…and I mean it. Procurement can bring the company to the point of no return. And there is more than one way to do it. One quick stab in the back or “death by a thousand cuts” – you can choose a method closer to your heart (ironic, right?). So the next time you even think about complaining that “your CFO does not love you” – take a second look at the list below and consider if potentially any of the phenomena analysed below apply to you and your function.
A Recipe for failure
If you read “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, you will know by now that a success or a failure is rarely an outcome of only one factor. Most of the time, it is a combination of a few of those. In my experience, procurement is frequently guilty of more than just one of the below:
- Unnecessary purchases.
- Narrow framed TCO approach.
- Contractual suicides.
- Business bottlenecks.
- Poor objectives (which can be implied or self-imposed).
If you identified only one of the above and think that you are off the hook, think again. Those are the factors that your department can influence directly. However, there are always external factors that work as multiplicators of the failure. Think about fraud. Think about suppliers, genuinely abusing the situation, and overcharging the clients. Think about supply chain and risk costs. External factors, not managed properly, could become strong enough to cause issues to a business. But if a CPO adds additional internal obstacles – you have a recipe for failure. Let’s review the first one today and others in my next posts.
Many of us at least sometimes find ourselves staring at the wardrobe with a blank face and only one thought in the head – “nothing to wear, again…”. It’s just that the closet is not empty. We buy things – gadgets, vitamins, tools, gym membership – and never use them. Or use them so frequently that the gym administrator does not recognise us in the photo on the member pass.
I am not sure if this will surprise you, but the same rules apply at work. Really! Let me give you some examples. IT license list being the first one. I bet not all companies analyse the functionality of the software that different stakeholders buy across the organisation: there are plenty of duplications and lost negotiating power. I bet that not all of the organisations stay on top of various users that have licenses – and overpay for things they do not need. I could continue. I know, I know, these would not kill the business. It is difficult to track the ones that really would. And there is a good reason for it. I mean, would you brag about something that is not going to get you an award?
However, the European Union publishes the findings of public procurement audits. Official conclusions say that approximately 5% of all spend could be a waste of money. A lot more than that were simply very well covered. Lifts that take you to no-where and other Italian adventures with EU money (Patrick Browne, “Five insane ways EU money was blown in Italy”, thelocal.it). MEPs charging for the offices that do not exist (Jonny Wrate, occrp.org). Donkeypedia and many more. Most of these projects cost millions. Consider how many private businesses work with a much smaller margin than this… I realise that some of these projects are under investigation for good reasons – but someone approved the plans in the first place! And paid for them!
Most of the times, it is not the procurement department who initiate such purchases. But many times, they participate – if not lead – the procurement process. In the time of increasing popularity of inclusive and engaging company cultures, procurement should be able to speak up if they see strange requests coming through, surely? Yes, people are wasting money on the things they do not need. And yes, procurement could help stop them if they wanted.
Have you witnessed unnecessary purchases in your organisation? What were they? If you want to share your experience anonymously, text you story to me and I will upload to the comments without specific details.
I will post explanations about other phenomenons in my blog later.
Stay safe and stay healthy!