Today's procurement organizations are being asked to move faster than ever to source the materials needed by their companies.
It's a difficult position to be in. Under the current sourcing paradigm, the multi-step process of securing the vendor is time-consuming, and even then can expose a company to risk and leakage.
But there's another way. In this blog, I will introduce readers to what we at Icertis call "contract-centric sourcing," a new paradigm for sourcing organizations that can save millions in leakage and accelerate the buying process.
The Current Paradigm
The current paradigm looks something like this: First, the buyer issues an RFx, and then evaluates vendors who respond on two criteria: technical and commercial capabilities. The vendor's technical capabilities relate to whether they will be able to truly fulfill the buyer's needs. Commercial capabilities relate to whether the vendor's price for its products or materials fit into the buyer's profit models.
Choosing a vendor is a business-critical decision, as the wrong vendor can disrupt the entire supply chain, so sourcing professionals want to exercise reasonable caution when making their choice, slowing down the process.
Contract Negotiations Slow Sourcing
Even after a Letter of Intent (LOI) is issued by a buyer, the actual contract still needs to be negotiated. At this point other departments will get involved, including legal and finance. Legal, for example, may recognize that the jurisdiction the vendor operates in requires extra anti-child-labor documentation, and insert a clause requiring that documentation.
Since it is a contract, these clauses will have to be negotiated with the vendor, who may respond by changing the commercial terms of the contract. For example, the vendor could come back and say that the extra documentation will force them to charge more for their product. This back and forth can dramatically slow or even derail the sourcing process.
After all this time-consuming effort to choose a vendor and then execute a contract, the contracts often return less-than-ideal results. McKinsey and Company estimates that about 3.5% of spend is leaked in the Source-to-Settle business process. More than half of that leakage is due to noncompliance either with government regulation or internal company standards, both of which come down to a disconnected contract management process.
Using Contracts to Transform Your Sourcing Process
While this way of doing business has long been accepted as the norm, the paradigm is becoming a major liability as the pace of commerce accelerates. Here at Icertis, we are focused on using digital contracts and artificial intelligence-infused contract management software to transform companies' commercial foundation. This includes putting contracts at the center of sourcing.
Contract-centric sourcing is a new paradigm that allows sourcing organizations to both accelerate their buying processes while also reducing leakage.
Contracts: A Third Pillar of Vendor Evaluation
Here's how it works. Contract-centric sourcing introduces contracts at the very beginning of the sourcing process and makes contract compliance a third pillar by which vendors are evaluated, next to technical and commercial capabilities.
Before an RFx is even issued, buyers evaluate past contract data to map out a category strategy that will deliver the most long-term benefits to the company (we'll explore how contract data optimizes category strategies in a future blog post). This helps the buyer craft the right RFx for their business needs.
Then, as part of the RFx, the buyer presents prospective vendors, via a digital contract management platform, with all the contract language they would like the vendor to agree to. The vendor redlines the contract based on its own needs and requirements. Once all vendor bids are in, buyers are able to evaluate how much contract negotiation would be required before choosing a preferred vendor and issuing an LOI. With the help of artificial intelligence, the buyers can compare vendor redlines and determine which redlines represent acceptable changes and which are red flags.
(Note: A vendor redlining a contract does not disqualify them. It simply surfaces all redlines before a vendor is selected, so that those disagreements don't rear their head unexpectedly later in the buying process. It's all about visibility.)
What's more, since this process is administered on a single contract management platform, all discussion between the buyer and the vendor about contract language is captured in a single place (as opposed to several lawyers' email inboxes) for later reference both during the lifecycle of the contract and after.
Sourcing organizations that link contract management and sourcing have a huge wealth of data about a vendor's past negotiation strategy and behavior, as well as how well they perform against contract language. This is powerful data that hasn't been fully leveraged in the current paradigm.
The Approach of Leading Enterprises
Leading enterprises are already adopting contract-centric sourcing. Daimler is using the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform to completely rethink how it manages 500,000 suppliers. Daimler officials determined contracts were the natural place to start an overhaul of the procurement system, since it is the contract that underpins the entire buyer-supplier relationship.
"The deployment [of ICM] optimizes the source-to-contract process by ensuring best-in-class supplier evaluation, selection, contracting, and collaboration," said Dr. Stephen Stathel, head of Daimler's New Procurement System.
The business world is changing. It's no longer enough for procurement organizations to balance risk with accelerating business; they need to find ways to reduce risk AND accelerate the pace of business. Above is just a brief overview of how contracts can be the key to achieving those goals for sourcing organizations.
In the coming weeks we'll explore in more depth how procurement leaders can optimize every stage of the souring process with a contract-centric approach.
Can't wait that long to learn more? Feel free to contact us today.
Vivek Bharti is General Manager of Product Management at Icertis.