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If you ever feel that Strategic Planning is the last item on your agenda or to-do list, you are not alone. Changing your operating model could help your team become a company-wide tool for co-creating value.
Implementing a sourcing desk operationalizes your procurement activities by segmenting workstreams and allowing category managers the time for more strategic planning, increasing the savings and value they deliver.
A sourcing desk needs to fit your company's culture and priorities and align to business dynamics in order to add substantial value to the organization.
Everyone has too much work. Everyone would love to be more strategic in their work. More strategy would lead to fewer tasks, fewer tasks would mean less work to do. Less work to do would lead to more time to develop strategy. But there’s too much work to do and you can’t get to the strategy.
It’s the same with everyone I talk to. Procurement professionals know that approaching their work with a strategic plan — in advance — will make their lives easier and make their savings pipeline goals more achievable, but which do you approach first: the chicken or the egg? The strategy or the work at hand?
The way to solve the strategic and tactical problem (and the workload problem!!) is by segmenting your work. Many organizations approach it differently, but the approach I have seen work best and deliver the quickest results is implementing a sourcing desk. There are different flavors of sourcing desk (big, small, global, single-category, tail spend only, whatever), but the basic concepts are simple: centralize your team, document your process, get really good at intake, execution, customer service, specialize where you need to and generalize where you don’t need to, and then blow everyone away.
The clients I work with are successful and motivated to grow their pipelines, but they also know that in order to realize their savings growth potential, they have to reimagine and realign the daily tasks of procurement in a way that will allow them the time for more strategic planning, introduce greater efficiency on their system, and inspire stakeholders to see the Procurement Team as a company-wide tool for delivering greater value through strategic sourcing.
Intrigued? Here are a few things to consider before getting started:
Each Procurement Team is different, just as each company has its own culture and priorities. Procurement is ever-evolving and it’s important to have enough self awareness to adapt to the appropriate stage of maturity. Flexibility is key, and honoring the existing culture is worth a lot. When I join a project, my goal is to “co-create” a solution, not simply to deliver a pre-canned flavor of the month.
One of the reasons that I maintain a “technology agnostic” philosophy is that technology isn’t always the solution. Not by a long shot. Different situations require different solutions, and you need to apply a holistic view to identify the right one. I get to know my clients, their values, their mission, their preferences as well as their pain-points. When setting up a Sourcing Desk- you don’t want to just solve a short-term problem, you need a solution that enhances existing tribal knowledge and talents, and, most importantly, that people will use.
Maybe your corporate mission is innovation, but the Procurement Team is following a “Savings First” mandate. Maybe your processes are tethered to a school of thought that arrived with a now-long-gone manager and they don’t actually align with your systems. Maybe, with the addition of some simple data visibility upgrades, your efficiency could explode. I’ve worked with clients to solve these and similar problems. It’s all about alignment. Sometimes the answer is cultural alignment, sometimes its process alignment, often it’s a question of business stakeholder alignment.
There’s no magic wand that will wave away your impediments to growth, however, there are a host of solid, sustainable solutions than can add substantial created value to your organization. Your sourcing desk should be unique to your team. One thing that a sourcing desk will do is allow category managers to spend more time working on strategy. By shifting tasks and roles, hours are freed-up for more senior staff to finally do the heavy cognitive work that will deliver change and increased value to the organization.
There’s your chicken, and your egg.
Director of Procurement Services
David is a Director with 15+ years of experience in procurement advisory and managed services. In his 10 years at WNS Denali, David has overseen a portfolio of Fortune 500 Retail and CPG clients focused on delivering global Source-to-Contract managed services. David has a MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and resides in Seattle, WA.