Quite often, we use this blog to discuss the increased reliance companies have on their global network of suppliers – the notion of corporate virtualization - and the importance of carefully managing suppliers and understanding their behavior and ethics. We have seen and written about many circumstances in which a supplier-related failure or business behavior has impacted a company’s reputation or bottom line. In many ways, company and supplier have become one, with the lines between the two increasingly blurred.
Leading businesses see procurement as a value, not a function
It’s not often that a story about new supply chain management software becomes a feature in a publication as respected as The Wall Street Journal. For that to happen, the deployment of said software has to represent something much more significant or herald a trend of highly compelling proportions.
The length of a relationship between marketing agency and client is often a relatively accurate measurement of a successful partnership. Though every agency-client relationship is structured differently, particularly now with so many specialist agencies in the market, recent studies suggest a typical contract length is in the vicinity of three years. That’s not a very long time, particularly when compared to the typical relationship length between company and legal representation or company and auditing firm (and also when taking into account the time it takes to on-board a new agency).
US retailer plays chicken with notorious egg supplier
When a major, well-known and generally respected retail brand retains a supplier with a shady track record for food sourcing, it should hardly be a surprise when that supplier drags that retailer into a PR fiasco. In the recent case of a popular US retailer (which stocks everything from cleaning supplies to electronics to groceries), and Hillandale Farms of Gettysburg, the question of “the chicken and the egg” and which comes first is quite a literal one, as it relates to who gets the blame.
Tesco aside, supermarket-supplier relations improve in the UK
We are in an age where companies of all shapes and sizes turn to global suppliers more than ever before. There is perhaps no group of companies more reliant on suppliers than supermarket chains. Without suppliers, the supermarket chain is nothing more than a store with empty shelves, baskets and a neon sign.
Five reasons why supplier relationship management is important
Ask ten people to define “what is supplier relationship management (SRM)?” and you’ll get ten different answers. My version is that it’s a means of aligning your business appropriately with your suppliers. Yet it’s far less well understood (and adopted formally) than CRM. So why should we in procurement be bothered?
For some time, we have been talking about the opportunities for procurement and supply chain specialists to assume larger, more significant roles within their organizations. These opportunities have emerged as the supply chain has become more complex and companies grow more reliant on suppliers to fulfil their respective business promises.
The Webster's dictionary defines success in a fairly straightforward way – an accomplishment, or meeting of an aim or objective. Success in the procurement field, however, is a more nebulous concept. Perhaps that’s because procurement’s objectives aren’t usually clearly defined. Or perhaps, more accurately, it’s because procurement’s objectives are defined quite differently by its practitioners and the business leaders they serve.
Influence, commercial sense and commercial excellence
In the increasingly virtual corporation, it's the support functions that knit everything together. Well - the strategic elements of them anyway. The process-driven parts have either been outsourced, or are so securely locked away in their silos that they have other, bigger problems to solve.
Aligning your procurement mindset to the growth agenda
Growth is back on the agenda. Actually, in an increasingly lumpy economy, for many businesses it never went away, despite the vicissitudes of national and regional economies. (“Vicissitudes”? Well, the UK grew robustly in Q4 2014, then posted its slowest GDP gains for three years in Q1 2015…) And with the ongoing prevalence of risk in many markets, we’re in a period where organisations want to expand, but just don’t seem ready to invest, spend and grow in the way that macroeconomic data suggests they should.
CPOs: Beware false confidence in your procurement function
A recent Deloitte survey of Chief Procurement Officers suggested that more than 50% of CPOs are optimistic about their role and confident in their department’s abilities, but also raises flags about just how much of that confidence is warranted.
Another Chinese supplier drops McDonald's in the fryer
In the latest example of the extent to which a geographically far-flung supplier can negatively impact a corporation’s reputation, we present the case of McDonald’s and their Chinese french fry supplier.
Creating growth opportunities through smarter supply chain strategies
It’s election time. All over the place, actually. General election fever/exhaustion (delete as applicable) is dominating headlines in the UK. And with Hilary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul (among others) declaring their 2016 presidential ambitions in the US; and Le Pen family squabbles in the run-up to France’s regional polls, democracy is headline news all over the world.
Is Microsoft its suppliers’ benevolent benefactor or dictator?
