Boost Procurement s Buying Power with Analytics

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1 Boost Procurement s Buying Power with Analytics As leaders look to procurement to generate greater value, analytics offers procurement professionals a competitive advantage. 1

2 Analytics. It is a word that strikes procurement professionals in different ways. For some, it is the must-have tool for taking procurement into the future. For others, just how it will help sourcing is unclear. And for many, it is a source of anxiety: How do I acquire the analytics I need when I don t understand analytics in the first place? Indeed, as companies beef up their competitiveness, leadership expects procurement to generate additional value beyond cost. In turn, procurement is contributing more to strategic differentiation. Analytics is key to that growth: Spend analytics vastly improves visibility on purchased goods, services, and opportunity identification (see figure 1). Advanced bid analysis helps sourcing experts deftly juggle conditional discounts and alternative bids. And cost regression analysis pinpoints unusually high vendor pricing for a negotiating advantage. Figure 1 Acquiring analytical skills gives procurement a competitive advantage Example of a traditional procurement team Director Manager Background and role Reports directly to chief procurement officer Manages multimillion-dollar category Directs major sourcing initiatives and projects Leads supplier relationship management Leads and executes major sourcing projects Manages supplier relationship Has more than five years of supplier experience Thoughts while on the job I know the data s out there to help me make better decisions, but how can I get a handle on it? Quantitative cases and more up-to-date forecasts would let me focus my team on the opportunities with the highest potential return. Category lead Implements specific strategic savings goals Provides demand forecasts Has three or more years of project management and supply chain experience If I had more powerful data at my fingertips, my predictions would be much more solid. Buyer Manages contracts with assigned suppliers Reports expected savings and potential bottlenecks Is a recent university graduate I know the techniques to analyze contracts. Now, if I just had the data I need... Source: A.T. Kearney analysis These are just a few ways in which analytics benefits procurement. So what holds back some groups from acquiring these capabilities while others surge ahead? Leadership may not yet see analytics value to procurement. Staff may not have the resources to produce reliable data or may worry about lacking analytics knowledge. Finally, the path to developing analytical capability may be unclear. To overcome these hurdles, determine how analytics can meet your company s unique procurement needs. The key is to complement what you have with tools that squeeze out savings, inform category sourcing, and build strategic supplier management. When a consumer packaged goods company recently turned to A.T. Kearney for help to strengthen its procurement with analytics, it followed such a process with workshops and 2

3 side-by-side training. This approach improved results during a sourcing project for corrugated packaging and replaced the iterative process of requesting conditional, standardized bids with an expressive request for proposal. We knew that the new quantitative approach would return markedly more complex but revelatory data. As the company acquired the analytical skills needed over the months-long proposal process, it effectively adopted those tools and carved out an 18 percent savings on top of the 10 percent it had already realized using the old, qualitative approach. To attain capabilities such as these, consider adopting one of three approaches: Active training with the current team. Enhance or introduce analytics skills in workshops and ongoing training with current staff, depending on their capacity to take on this new discipline. Acquisition of new analytics talent. Identify needed skills and then interview, hire, and integrate the talent into your team. Combination of active training and hiring new talent. Perhaps the most effective approach, this introduces new analytics talent for immediate results while training new hires and current staff to leverage analytical and procurement skills for the long term. Which path a procurement group chooses depends on many factors, including its structure, current analytical interest and acumen, and the business s needs. First, it helps to understand how analytics impacts procurement, and then how to analyze your own group s needs to determine the best strategy. Why Analytics Now? Today, 67 percent of companies of various sizes and in many industries rely on analytics to gain competitive advantage. That s an 80 percent increase over just two years ago, according to a survey conducted by the MIT Sloan Management Review and SAS Institute. The number will continue to grow as companies understand analytics capabilities and excel at its use. Many organizations have moved from using analytics in isolated departments and without clear purpose to applying it across the enterprise to meet specific objectives. With procurement, it used to be enough to identify high-quality, competitively priced suppliers. But as CEOs push this function to be more strategic, it is now involved in several areas: Innovation. Analytics can provide new solutions on its own or support R&D with sources for new products or services to advance offerings. Risk management. Supply risk can be woven into the sourcing equation to ensure business continuity. Sustainability, diversity, and social responsibility. All newer factors can be monitored by many stakeholders. Collaboration. Analytics can support the needs and objectives of myriad functions. For example, marketing may require frequent artwork changes, while finance expects 40-day payment terms. R&D may need suppliers to test new items following a protocol, and engineering could need help qualifying new vendors. 3

