Procurement’s Dirty Little Secrets

Posted: 02/25/2022 - 09:00
Exposed: Six of procurement's dirty little secrets that are hindering its ability to be a truly strategic partnership to the business.

Many signs indicate that procurement is undergoing a much needed transformation, but teams are still somewhat unwilling to adopt the tools out there to really tackle challenges, says Sam Jenks, Chief Growth Officer for Kodiak Hub. He exposes six of procurement's dirty little secrets that are hindering its ability to be a truly strategic partner to the business.

It’s an exciting time to be working in procurement and ProcureTech as they are both undergoing an exciting transformation.

Venture capital funds are flooding into ProcureTech, and the category has a forecasted CAGR of 10.2% between 2021–2026 (Global Industry Analyst, Inc 2021) at a $9.9BN valuation by 2023 (Banerjee 2019). At the same time, Global 2000 Corporations are increasingly open to adopting new emerging technologies.

All signs point toward transformation.

But, first, we need to address the elephants in the room.

Just like any industry, many procurement organizations have some dirty little secrets that may not be so secret to those practitioners reading this article. Nonetheless, these realities are creating barriers for digital transformation and value chain impact.

“Ignorance becomes empowering because it enables people to live. Stupidity becomes proactive, a political statement. Our collective norm.” - Ozeki, My Year of Meats

Sometimes it’s easier to bury our head in the sand, and sometimes it’s easier to talk about our secrets, and collectively agree that ignorance, as the norm, just isn’t good enough.

It’s time to air our dirty laundry.

Dirty Little Secret #1: Lack of Visibility Beyond Tier-1 Suppliers

A majority of procurement teams lack visibility beyond their tier-1 suppliers. Unfortunately for procurement, internal and external stakeholder expectations have made tier visibility a hot-button issue, especially on the heels of COVID-19.

Expectations on supply chain transparency are hard to meet as the complexity of global supply networks continues to grow and the means to advance supply chain transparency remain not so advanced.

The risks associated with poor tier visibility include:

  • Negative impact upon brand/shareholder value due to unethical/unsustainable supply chain operations
  • Supply shortages due to lacking knowledge of expanded supplier network
  • Poor levels of business continuity due to lack of planning in a supplier network

The external pressure on tier visibility can be seen as legislation is instituted internationally and domestically to encourage large enterprise businesses to take responsibility for the entirety of their global supplier networks to increase tier-n compliance and combat poor supply chain visibility.

It’s no secret anymore… we know that better tier-visibility starts with a better means to collaborate, communicate and govern tier-1 suppliers. Tier-1 reporting is imperative to supply chain tier-mapping and organizational modeling, which is a priority area receiving increased attention by leadership teams.

Leadership acceptance, technology budget and enhanced procurement resources are the first steps towards addressing this not-so-secret secret.

Dirty Little Secret #2 – #4: Poor Data Quality, Scattered Tech Landscapes and Lacking Leadership Approval/Budgets

To paraphrase a question posed by Susan Walsh — The Classification Guru, “Can digital transformation take place in procurement with poor data quality?”

Simply put, no.

Lacking data quality remains the primary barrier to procurement excellence within technological adoption and analysis capabilities.

As the old adage goes, “Crap in, crap out.”

Poor quality data remained atop the surveyed barriers to “effective application of digital technology in procurement,” according to Deloitte’s 2021 CPO Survey. Poor data quality, lack of integration across applications and lacking budget/funding have remained in the top spots since 2018.

Poor data quality is a main barrier to procurement.

Procurement teams knowingly have issues receiving a budget for technology and convincing leadership of the importance of digital solution applications in procurement. At the same time, when procurement teams are integrating solutions, poor ecosystem integration and poor data quality create barriers to application and adoption.

All along, we wonder why it’s difficult to receive a technology budget. But, ignorance is bliss, right?

Data quality is pivotal. Integration is pivotal. Budget is foundational. If your data isn’t clean, you need to work with solution providers that will help you clean it and create innovative solutions for more systematic data-gathering and visualization.