Last week, the technology giant Microsoft took a progressive stance with its supplier base, taking steps to ensure that the suppliers with whom it conducts business give their employees at least 15 days of paid leave each year. Sure there’s the questionable policy of corporate dictation (especially in the case of Microsoft, with its Samson and Goliath overtones). And, there’s the inevitable fine print: “this new benefits minimum will apply to suppliers with 50 or more employees in the United States. It will apply to their U.S. employees who have worked for them for more than nine months (1500 hours) and who perform substantial work for Microsoft.”
New US legislation takes aim at supply chain slave labor
In our blog and in our ongoing dealings with clients, we continue to advocate the importance of having explicit insights and knowledge into the business practices and ethics of those companies that live within one’s supply chain. We’ve pointed quite extensively to our corporate virtualization research that reveals just how much modern organizations rely on external suppliers for the services and goods necessary to not just run a successful business, but to have one in the first place. The importance of supply chain visibility has grown exponentially in recent times, as has the potential negative impact failures can have on brand and profitability.
Procurement is the 'marriage counsellor' between agency and client
I’ve been noticing more and more the disconnect between agency fee and creative output. My observation is that a significant number of buyers (more than you might think) that pay a premium on agency fees, rarely get the best creative work. This observation fuelled a recent panel discussion I sat on during this year’s Advertising Week Europe.
The evolution of the audit market - live discussion
Every five years companies in the FTSE350 will have to rotate their auditing partner, and it is interesting for me to see how that will help drive the timing of when the remaining companies that haven’t tendered, choose to tender and who they choose to include in the tender process.
As key indicators of market growth point skywards and business confidence increases, boards are looking to align every aspect of their business to the wider growth agenda. But, for many of these companies, not all of their internal functions are able to shift their sights from defence to offence at the same time (or at all, in some cases). This creates a disconnect between the board’s ambition and the operational reality – a common source of frustration for many senior executives.
It’s always fashionable to muse on the parlous state of capitalism. Seven years ago, it was all broken: financial services run wild had all-but-destroyed our way of life. Four years ago, the Occupy neo-hippies were camping out to find something – anything – as an alternative to the broken promises of the market. A year-and-a-half ago? Thomas Piketty’s algorithmic tear-down of the balance between capital and economic growth.
Can procurement help CFOs navigate the statutory audit market?
It is perhaps unsurprising that more and more FTSE350 companies will start to shake up their auditing process with the new regulations now in place by the Competition and Markets Authority. However, the tender market is still at a teenage stage. While experience is bringing greater sophistication of approach, both in how the auditors are bidding and how they are being hired; companies still have some work to do in recognising what true value looks like and how to drive maximum value from their auditors.
Getting your procurement function in shape for 2015
Traditionally the aim for many of us at the beginning of the year is to get fitter; but this doesn’t just mean getting a beach body. Businesses the world over are looking to get into shape for the New Year too. Toning-up processes, cutting slack and beefing-up innovation are priorities that are making their way to the top of the agenda for many leaders for the first quarter of 2015. However, a word of caution, getting your business in shape doesn’t necessarily mean getting “lean”. There are better ways to create fitter, faster, functions for the year ahead.
3 reasons procurement needs to focus on winning hearts and minds
The notion of “winning hearts and minds” is remarkably recent. The phrase was first used by Vernon Bartlett, a journalist and MP who was reporting on British efforts in the Malayan Emergency in 1954. (It was also a cornerstone of President Johnson’s campaign in Vietnam and an evolution of George Bush’s Iraqi adventure. As a military tactic, it’s never been that successful…)
This year is all about risk. We’re barely into February and the ruble’s collapse looks permanent, the Swiss franc has soared, oil continues its terminal decline and there’s so much conflicting data from the world’s major economies that most strategic planners’ heads are spinning. (And that’s nothing compared to the market analysts…)
Getting your processes right is one of the axioms of the industrial (and now digital) economy. People don’t scale well – and if you come up with a great way of working, you need to codify it. If it’s reliant on people, it’s vulnerable. If you have good process, people are (to quote former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld) “fungible”.
Just one year ago the Competition and Markets Authority proposed reforms that mandate all FTSE350 companies tender their audit services every ten years; and in April 2014, this reform was also passed by the European Parliament. The new rules also require Public Interest Entities (PIEs) to change auditor every 20 years.
As we enter the new year, many of you may already be in the midst of planning your procurement function for the year ahead, and deciding how your team will be shaped in 2015. What will they achieve? What challenges will they face? And what will be expected of them?
Professional Services: what are we paying for, exactly?
