It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint!

October 14th, 2013

Are you running your procurement projects like a sprint or a marathon?

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Sr. Vice President and COO at SafeSourcing.

As I write this blog preparing for my 3rd half-marathon it makes me pause and think about the procurement world I am a part of every single day.  Whether actually working on a project or thinking about a project I have just completed or am about to work on, the preparation and execution of successful procurement practices is not that different than that of preparing to run a ½ marathon.  In this blog we will look at some of the similarities between preparing for a race and for a procurement event.

The Goal – I remember when I ran my first 5k and then my first 10k and then my first ½ marathon.  My only initial goals were to finish.  I did not care about getting a great result, I just wanted to finish in a way that would keep me coming back.  As I did more and more races a funny thing happened; I started tracking and measuring my times.  My focus shifted and was not just on completing, it was on improving.  I never could have gotten there at the start though, it took time.  Procurement projects for many categories, especially where the spend is fragmented across multiple suppliers or not completely known, can be approached in a similar fashion. Get through the first pass and achieve a basic goal of consolidating SKUs, suppliers or services received.  This helps get things organized and positions things well for the next event.  The next event is where the major improvements in service levels, contract terms and pricing can be a focus.  Set the goal and drive toward it from the beginning and then keep improving.

The Preparation – Any runner will tell you time and time again that the results you achieve are directly tied to the time and energy you took to prepare well in advance of the event.  While there are differences in the details for training schedules from the web, coaches and books, there are some common principles which can apply to procurement projects.  The first step is to allow the time to properly prepare.  The timeline makes all the difference.  It keeps you on track and it helps ensures that all of the necessary pieces are laid out to be completed while not overwhelming you with too much to do in too short of a time.  Preparing with another person or a team is a second step many runners employ to prepare and this is no different in a procurement project.  Having the right team members to prepare, encourage and execute the project is very important to the outcome you will achieve.  Finally there are long run days.  These are days designed to not only build up endurance but to mentally prepare you for the event so there are no surprises on race day.  In procurement terms these translate into vendor checkpoints.  These constant communications to train and answer questions ensure that there also will be no surprises in the supplier performance the day of the event.   Great things happen when everything is well planned out, disasters will happen all by themselves.

The Day of Event – With all of the time invested in preparing for the event, frequently runners will forget important details the day of the race that can seriously affect the hard work and preparation put in.   In much the same way, forgetting event day details can ruin the preparation of a good event.  First, make sure your team knows which suppliers they will be supporting and that they have the appropriate communication details if they need them.  Second, don’t try new things on event day.  Stick with what you know works and adjust as issues arise; and they will.  Third, remember your goals.  Don’t get caught up in a new supplier who is going much lower than the rest of the pack.  If your goal is to consolidate and get control then it may be more important to track you incumbent’s progress so that change is minimal and keep the new low bidding company in mind for a few test areas to judge their performance.   Finally, have fun!  The day of the event can be stressful but it is the part of the process we all get into procurement for; the excitement of creating value, of meeting the goal, and of improving from where you once were.

Goals, preparation and hard work are no more challenging for a runner than for a procurement professional and neither is the satisfaction and reward when that work pays off.  For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist with preparing for your next “event” or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

 

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