I’m joined today by Anthony Clervi, President and CEO of UNA, a group purchasing organization (or GPO). He joined us last month for an AoP Live session that proposed an alternative approach to ‘automating’ procurement – one that doesn’t involve robots and doesn’t cost a dime.
As the opening quote suggests, our preconceived notions can often prevent us from leveraging the full range of options available to us. Acting without being fully informed can be a huge misstep for procurement, given that our purpose is to identify and compare as many qualified solutions as possible for every business need.
Since many procurement organizations do not have experience with a group purchasing organization, everything we learned about what GPOs are NOT is just as valuable as what they do and the opportunity they represent. GPOs are NOT:
- Just for small companies
- Just for hospitality, healthcare, and higher education
- Just about savings
- Just for indirect spend
- And most importantly, GPOs do not represent a competitive threat to in house procurement.
The only guarantee that comes with a transformation journey is that there will be ‘twists and turns’ along the way. And since no organization can escape the unexpected, how procurement leaders makers handle those twists and turns becomes a critical differentiator and success factor.
While I was at ProcureCon Indirect East, I interviewed Dave Quillin, Manager of Procurement at Alliant Credit Union in Chicago. I last interviewed Dave in early 2017, when he was at the end of his first year of procurement transformation. This conversation gave us an opportunity to get caught up on the progress his team and organization have made over the last two years and hear about what he has discovered along the way.
The Alliant procurement organization is small, which forces them to prioritize strategically, leverage every resource available to them, and distribute some of the activities that would be centralized in a larger company. But does that make them completely different from big procurement organizations? Absolutely not, says Quillin. As he points out, even a 50 or 100 person procurement team will eventually tap out on resources or be asked to act on category expertise they do not possess.
Perhaps his greatest lesson learned of all from his transformation journey to date is that those ‘twists and turns’ are the status quo. Adjusting to them, and designing every process with flexibility in mind, even governance and compliance, will likely make all the difference in the journey forward from this point.
In this conversation, Dave Quillin discusses:
• How small procurement teams can build (or access) specific category expertise
• The talent requirements, particularly in the area of soft skills, that are absolutely mandatory in a smaller organization, and why Dave sees that as an advantage
• Why implementing all P2P modules at once – even in response to stakeholder demand – may not be the best approach.
• A key piece of management advice from a former colleague that has made all the difference on the Alliant Credit Union transformation journey.
Everything procurement delivers – from savings to risk mitigation to value – is predicated on having access to clean, trustworthy data. If this foundation does not exist or if it is shaky, then buyers don’t know how much the company is spending with a given supplier, let alone how they can improve the efficiency or impact of a given spend category.
While I was at the Ivalua NOW event in Paris, I interviewed Cyrille Naux, Purchasing and Supply Chain Vice-President at Chassis Brakes International, a multinational manufacturer of automotive brakes and brake components. He gave a keynote presentation about his company’s procurement and supply chain transformation journey – one that is still underway.
Unlike industries such as retail and professional services, which start by managing indirect spend and then gradually transition to influence directs, most procurement teams in the automotive space take a direct-spend first approach. Direct spend suppliers are large, global, and absolutely critical to the company’s operations and their competitive advantage. Strong executive mandates bring the management of direct spend within easier reach for procurement than ‘messy’, non-transparent indirect spend.
For Chassis Brakes, the first step to manage their spend was supplier consolidation: reducing direct spend suppliers from 12,000 to 6,000 (with an eventual goal of 2,000) and indirect spend suppliers from 10,000 to 4,000. They have also taken a hardline approach to supplier master data cleansing and standardization which led to a high quality supplier database they continue to work hard to maintain.
When procurement talks about transformation, we are usually referring to the critical changes we need to make to our own talent, processes and technology. But does the opportunity exist for procurement to transform the business as a whole? Evidence from the team at VSP Global suggests that it does.
I interviewed two members of the VSP Global team, Nathan Haydn-Myer, Manager of Procurement Operations and Insights, and Siddharth Ramesh, Manager of Corporate Procurement about their dynamic program to centralize procurement and maximize savings, Spend it Like it’s Yours (SILIY) with the help of “Moolah” the home-grown procurement mascot.
As they were quick to admit, procurement can’t promise to be everything to everyone, but that isn’t a reason not to have broad, open-ended conversations with internal stakeholders. In fact, the same collaborative approach that led to the creation of Moolah (a silly - or siliy – character with a serious message) also made it possible for procurement to help the VSP sales team respond to RFPs.
While VSP has received industry-wide attention and acclaim for their approach to centralizing procurement, it wasn’t an easy journey. They were tasked with centralizing procurement and driving savings WITHOUT a mandate. The journey also took longer than outsiders might expect, requiring several years to execute and leading to some amount of natural but healthy turnover.