As supply management evolves into a strategic business function, one of the key roles procurement teams often play is to challenge stakeholders to justify what they are paying for. In “traditional” cases this is relatively easy: you can count the number of laptops you need to buy, you can benchmark the wholesale price of utilities, you can understand the need to use a recruitment agency to find new or replacement staff.
Year end reflections are usually about the changes that will happen ‘next year’. 2015 will be the year when (insert as appropriate!) will finally take off... But this year, we first want to reflect on the year gone by. It’s hard not to make bold statements about how much procurement and the management of suppliers have come to the fore. Take three examples that have shaped the front page news.
This round-up of sought after research, articles, webinars and interviews offers some insight into the journey that procurement has undertaken throughout 2014 and offers some thoughts around what might be to come in 2015.
The traditional way to explain the role of an auditor is that they’re a watchdog, not a bloodhound. They keep an eye on what’s happening, sit up when something looks suspicious and occasionally bark when they see something dodgy. The job is explicitly not turning over every rock they can find to test ethics or legality - no bloodhounds chasing the bad guys through the woods here.
Audit services: Four reasons why it pays to be a first mover
During the original dot-com boom, the idea of first mover advantage gained massive currency. Staking out a digital domain before anyone else showed up was considered the best way to guarantee success – gaining mindshare, customers, and above all, experience and personnel that would be denied your rivals.
Financial Times: Proxima weighs in on new audit market reforms
There was a strong feeling of anticipation and suspense throughout the Proxima office in London on Wednesday, as we all waited excitedly for Financial Times City Correspondent Harriet Agnew’s article - discussing the shake-up to the audit tender process - to be published. A few weeks earlier, Richard James (Category Director for Professional and Financial Services) had been interviewed by Harriet, and asked to weigh in on what impact the changes to the UK audit tender process are having on the wider market.
Tender touches for better audits - five recommendations
Following new regulations and a deep desire to restore lost public faith in business, audit is making a conceptual comeback. The European Commission’s new rules on mandatory tendering for audit every ten years (along with increased scrutiny; demands for transparency in the audit process; and controls on what other work your auditor can do) make the process of choosing and contracting and auditor incredibly important.
Infographic: Accountants warn on audit market reforms
When analysing the current FTSE 350’s use of audit services, our research highlights the impact of the Competition and Markets Authority’s reform on the UK audit market – finding that there is more happening under the surface than meets the eye...
“The fish rots from the head”. Strong words from a recent FT article rounding up a series of accounting issues besetting large companies in the UK. Following a discussion between Proxima and respected commentator Stefan Stern; Stern argues that boards need to open their eyes to all activities in their business (from top to bottom) – but without getting involved in day-to-day tinkering.
Following my previous post, exploring the importance of social media for procurement, this post aims to address the second topic covered in the Financial Times piece - the impact of ‘big data’ on supplier management practices, and why it is essential that this concept is not ignored.
The Internet of Things - challenging human behaviour
The progress made by humanity in how we communicate has changed the very nature of how we behave – from the advent of the electric telegraph in the 1700s, to the internet being publicly introduced in the 1980s, to Wi-Fi in 1991.
3 reasons social media is important to procurement
I recently read an interesting article in the Financial Times that discussed how social media and big data are being used to help solve supply chain issues and improve supplier management practices at a number of large companies.
In 1596 Shakespeare wrote the Merchant of Venice - a play in which a young Venetian merchant, named Antonio, signs an interest-free loan to help his friend, Bassanio, romantically court (with lots of money) Portia, the woman of his dreams. The catch is that if Antonio defaults on the loan, Shylock (the financier in this scenario) has the right to take a literal “pound of flesh”.
By now you will already be familiar with our corporate virtualization research, showing that the average company now spends around 70% of its revenues with suppliers. But what does it mean for your business, and how can you uncover the opportunities that this trend encourages?
The headline on a capital markets report looking at bond yields was worrying: “Canary in the coalmine”. Canaries were useful to miners because, although small, they sing sweetly until they get a whiff of gas and then they abruptly stop singing. The miners say a short prayer for the little bird, then get out as fast as they can.
Whilst the Deloitte list highlights some of the important issues, we’ve reached out to our own network (of client teams and readers) and come up with five additional issues that are most likely to make their way to the top of the CFO’s agenda over the second half of 2014.
At Proxima, an essential part of our work is making sure our finger is on the pulse of opinion and sentiment in our clients’ markets. It means that our advice and strategic development work is contextualised correctly within the environments in which our clients operate, which in turn enables us to find the best solutions to their challenges.