4 This added complexity complicates award decisions. Data must be reliable, yet many procurement groups still use qualitative information and outdated forecasts. Analytics can help procurement own the details, but a little self-analysis is needed first. Small procurement groups may need everyone to handle their own analytics. In contrast, large procurement organizations may have a specialist model that separates analytical support from contract and vendor management. Each group, and those in between, needs a different approach. To head in the right direction, establish a baseline by asking several questions: What analytics is your team already doing? Which team members have basic or intermediate analytical skills? Are there members who might be averse to learning analytics or using new technology? How will category teams leverage advanced analytics? Is current spend information accurate? Are you using the appropriate technology? Three Strategies for Acquiring Analytical Know-How Now consider the best way to integrate analytics into procurement. Strategy 1: Active training with the current team For organizations that are unable to hire a full-time analytics specialist, or for those that have staff analysts but do not engage them across categories, active training with the current team is an excellent alternative (see figure 2). It uses an analytics expert who leads classroom training and then works side by side with staff during the execution of an analytical procurement project. Figure 2 Active training with an expert can help build analytical know-how Strategy time line Hiring and onboarding Classroom training Active training Define need and develop job descriptions Identify and recruit candidates Perform an onboarding process for new hires Define training requirements Conduct training with breakout exercises Identify analytics-intense procurement project Conduct project with support from analytics specialists For example, an analytics sourcing project follows a seven-step sourcing process Two to six months One to two weeks Four to six months Source: A.T. Kearney analysis 4

5 This is the simplest strategy to implement and requires training over a period of months to cement skills. The main goal is to increase analytics ability to varying degrees across the team, and it helps if a few members already possess some acumen. Using information from your baseline, conduct classroom training, which can be developed and led by a consultant. Gear it to the organization s analytics needs and to individual team members capabilities. This will keep everyone engaged and advancing in their skills. Be especially cognizant of analytics-phobic team members. Structure sessions focused on basics, such as using Microsoft Excel, pivot tables, and database management, before introducing advanced techniques, such as cost regression and advanced bid analysis. The crux of this strategy occurs with active training while the team is executing actual projects. It offers many benefits: Team members apply their new analytical knowledge to their daily job, reinforcing skills for the long term. Analytics experts support team members by guiding them through the process. Everyone sees the immediate application and benefit of leveraging new techniques. Active training requires analytics-related projects. So identify in advance the projects that will serve as the training ground. Choose those that will benefit from complexity reduction, analytical sourcing, or fact-based negotiations, where data can be used to urge a current supplier to lower its prices. Identify in advance the projects that will serve as the training ground, choosing those that will benefit from complexity reduction, analytical sourcing, or fact-based negotiations. The training strategy in action. A leading wireless provider adopted the combined approach. The company had multibillion-dollar accounts with a few essential suppliers and was focusing on contract execution, not on sustaining supplier relationship management. Although it had in-house analysts, it was not using analytics throughout procurement or recognizing all opportunities to use advanced strategies. The company formed an analytics group to concentrate these capabilities, training members in procurement and category basics. Both procurement and analytics specialists received extensive classroom training on analytics, strategic sourcing, and supplier negotiation. The joint trainings helped both groups learn to work together and reinforced ongoing side-by-side training, in which staff members were guided through several category-specific, cost-savings projects. The immediate focus on advanced tools such as should-cost analysis led to constructing detailed cost profiles of key purchases. They could now build and analyze a spend cube for greater understanding of historic spend and potential savings. 5

6 Strategy 2: Acquisition of new analytics talent For larger organizations, consider the collaborative advantages of hiring one or more analytics specialists to work with procurement staff as a group or across categories (see figure 3). This strategy brings the immediate benefit of a ready team with both procurement and analytical skills. Those skills will lie separately with their respective experts, however, so make sure your procurement specialists understand the analytical techniques that will be applied in their categories. Encourage them to continue owning their numbers as project leaders, even with highly analytical projects, for disengagement can occur. Figure 3 Hiring analytics experts will support a specialist organization model Define requirements Responsibilities Where would they fit in the organization? What skills do they need to have when they join? What skills are nice to have but could be taught? Acquire talent Recruitment Identify candidates: On campus Experienced candidates Develop focused interview questions Interview Develop employees Training On-boarding Formal training Goal setting Annual review process Provide feedback Renew goals Support professional growth Source: A.T. Kearney analysis To identify the best analytics candidates, define the role s requirements. What will be the general responsibilities? Where will analysts fit into the organization? Will they report directly to a category manager or work across categories? What skills must they offer up front? What skills can you teach them? The job description should distinguish the must-haves from the nice-to-haves to prevent casting too narrow a net. Seasoned analysts are in high demand, so they can be hard to find and expensive. Consequently, some of the most promising candidates could be recent graduates. These young professionals are typically eager to learn new things, which allows for easier integration and development of the required skills. If you are looking to build an analytics group, using some professionals with relevant experience might help. In many cases, however, sourcing experience is not necessary. Your procurement specialists and category managers can teach the analysts what they need to know. At local universities, target students with quantitative backgrounds. Ask candidates about their experience using analytics in projects or internships. While they explain what they did, gauge how involved they were. As consultants, we often ask candidates seemingly trivial questions 6

