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What Does It Take To Make Sourcing Truly Strategic?


Marketplace pressures have forced procurement professionals to abandon traditional sourcing practices and implement more responsive strategies designed to promote organizational efficiency, agility and flexibility for growth, not to mention cost reductions. For businesses on the outside looking in, it might be difficult to understand how strategic sourcing differs from other long-established procurement practices. Here’s what differentiates truly strategic sourcing strategies from their predecessors:

Data dominates strategic decision-making

In the past, procurement professionals focused on building and maintaining relationships with suppliers. This makes sense on the surface. After all, vendors are more likely to provide price reductions and special services to loyal customers than they are fickle patrons. However, these connections can become problematic. Service agreements might fade over time as casual collaboration usurps formal partnership. This can lay the groundwork for cost increases and significant breakdowns in service delivery.

Conversely, strategic sourcing strategies place more focus on data analysis rather than relationship-building, according to Insight Sourcing Group. Instead of measuring vendor performance via the quality and frequency of personal interactions, procurement teams utilizing this methodology base their decisions on actionable KPIs and regularly review active contracts to ensure adherence. While impersonal, this approach often generates optimal return on investment as it allows procurement teams to partner with high-quality suppliers and therefore strategically source materials based on real-time marketplace conditions. This operational strategy is essential today because of fluctuating raw material prices, according to analysis from analysts at Knoema.

Growth outpaces gain

Stakeholders in most departments normally gravitate toward operational strategies that net quick wins. Procurement professionals are no different – and for good reason. More than 80 percent manage activities that directly affect the bottom line and contribute to company success, analysts for PricewaterhouseCoopers found. As a result, most are under pressure to appease executives who answer to shareholders looking for immediate, demonstrable progress. Unfortunately, quick wins do not translate to sustainable success. Deals made in the interest of immediate budgetary or operational improvement often lose their luster over time and can become budgetary burdens, the organization discovered. Additionally, some vendors draw up contracts in anticipation of this strategy, front-loading potential agreements with discounts or credits that disappear following the first year or so.

On the other hand, supplier agreements developed as a part of strategic sourcing best practices center on short-term and long-term company needs, allowing vendors to provide services that change or scale with the organization. The benefits that come with these contracts tend to unfold slowly, making them considerably less flashy than deals designed to generate quick wins. However, they undoubtedly have a more lasting affect on operations by facilitating extended growth.

Strategic thinking begets bargains

In the past, vendors had the upper hand when negotiating with businesses due, in part, to the fact that few procurement teams spent time looking into alternative sourcing options, Insight Sourcing Group reported. In fact, best practices dictated that procurement professionals solicit a handful of proposals and choose the cheapest out of the bunch. This was, of course, an immensely problematic strategy that not only increased the likelihood of budgetary overrun but also promoted operational decline. The emergence of strategic sourcing has changed the procurement paradigm, allowing organizations to take back bargaining power via strategic thinking.

Today, businesses confronted with unfavorable supplier agreements are likely to look for other arrangements by mining their supply chains for sourcing functionalities that might negate the need for external partners. Sometimes, enterprises decide to keep things in-house and avoid third parties altogether. In other cases, this practice prompts vendors to reassess their original proposed agreements and draft new contracts with more favorable terms. No matter the strategic method of choice, organizations that pursue methodologies centered on strategic thinking can save money and ensure they can bring in the raw materials needed for production.

These are just a handful of the variables that separate traditional sourcing models and strategic approaches, which continue to increase in popularity due to their effectiveness. Indeed, businesses that embrace strategic sourcing can develop sustainable workflows that facilitate long-term growth and keep costs low – truly the best of both worlds.

Here at USC Consulting Group, we’ve been working with organizations in almost every industry for 50 years, helping them transform their operations and adapt to marketplace shifts of all kinds. Connect with us today to learn more about our experience and how we can help your company bolster its bottom line by embracing strategic sourcing.

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