Because we're not short of positive perspectives on outsourcing: again, anyone attending even one SIG Summit would come away with plenty of evidence for its value, and the outsourcing community and media such as Outsource have more than enough material to make an overwhelming case for why the model has been a good - a great - one for organizations right across the size spectrum. But the benefits aren't confined to individual companies: a wealth of scholarly work has been carried out to demonstrate how, in direct opposition to the assertions of its detractors, outsourcing (even offshoring) is good for those very economies it is supposedly corroding.
A 2006 Harvard University study entitled 'The Politics and Economics of Offshore Outsourcing' articulates the truth of this superficially counter-intuitive position very nicely. Authors Gregory Mankiw and Phillip Swagel found that "outsourcing appears to be connected to increased US employment and investment rather than to overall job loss. Some US jobs are certainly lost to other countries. On the whole, however, firms involved with offshore outsourcing are not shifting net jobs overseas but instead are creating jobs both in the United States and in other countries... Outsourcing will create winners and losers, and the pain of dislocation will be real for workers and their families. Taken together, however, these conclusions suggest that offshore outsourcing is likely to be beneficial for the United States as a whole."
A recent episode of 60 Minutes investigating outsourcing and the increasingly under-fire H-1B visa program in the USA has prompted a good degree of debate on social media and elsewhere, about this always-controversial practice. As readers of SIG blogs (and indeed members of the sourcing and outsourcing community globally) will need little reminding, outsourcing and its practitioners present an easy target for anyone with an economic axe to grind looking for someone or something to blame for the perceived ailments of the American (or any other) economy, especially unemployment: those giving voice to the old lament that outsourcing (conflated, of course, with offshoring) "sends our jobs overseas" now also point to the H-1B visa and charge those companies not "guilty" of exporting jobs with the equally heinous crime of keeping them onshore but giving them to foreign workers instead.
Yet despite decades of such negative PR the model continues to prove an indispensable tool for organizations large and small. Earlier this month, to take just one recent example, Lloyds Banking Group in the UK announced plans for a £1.3bn ($1.6 bn) ITO deal with IBM which will see over 1,900 jobs transferred to the latter; the deal is intended to save approximately £760m ($948 bn) in costs, according to the Financial Times (which, incidentally, quoted the Lloyds Trade Union - "which is no longer recognized by the bank" - as writing to its members that "staff transferred to IBM will be kept on for a year but most would be laid off within four years and replaced by cheaper, offshore workers").
With so much attention currently focused on the political arena (most obviously, of course, in the USA with the inauguration of President Trump) it’s easy to become carried away in one’s assessments of the extent to which “politics” drives actual change. Of course, there’s no doubting the scale of the significance of the Trump election, or the Brexit vote, or similar “watershed moments” – but the nature of that significance is somewhat less clear, especially when it comes to the impacts on specific aspects of our lives. It’s somewhat comforting (or perhaps not, depending on one’s affiliation) to think that the person nominally in charge of a country is indeed that – it plays to our natural human desire for order, comprehensibility, justice – but in a world as interconnected and complex as this one, is it not a serious error to overstate the ability of a President Trump, a Prime Minister May and others in similar positions around the world truly to steer a course, rather than simply to keep their ships of state upright in the storm?
Look at the sourcing and outsourcing space specifically. In a number of particular areas President Trump could well have a huge impact: a crackdown on immigration and the offshoring of work, changes to NAFTA, the reversal of the ACA and other policies would affect very substantially certain tranches of the space and those working within them. Likewise, in the UK the way Theresa May is approaching the exit from the EU and the Single Market has deep significance for businesses working in and with the United Kingdom for data protection, for accounting and a host of other areas.
Dawn Tiura, SIG CEO and President recently spoke on an expert panel at Coupa Inspire, and shared her thoughts with candor and authority. Coupa interviewed Dawn shortly after the event and published a blog sharing her responses which we are publishing with Coupa's permission. The original can also be found on the Coupa website.
Thanks to Coupa for the blog interview below: One of our favorite parts of Coupa Inspire are the expert panels. There's nothing we love more than getting smart people together to talk shop. If you missed Inspire, you can read excerpts of the analyst panel and the CIO panel on our blog. Today we're talking with Dawn Tiura as a follow up to the analyst panel. Dawn is CEO of Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) and has been observing the industry for 25 years from her vantage point as a CPA turned sourcing consultant. There's no one smarter on the topic of where sourcing is heading, so when she remarked during the panel that in her opinion, the term buyer should be eradicated, that piqued our curiosity. So, we got her on the phone to learn more.
Coupa: You had some provocative things to say during our panel discussion. One was that you wished the 'buyer' title would go away. We were hoping you could expand on that.
Dawn: I sure could! To me, buyer is such a demeaning title. The only time somebody is excited to say, "I'm a buyer" is if they're in the fashion industry, because that's cool and exciting and sexy.