Full integration across your application landscape should always be the target. If you have a scattered solution ecosystem then focus on consolidation, then digitalization; oftentimes modern solutions can in fact aid this alignment with more open API architectures.

Lastly, the budget is your vehicle. You won’t get far in your transformation without increased capital expenditure. Building a solid business case for all technology investments is important to highlight the benefits, as well as potential missed opportunities without the adoption of modern ProcureTech solutions.

This is no secret to all of you procurement practitioners reading this article. This is nothing new, or novel.

Maybe the weight of your five-year technology roadmaps is weighing you down. Maybe you’re experiencing analysis paralysis. Maybe existing strategies and processes need to shift before you can adopt new processes.

One thing is certain, we know the barriers, and now it’s time to address them.

Dirty Little Secret #5: Change Requires Change Management

Change can be an uphill battle.

As Woodrow Wilson once said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something.”

It’s not so odd when you think about it, really. Change is uncomfortable, uneasy and often applied rather than chosen.

It’s is difficult because reluctance meets us at every twist and turn along the railways of change. Senior stakeholders doubt the impact of digital transformation, traditionalists scream “but, we’ve always done it this way and it works,” organizations lack quality data sets, and all the while the gap grows bigger between those who dare to change and those who dare to sit idly.

Without change, we become stagnant. Stagnancy allows competition to catch up and accelerate on by. Change is necessary to stay relevant, but change shouldn’t happen for the sake of change, and it can’t be rushed; whether it’s strategy, process, team and/or technology.

Change must be managed.

Magnus Carlsson’s book, Strategic Sourcing and Category Management: Lessons Learned at IKEA is a masterful composition and guideline of how a procurement and sourcing organization can start building a quality infrastructure by gaining inspiration from IKEA’s procurement triumphs and failures.

After creating – in essence – the bible for strategic sourcing and category management, Carlsson dedicated the entirety of the last two chapters to speak about change management and change as a function for reaching goals and building organizational value.

Carlsson utilizes John Kotter’s eight-step change model as a model for building an infrastructure for change. Utilizing this concrete yet flexible model for a change process allows the openness to plug and play, making it customizable to the specifics of an organization’s desired change project or program.

Kotter's eight-step change model for change and change management.

Utilizing Kotter’s model allows us – the dreamers of change – to ground ourselves in a solidified change process, identify opportunities, avoid pitfalls, maximize wins and ultimately create organizational change leading to desired shifts in culture. 

Dirty Little Secret #6: Procurement is Stuck in Spreadsheets

As covered above, change can be difficult. Doing things differently can be uncomfortable.

Supplier, contract and category management have often been kept in a mix of spreadsheets and SharePoint drives, as this is the comfortable choice. When it comes to supplier management, risk management, contract management and category management, this has long been the preferred mode of operation.

In a study from a few years ago, it was found that 60% of procurement teams have no tools or rely primarily on improvised systems for supplier management. When looking at risk management, category management and information sharing, that number is as high as 70% (Bain & Company 2018).

Procurement has simply made do with the means at hand. But, this doesn’t mean that it’s the optimal way of working.

As innovative alternatives to the traditional way of working continue to rise to the market’s surface, it’s important to ask yourself this question: Is my team managing procurement data and documentation in homegrown solutions because its the optimal way of working, or because it’s the comfortable way of working.

If the answer to the question is the latter, it may be time to kick your spreadsheets to the curb.

These secrets aren’t really any secret to anyone within the procurement industry. Really, they’re uncomfortable truths. Truths we’ve accepted as our reality; our collective norm.

Now that we’ve aired our dirty laundry, it’s time to start cleaning up our act.

This article was originally published on the Kodiak Hub blog


About The Author

Sam Jenks's picture

Samuel Jenks is the Chief Growth Officer at Kodiak Hub, where he’s been helping global procurement teams to buy smarter for the last 5 years. Sam is an avid community builder, content creator & business developer who’s passionate about procurement, tech and all the controlled chaos that comes with being a part of Growth Ventures. B2B SaaS is near to his heart, and he feels there's nothing more exciting than creating impact in businesses at scale, by providing intelligent technology.