Author Archives: Peter Smith



A Critical Look at Category Management (Part 4)

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2013 series on category management, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

In the last few weeks we’ve looked at some of the drawbacks related to what we might call “traditional” category management (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). However, we should stress that they’re all aspects of the process that can be overcome by appropriate thought and management effort. The lack of stakeholder involvement we’ve sometimes seen — the overly procurement-centric approach — can be addressed by ensuring that the right engagement takes place. The risk of over-standardisation of approach can be mitigated by being aware of that issue and ensuring it doesn’t happen. But today’s discussion will consider an alternative approach that perhaps challenges more fundamentally the conventional steps in the category management process.

A Critical Look at Category Management (Part 3)

We wrote in the last article about the standardised nature of category management process and practice, and the dangers inherent in approaching different categories via that standard approach. Now let’s consider another failing of much “traditional” category management methodology and philosophy. We might define this as an overly procurement-centric approach to the whole task in hand. The buyer is placed in an almost deity-like position, controlling the whole process and with other participants fitting into their scheme and doing what they are told to by the all powerful category manager.

A Critical Look at Category Management (Part 2)

category management

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2013 series on category management, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

As we wrote in Part 1 of this series, category management (“CatMan”) has been perhaps the most powerful sourcing tool in the procurement armoury for some years. But 20 years on from the beginnings of its widespread adoption in the general procurement world (it has earlier origins in retail), we think it s a good time to review the state of CatMan and ask some fundamental questions. Is it still relevant? Has it outlived its usefulness? Does it need radical updating? Or is it still fit for purpose?

A Critical Look at Category Management

category management

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2013 series on category management, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

CatMan’s main impact was in the indirect spending area. Procurement in a manufacturing environment was run on what we might call a category management basis for many years, even if we didn’t call it that, probably since the beginnings of the function. I was the “Raw Materials (EU controlled materials)” buyer for Mars in my first functional role, then Head of Packaging Buying. We would now see those as first a fairly junior then a more senior CatMan role, but that was well before the days of consultants such as Kearney and McKinsey popularising the approach and the associated terminology.

The Game of Professional Services: Procurement vs. Providers

Editor's note: This Spend Matters Plus brief is a refresh of our 2012 series on buying professional services, which originally ran on Spend Matters PRO. 

Procurement executives are often their own worst enemy in this context. Too often they measure their success purely on some hourly or daily rates achieved from the professional services provider. So the negotiating goal becomes a simple one. Your list price for a lawyer with around three years post-qualification experience is $300 an hour – we want a rate of $200 an hour. Or last year we paid £2000 a day for a managing consultant — how much discount will you give me this year?

Koble’s Experian Partnership Turns Social Supplier Discovery into Risk Management Opportunity

SpendLead

We’ve covered Koble here over the last year or two, and the platform continues to grow its user base of buyers looking to find innovative suppliers and suppliers looking to find buyers (around 500 major firms are now using the solution.) Recent accolades have come with a place in the 2017 Red Herring North America “Top 100 winners,” which lists innovative and exciting tech firms, and even a nod by Gartner. Part of the latest reason why is a free risk analysis tool built into the platform.

Improve Your Category Management Performance: Report and Webinar From Future Purchasing and Spend Matters

category management

The Future Purchasing Category Management survey and report is now in its third edition, and has established itself as the definitive piece of research work in its field. Future Purchasing, as a consulting firm specializing in “CatMan,” bring its own insights to the results. That means the final report is far from just being a presentation of the data from the several hundred survey respondents, representing organizations from many different sectors and countries.

Category Management Survey and Report: Groundbreaking Results and Webinar Next Week

category management

Consultancy Future Purchasing completed late last year the largest category management survey of its kind ever attempted (as far as we know). With more than 300 respondents from a range of sectors and countries, the results provide much fascinating material to help understand just what differentiates the best exponents of “CatMan” from the pack. And if you have any interest in the topic, as a category manager or a procurement leader looking to improve performance, or indeed as a less mature organization in the field, we are confident you will get something useful out of our upcoming webinar next Tuesday, March 14, at 11 a.m. EST.

Risky Business — Our Illogical Attitudes to Risk, Regret and Gambling

supply risk

We've featured aspects of Daniel Kahneman's brilliant book, Thinking Fast and Slow, over a number of articles looking at his concepts such as Priming and Anchoring, and in particular what they (and other ideas he and others in the field have developed) mean for procurement professionals.

Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for Economics, with his collaborator Amos Tverksy — not bad going for two psychologists. And the work that led to the prize was largely around the area of risk, which is what we will look at today.

He and Tversky showed that the assumptions economists made about human behaviour — that we acted rationally in hard economic terms — could be proved false. That meant many of the standard economic models and theories were also flawed, which rather upset many in the economics community!

Kahneman called the strange beings who behaved in this perfectly rationally manner "econs" as opposed to "humans," who behaved — well, like humans do. And his work on risk shows exactly why the assumptions of rationality doesn't hold up. Our decisions aren’t rational — but driven by factors like the “endowment effect,” risk-aversion, and regret.

There is obviously a huge amount of detail that we could look at here — an entire Nobel Prize's worth, we might say. But we will just focus on a few key conclusions and a handful of implications for procurement. As before, we strongly recommend you read the book if this interests you (and, really, it should).

So let’s get into three key Kahneman findings.

Hone Your Procurement Negotiation Skills By Learning the Right Way to Think

In our previous piece looking at Daniel Kahneman's brilliant book, Thinking Fast and Slow, and its implications for procurement thinking and practice, we looked at the concept of Priming.

Granted, Kahneman published the book in late 2011, but is still immensely valuable for procurement practitioners to keep on their bedside tables today — and here's why.

One of the central premises of Kahneman's book is how our brains look for the easy route at all times, what he calls "System 1" thinking. If we can draw a conclusion, make a decision, or find a belief without actually going through a time-consuming and exhausting process of really thinking, we will. That is not our conscious decision — our brains are wired that way. "System 2" thinking, which is more logical, analytical and difficult, is something our brains avoid if they can.

So Priming is the phenomenon whereby something we've seen or heard recently influences our next thoughts. If I ask you to name an animal, and you've just walked past an advert for the zoo illustrated with an elephant, you are more likely to say "elephant." And remarkably, this is true even if you don't recall seeing the advert. Our sub-conscious is quite capable of priming our future thoughts.

In this Plus brief, we will consider what is in effect a particular sort of priming, with an obvious implication for procurement and negotiation behaviour specifically. Anchoring is the tendency for us to fix our thoughts around a particular number, point, or fact rather than thinking logically and independently about a decision.

In Kahnemann's words, "it occurs when people consider a particular value for an unknown quantity before estimating that quantity." The estimates then stay close to the number considered. And this is one of the most tested and robust results in experimental psychology; it is an absolutely proven phenomenon.

In a somewhat frightening example quoted in his book, German judges were asked to throw a dice before being asked what sentence they would give for a particular crime. The dice came up with either the number 3 or 9. When the dice said 9, the average "sentence" was 8 months. When it said 3, the average was 5 months!

Anchoring and Procurement Negotiation

The implication for procurement is very clear in the negotiation arena. Whatever number gets anchored in your brain is in danger of becoming the starting point and indeed the expectation for the negotiation. You may work up or down from there, but it is difficult not to mentally accept that as an anchor for the discussion.

Let's get into some tangible examples.

Dow Jones, London FTSE Stocks Leap in December—But Not Our Procurement Portfolio!

procurement stocks

As we leap into the great unknown of 2017, this is our final review of the stocks portfolio we put together for 2016. It featured 21 firms with an interest in procurement and a quote on a major stock market, mainly London or New York. The final month of the year was actually not very dramatic for our firms generally, but it was more so for the wider markets. At the end of November, our overall portfolio was just ahead of the London FTSE All Share Index for the year to date and just behind the Dow Jones. But in December, while our portfolio rose by just 1% or so, London jumped by no less than 5% and New York by 4%, meaning at year-end we trailed those wider indices – although we were still a couple of percentage points ahead of the Dow Jones Global Index. Read on to find out the Biggest Winners and Biggest Losers — and tell us if you'd like us to keep doing these into 2017, would you?

Our Portfolio of Procurement Stocks Responds Well to Seismic Events in November

procurement solutions stocks

November 2016 will not go down in history for anything to do with business, procurement or share prices. The election of Donald Trump certainly seemed to be a seismic event, although we will have to wait and see. Perhaps the biggest shock of all will be if he turns out to be an OK sort of president – not too bad, not brilliant either. Given that one camp has absurdly high expectations of him (“draining the D.C. swamp”) whilst another believes he will lead the world to Armageddon, wouldn’t that be the real surprise?