The best, most inventive bakers start with a basic recipe and a set of core ingredients. Then, they improvise by adding their creative twist on the final product. Always pushing to improve upon the original, they continue their artistry over time as they develop ever-evolving recipes using new ingredients, techniques and tools. 
As I was considering how to write about the process of crafting a digitally enabled category management plan, I kept circling back to the image of baking. Stay with me.

Just like a great baking recipe, strategic category management requires a core set of ingredients including stakeholder relationships, spend analytics, business requirements, market trends, buying power, and suppliers. But assembling these ingredients together in a way that makes them sing requires smart people with strong judgement-making skills – and a willingness to embrace trying new things.

Innovating Through Digital Enablers

As you mature in your category management capabilities, you might think of ways to digitally enable your category strategy – tweak your recipe, so to speak. Don’t’ make too many changes all at once, though, but rather be smart and strategic about the changes you make. Figure out what might have the biggest impact, what is achievable, and in what timeframe. Areas of focus might include:

  • Spend Analytics: Perhaps you first want to concentrate on improving the understanding of your category spend. There are many digital tools that will help enhance insights into your spend visibility. Because we are procurement in a digital age, we want everything done yesterday. But make sure to be transparent with your stakeholders. Ensure they understand it may take months, not days, to achieve agreed upon goals such as implementing a new spend visibility solution or driving accuracy within your spend taxonomy. At the same time, don’t hold your category managers to perfection while you work out the kinks in the recipe.

  • Category Management Plan: A good category management plan looks at both the internal environment – the spend analysis and business requirements – along with the external market to develop a sound recipe for success. Putting digital tools in place to help better understand the external market in real-time -- for example, a real-time news feed can help identify developments that may impact your day-to-day business such as mergers, supplier news, or an impending shortage of a core cost driver for the category -- enable faster, better intelligence.

  • Contracts Organization: Many organizations struggle to organize and manage their contracts. Some may be sitting in a file cabinet. Others are scattered on various hard drives and are difficult to access. Committing to developing one, centralized contracts database will allow category managers to do their jobs better. It may take a few years to develop, but the results will be worth the effort.

Success Requires Clear Expectations, Communication, and Time

As you move forward on your journey to a more digitally enabled category management system, there are several important considerations for both the procurement leader who is striving to perfect the recipe AND the category managers within the procurement ecosystem tasked with regularly ensuring it turns out right.

  • Leadership/Recipe Developer: Be sure the roadmap you are developing is realistic. Be transparent about your expectations. And be sure to meet people where they are in the process. You may have some master bakers on your team, and you may have some complete novices. Provide the proper tools, coaching and support to ensure success.

  • Category Manager/Baker: Be honest about your level of expertise and comfort level. Understand your natural strengths and use those to your advantage as you navigate the changing expectations. Ask for help and guidance when needed.

3 Tips to Get Started with Digitally-Enabled Category Management

Are you ready to get started crafting your unique category management recipe? A few final thoughts on how to begin:

  1. Develop an agile digital framework: Category management is not a thing that you program and then leave on autopilot. Category managers have to work with stakeholders to figure out what they want/need, which will certainly change over time. Your stakeholders, in turn, are beholden to the changing needs of their leadership. If we acknowledge that at the onset, we can employ the right processes, tools and templates that allow for the agility necessary to succeed.

  2. Start small: Don’t try to do too much all at once. Instead, craft your roadmap with both short- and long-term goals. Consider where the current gaps exist and work to address them over time.

  3. Embrace the trying: It’s natural to be apprehensive when you are asked to do something you’ve never done before. Understand that the first days, weeks and months will be hard. You will continue to be pulled in all of the directions you normally are during your workday. Adding something new can be overwhelming, difficult and time-consuming. Know that it will be easier if you embrace the process and give it a try.

If you are looking for more support on your digital transformation journey, check out our digital roadmap handbook here or watch my short pro-tip video about enabling your team for success here.


About the Author

Lynn Rideout
Director, Client Delivery Services

Lynn RideoutLynn Rideout is a Director within WNS-Denali’s Client Delivery Services team. She is responsible for developing and delivering procurement solutions and capabilities to WNS-Denali client organizations. Lynn has 20 years of procurement experience. She has led WNS-Denali’s global Category Management capabilities. She has previously worked as a Marketing Category Manager, as well as a procurement service operations leader. Lynn has worked with clients in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, consumer goods, financial services and pharmaceuticals. Lynn holds a degree in International Relations from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, as well as a BA in Business and Political Science from Grove City College.

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