this session as well as an invitation-only event with an intimate group of CPOs, I took away the following insightful anecdotes:
Breakthrough experiences are always a matter of choice. There's always a way to do something if you are committed to it...but you have to follow through. If you do not follow-through, you will not breakthrough.
If you want to change your life, change your energy. Be fully present in each moment. It is the secret to life balance, not to mention that it will make those around you a lot happier.
The most destructive word in people-building is "blame." Blame kills teams. It is always in the past, not in the present. You must be in the "NOW" not stuck on the road of "AS SOON AS."
With many of the world's leaders gathered in South Africa to honor Nobel Prize winner and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, it seemed only apropos to acknowledge the many leadership lessons that he imparted. To say he was a great man would be an understatement. How he spent 27 years in prison and walked away with an attitude and spirit that allowed him to rise above the experience and become one of the names most associated with peace and forgiveness is beyond understanding. When he spoke, many listened. Below are a few of his words of wisdom, and my take on how we can use them wisely.
"It always seems impossible until it's done." How many times have you looked at a project — either business or personal — and thought you could never get it done? Not enough time, not enough resources, not enough support...and yet somehow you find a way to do it. Most people celebrate the big successes but overlook the little ones. Yet sometimes breaking big projects into little steps is exactly what you or your team needs to make the impossible possible. Don't wait until you cross the chasm to enjoy your successes. Celebrate the little victories too.
"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again." It's a little hard to imagine judging Nelson Mandela given the magnitude of what he was able to overcome and accomplish, but the message is a good one. You can't succeed if you don't try...and the fact is that many of us are afraid to try because we are afraid to fail. Failing isn't a requisite for succeeding...but it sure can be helpful you when you're trying to anticipate all the things that could go wrong in any given situation. Think back to some of the greatest innovators of our generation. Take Steve Jobs, for example. He left Apple in the '80s because of a series of failures, only to come back and create some of the most revolutionary technologies our world has ever seen.