What is the source of procurement's value to the enterprise? How do organizations become more effective and efficient in achieving sustainable cost savings? How can procurement deliver even greater value to the enterprise? These questions are essential to the continuous improvement of the sourcing and procurement function. They are the questions at the foundation of the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) Chief Procurement Officers (CPO) Study which examines the "journey to value" for procurement organizations – and details the specific procurement strategies that drive business results and bottom-line impact. The study, based on a survey of more than 1,000 procurement executives across more than 40 countries, takes a deeper look at "procurement role models," the 100+ companies in the study that achieved the most impressive revenue and profit performance relative to their industry peers. The research identifies three common attributes that tend to separate these procurement role models from the pack. These high-performing procurement organizations:
Matt McGovern, Market Segment Manager - IBM Procurement and Contract Management Solutions
In all my years attending SIG and similar sourcing conferences (often from the outside looking in), I have never observed this degree of nervousness around a new innovation as that surrounding Robotics Process Automation (RPA). Speakers struggle with how much development background they should share before launching into the topic. Conference attendees eagerly lap up nuggets of information that can add to their meager understanding of the topic. And the few who "get it" seem to be oblivious to the general discomfort of mainstream sourcing professionals whenever robotics is mentioned.
Recently, during a trip to visit suppliers in India, I similarly noticed a strange awkwardness surrounding the marketing of both RPA and analytics. When developer/programmers are asked to explain product offerings, they trip over themselves a bit cautious that buyers may not be able to grasp the computer science, statistics or mathematics of the product offering, and consequently resort to demonstrating actual end-user applications without ever really saying, "We have a miracle here, and we want to share it with you! And there is so much more we can do each week!"
There is one common, less noticed trait about all companies with successful supply chain operations; they know the value of an effective procurement organization, and have placed a great deal of emphasis in creating/transforming them around a strategic vision. However, only a small percentage of businesses globally can claim this success. Most companies lack the vision and thus have seen their procurement organizations evolve organically, developing around the needs of the time and constraints of supporting revenue growth. This blog post provides insights into what defines the second type of companies and how change at the top, supported by long-term vision, can help a firm change for the better. Businesses have developed practices of utilizing the resources and teams available to them to focus on their immediate needs. With top lines receiving a significant emphasis, procurement organizations have been asked to focus on getting the right material in time, but rarely on quality and best cost. Alternatively, when bottom line results are at risk, procurement teams have been asked to generate additional savings to meet quarterly or annual targets. It is only during times of extreme commodity price volatility and spikes in cost of goods sold (COGS), that teams are created to focus on managing commodity risks and price fluctuations. Competitive forces, lessons learned and recommendations from resources new to the firm or from consultants typically drive the situations described above. However, these are implemented as stand-alone projects and rarely translate to a long-term strategic vision. Procurement and Corporate leadership seldom evaluate a procurement organization from a holistic viewpoint.
A strategic sourcing approach can accelerate enterprise growth. Deeply knowledgeable on IT issues, procurement leaders offer a sophisticated understanding of how to make IT purchases impactful to the corporate bottom and top lines. The next hill to climb in delivering increasing value to the C-suite may lie in another significant expense category: corporate real estate. Companies outsource facilities management and related services to reduce expenses, and those expectations are met, but they soon learn that real estate strategies can provide even greater value in areas such as employee engagement, worker productivity and risk management. The right real estate partner with the right strategy in place can also help companies optimize balance-sheet and P&L impact, enhance employee attraction and retention, and meet strategic goals in areas ranging from M&A to sustainability. These goals are often the responsibility of internal departments other than real estate, so gaining the benefit requires strong collaboration among internal teams. If this collaborative spirit doesn't already exist at your company, bringing in a third-party real estate partner can help bridge communication gaps and align the goals of different departments to gain mutually beneficial results. Some areas where collaborative initiatives pay the biggest dividends include:
Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to spend time within several Fortune 500 procurement departments undergoing large-scale organizational transformations. While the goals and approach varied by firm and industry, there was one definitive similarity...each company sought to realign the focus of their full time employees on the most strategic activities. This shared objective manifested itself in various ways, including:
Real estate and facilities may be the most misunderstood corporate function in the world of sourcing. Despite the fact that real estate is one of the largest corporate expenses, senior managers often are only vaguely aware of all the myriad strategies that exist to reduce cost, manage risk and drive productivity. Real estate is a strategic corporate function that affects every aspect of the business, from the C-suite to Finance to HR, and the ability of business units to operate effectively. But often, corporate real estate (CRE) leaders are perceived as the guys who work in the basement and clean the restrooms. This misperception is somewhat dangerous. In a recent survey, more than 70 percent of CRE directors said they face high internal expectations for increasing productivity in the workplace and improving efficiency within their department, but only 28 percent feel "well-equipped" to meet these rising demands from senior leadership. The challenge is intensified by the growing trend of procurement professionals affecting real estate sourcing decisions. More than two-thirds of CRE leaders see procurement taking an active or even leading role in real estate decisions, but only 42 percent believe the procurement function is sufficiently knowledgeable about the facilities function to make informed decisions. The problem lies in the notion that real estate is a commodity service, so the goal of a procurement team is to find the lowest-cost provider. That approach might make some executives look good as cost-cutters, but the damage to the business greatly overshadows any incremental cost savings. Companies that fail to recognize how real estate strategy affects corporate performance will inevitably fall behind their competitors, in terms of their ability to attract and retain talent, maximize profit and mitigate a range of risks.