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Infusing Cadence into Professional Services Category Management

Any category manager, who deals with the Professional Services category, would certainly tell you one common aspect about this category - It is the most difficult one to manage across all the Spend categories within an organization. And if you continue the discussion, they will most likely tell you these reasons: "Services specifications are usually vague or absent, eliminating chances for a structured category management; expertise that I am buying is neither defined by user nor by suppliers limiting the visibility; linking contracts to performance is usually missing etc." If you ask one last question "Tell me in few words, what is that one thing that you are missing the most in managing this category?" the answers would all roll into this - "Cadence is missing in the management of this category relative to others."

You will, most probably ask one more question now - "What do you think should be done to get this cadence back?" A plethora of answers will come and most likely in these categories : "Framework and approaches for this category-commodities need to be introduced; Right category managers need to be recruited or capacities augmented; It should be specified clearly that who owns PS spend and supplier management - the stakeholders or purchasing etc."

I am sure that "you" here means someone who is reading this post, could be from a firm that is facing lack of cadence in PS or a procurement consultant and service provider who may have helped a number of firms to provide a solution here. Whosoever you are, you need to know some broad guidelines and that is what I am happy to share through this post.

Unlike standard materials (Direct, Std. MRO, Capital) and usual services (courier, logistics etc.), the degree of complexity of specifications, suppliers buying power and close access to stakeholders are two causal factors that limit the influence/value addition PS category managers can bring in here. When they still want to influence this category under such circumstances, "noise" in the system is created due to resistance from stakeholders-suppliers combine in many forms e.g. "procurement doesn't understand my universe but supplier does so they should leave it to us to directly manage this spend; procurement is good enough to buy standard items/services but not PS; procurement always wants to get lowest prices which is not the case here and value addition is the focus". So one of the best practices could be to clearly identify and list those PS commodities that are best left to stakeholders given their complexity, and if procurement does not have functional experts who have experience similar to comparable stakeholder(s) - within the department (including extended procurement organization of outsourcing partner). The residual PS commodities can be taken as the ones which procurement should influence and with consent of stakeholders.

This simple yet effective approach can bring in the missing cadence and ensure an organization accepted approach to bring PS spend under management to realistic levels. The key here is to identify such have and have-not list of PS commodities for which a one-time project with a capable procurement consultant cum outsourcing firm can be executed.

So what do you think? Look forward to get responses and continue the discussion threads.


Excellent article.

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