7 such as How many ping-pong balls can fit into a 747? Such queries test candidates ability to think on their feet, perform calculations on the spot, and be creative in problem solving. These are great qualities for an analyst, so consider such mini case-study questions. To attract and convert top-tier candidates, explain how the procurement projects they will work on will help them learn the business and benefit their career. Realize that young analysts typically stay in the position for just two or three years, so anticipate the life cycle and use these analysts to train the next set. The first six months of new hires time with the organization is crucial. Perform a formal onboarding process to introduce them to the team, provide general training, and give clear goals. The hiring strategy in action. A global bank needed three analysts to maintain spend visibility and categorize suppliers by risk level, particularly for business continuity and security of customer information. First, it identified the team s requirements and the technology skills the analysts would need to build and maintain a centralized repository for spend information. After developing the job description, it conducted panel interviews that maximized multiple stakeholders time while evaluating candidates capabilities. After a two-week training on spend management to supplement skills, the new hires successfully launched into their jobs. Learning what analytics can do and how it will fit into your procurement function is a process. Strategy 3: A combination of active training and hiring new talent For organizations that can accommodate hiring and training costs, this approach produces the most thorough melding of analytics with procurement, and is the fastest way to build a collaborative and independently functioning team that will advance procurement well into the future. Organizations gain immediate, advanced analytical skills by hiring new talent. Training across the entire team integrates and capitalizes on the strengths of both your procurement and analytics specialists for the best long-term results. It also delivers cost savings in the process. For large organizations in particular, close collaboration is essential. Once analysts are hired, workshop and active side-by-side training of them and procurement staff helps both parties understand over a period of months how best to work together (see figure 4 on page 8). Category managers, for instance, have the procurement and business experience that analysts lack, so they will confirm that analytics supports sourcing strategies. Conversely, analysts can share what is possible now that wasn t feasible before, creating entirely new opportunities for bidding, negotiation, and beyond. Begin with a detailed review of your procurement group s current situation and evaluate its analytical gaps. Then acquire new talent, working with a consultant, if necessary, to hone the job description and find qualified candidates. When the analysts are in place, provide workshop training geared to the entire team, followed by ongoing, side-by-side training in which analytics experts guide procurement and analytics staff in the best methods for their group. 7

8 Figure 4 A mix of acquiring new talent and providing focused training can help analysts work together Strategy to leverage new talent and integral training Understand current situation Hire analytics specialists What skills do your procurement specialists have? What skills are you missing? Are these skills that you can teach? How is your organization set up? Do it yourself Specialists Define requirements Acquire talent Active training Needs assessment Develop employees Classroom training Active training Source: A.T. Kearney analysis The combination strategy in action. A global beverage manufacturer needed to transform procurement with analytics to quickly drive efficiencies. While the client had in-house analytics, it was not centered in procurement. Rather than hiring a new analyst from outside, the company identified qualified internal analytics staff to support procurement. Classroom training brought both staffs up to speed; procurement executives then took additional training to help them understand where their teams should apply more analytical strategy. Adopt the Right Strategy and Mindset A look at the options for using analytics to boost procurement s buying power reveals that regardless of the approach, the entire team works best with a mindset that analytics is essential for generating the reliable data needed to fulfill procurement s evolving role. Learning what analytics can do and how it will fit into your procurement function is a process. It mirrors the months-long course of requesting proposals, analyzing bids, and other projects that the group undertakes. Advanced analytical skills become ingrained through ongoing training, rather than an isolated two-day class or even by simply hiring an analyst. Follow one of these approaches, and analytics can create long-term savings and lead to that much sought-after competitive advantage. Authors Carrie Ericson, vice president, San Francisco Stacy Sifleet, senior analytics manager, Chicago 8

9 A.T. Kearney is a global team of forward-thinking partners that delivers immediate impact and growing advantage for its clients. We are passionate problem solvers who excel in collaborating across borders to co-create and realize elegantly simple, practical, and sustainable results. Since 1926, we have been trusted advisors on the most mission-critical issues to the world s leading organizations across all major industries and service sectors. A.T. Kearney has 58 offices located in major business centers across 40 countries. Americas Atlanta Bogotá Calgary Chicago Dallas Detroit Houston Mexico City New York San Francisco São Paulo Toronto Washington, D.C. Asia Pacific Bangkok Beijing Hong Kong Jakarta Kuala Lumpur Melbourne Mumbai New Delhi Seoul Shanghai Singapore Sydney Tokyo Europe Amsterdam Berlin Brussels Bucharest Budapest Copenhagen Düsseldorf Frankfurt Helsinki Istanbul Kiev Lisbon Ljubljana London Madrid Milan Moscow Munich Oslo Paris Prague Rome Stockholm Stuttgart Vienna Warsaw Zurich Middle East and Africa Abu Dhabi Dubai Johannesburg Manama Riyadh For more information, permission to reprint or translate this work, and all other correspondence, please A.T. Kearney Korea LLC is a separate and independent legal entity operating under the A.T. Kearney name in Korea. 2014, A.T. Kearney, Inc. All rights reserved. The signature of our namesake and founder, Andrew Thomas Kearney, on the cover of this document represents our pledge to live the values he instilled in our firm and uphold his commitment to ensuring essential rightness in all that we do.

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