The above quote comes from Warren Buffet, talking about sales and marketing.
However, I feel that the quote is equally as relevant for Supply Chain and Procurement professionals, especially in today’s climate, where there is constant pressure on reducing costs and ultimately squeezing the Supply Chain.
Is this really a longer term option? I don’t believe so!
The key is to focus on value – what value is Supplier X bringing to your business? How can Supplier Y bring more value. Once we switch our mind-set to value creation, a world of possibilities open up.
One way that you can create value within Supply Chain and Procurement is to look for innovations that reduce consumption, another way is to deliver to point of use, another to deliver a streamlined procure to pay process.
There are so many options that will deliver far more value and ultimately benefit to your organisation if you just move away from simply looking a price as the deciding factor.
What do you think?
In the Gartner report Business Process Outsourcing Vendor Consolidations: Is Your Contractor at Risk? it suggests that buyers should beware of the “nuances” of the following factors on the stability of BPO providers: the economic crisis, unprofitable contracts, loss of “marquee” deals, overexposure to the banking sector, capitalisation for deal pursuit, and levels of BPO contract cancellation.
So what do Procurement Heads need to be aware of to avoid such an issue?
Some BPO providers are carrying unprofitable contract portfolios, largely stemming from “too-much, too-soon” pursuit of deals, without much thought as to how to transition them to a standardised, rationalised, profitable state of ongoing operations.
Procurement Heads should gain insight into prospective providers’ deals to understand how profitable the vendor is. Most vendors will be reluctant to share this information, some will not, as there is a growing awareness of mutual dependency that characterises BPO.
BPO is a partnership and trust is the key to success. Being open about the profitability of their BPO business with you, as a client, can engender a mutual understanding of what it will take to be successful in the deal, and in the longer term, this can limit the risk to both parties.
Too much or too little new business?
It is equally important to gain insight into the service provider’s track record of winning new business, particularly over a sustained period of two to three years – paying particular attention to recent contract wins. Handling multiple deals at once is a necessity in outsourcing, and buyers need to know that a vendor can successfully cater to their needs, rather than struggling to deal with a backlog of business.
Although market share in terms of revenue may look impressive, it can be misleading. If they’re essentially running a closed book of business, it is possible that revenue may be shopped around to be sold off to competitors, or new market entrants.
Procurement Heads should also validate whether the vendor is able to exploit new trends, and new ways of conceiving, delivering and managing BPO services.
Influenced by logo clients?
The anchor client is likely to receive platinum-level attention from the vendor due to the strategic ‘do-or-die’ value of the revenue they represent so beware of being a small fish in a big pond. The loss or prospective loss of a logo client is also an important indicator, so Gartner recommends “prudent due diligence”. Ask the logo client for a reference: find out about their experiences with the vendor and assess how committed they are to the vendor.
Understand the cash position that your BPO brings to the table. Some vendors that are heavily leveraged or have become cash-conservative during the recession, may lack the funds to invest in significant front-end transition activities, or bid for the sort of business deals required to maintain the critical mass that is essential for the future success of the business.
Failure to win big deals can also be a bad sign. A vendor’s bid and proposal costs often run in to millions of pounds before the deal is even won, and if a provider has spent “significant cash and months” in deal pursuit, the loss of a large deal to a competitor can be “devastating”.
Dependence on financial sector?
BPO providers that are wedded to the banking and finance sector may face a particularly uncertain future. Exposure to the banking sector is by no means an absolute harbinger of doom, but as the financial services sector accounts for around one-third of the total BPO market globally, some sourcing executives will need to be wary.
Financial services pure-plays and BPOs that generate more than 85 per cent of their revenue via financial services will be most vulnerable, according to Gartner. Providers with significant amounts of BPO revenue from the banking sector were the first exposed to the credit crunch, then the meltdown in the financial services sector, and wider global recession where they could be the most exposed.
Contingencies for contract termination?
Over the past two years Gartner has seen the rates for contract cancellation and in-sourcing rise sharply, and there is no reason to suppose that this trend will be reversed. So it is increasingly important for BPO sourcing managers and their legal advisors to build exit strategies into contracts, and develop contingencies for contract termination, before signing any future deals.
Include clauses in the contract covering change in ownership, and using language to the effect of “in the event of a change in ownership, we can terminate the contract if we so choose” (with proper consideration given to the acquiring vendor’s “forward pathway”), and taking the management of the relationship with the BPO beyond tactical operational issues.
Set aside time through a formal communications schedule for both parties to assess the strategic health of the relationship, because relationship management can help to reduce the likelihood of contact cancellation.
The cost of changing suppliers can be steep, and nobody wants to switch service providers unless it is absolutely unavoidable or significantly beneficial. But change is an inevitable part of the business cycle, the evolution of the BPO industry seems unavoidable, and some organisations will be unable to avoid switching providers or in-sourcing their business processes at some point over the next couple of years. So now might be a good time to take steps to minimise the pain.