We’ve released a series of articles to answer your questions about tail spend. We started by defining tail spend, discussed how to better work with stakeholders to manage it, and now we’re diving into the potential risks lurking in your tail spend and the problem with taking a scorched Earth approach. To get up to speed, read our prologue, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 on what this tail spend series will help you accomplish.
What is the risk exposure in my tail spend?
Risk is an increasingly important consideration in procurement and we’re right to think about the impact of risk hidden in our unmanaged spend. The tricky thing about risk is that it can differ across companies, even within the same industry. Supplier financial risk is important to most, but what about brand risk, geopolitical risk in the supply chain, and the risk of payment fraud? Depending on the spend category, IP risk or labor practice risk may also be a consideration.
The starting point, once again, is the spend analysis, with the category manager charged with determining the highest risks for their category. If a category isn’t actively managed, it can be assigned to a risk team for a basic analysis. Given that the average company only actively monitors about a quarter of suppliers for risk, there’s a lot of unwatched suppliers even outside the long tail. Risk assessments are typically driven by supplier spend or a triggering high-risk factor.
Amy Fong, Principal - Procurement and Purchase to Pay Advisory, The Hackett Group
The term “tail spend” has become a common term in procurement-speak because in our minds we like to visualize all of our spend fitting on a nice curve with suppliers on the X-axis and spend per supplier on the Y-axis, something like in Figure 1 below. The suppliers with the lowest spend are plotted to the right and we think of that as the tail. A shorter tail implies we’ve done a better job of consolidating our spend among fewer suppliers. Since supplier consolidation with the goal of cost savings was the raison d’etre of early sourcing groups, the shape of this curve feels like an indicator of success.
Amy Fong, Vice President - Sourcing and Vendor Management, Everest Group
With the evolution of procurement and the shift from a reactive, “three-bid-and-buy” scenario to more advanced means of sourcing, Category Management often is a concept best placed at the latter end of the spectrum. This makes sense because if you still quote products and services on an as-needed basis, you likely haven’t introduced the concept of collectively sourcing all spend within the category or subcategory. That reactionary approach may be the result of several things -- lack of support from the business, a misunderstanding of Procurement’s role, an inadequate process or workflow, or a combination of all of the above.
On the other side, many organizations have Category Management structures in place, or at least claim to. From my experience, an organization saying it has a framework for Category Management and an organization actually having such a framework are two very different things. More often than not, organizations will either employ a homegrown version of the methodology or leverage something that’s really not like Category Management at all.
Category Management can be approached differently based on several factors, including the industry you are in, whether you are service or product focused, what model of procurement you apply (centralized, decentralized, or center led), what drives the most spend in the organization and so on. As a result, I don’t think there is a strict rulebook on how to apply Category Management to your business.
While no two organizations will approach Category Management the same, these best practices should help any organization ensure their unique methodology is effective.
Jennifer Ulrich, Associate Director, Source One, a Corcentric Company