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The Year 1864: A Lesson for Procurement

The year 1864 can be considered as a very important year in American history.  In July of that year, The Battle of Monocacy saw a full-field engagement between some 12,000 battle-hardened Confederate troops, led by Lt. Gen. Jubal Anderson Early, and some 5,800 Union troops, under Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace. The engagement had resulted in the death of 1,000 Union troops and created close to 800 casualties in the Confederate camp. General Early had won the battle but the war was not over!

Burnside's Bridge, Antietam Creek, Maryland, USA
Source: Ernest Mettendorf

Burnside's Bridge, Antietam Creek, Maryland, USA Source: Ernest Mettendorf

Basking in the glory of his win, camped at the gates of Fort Stevens in the upper northwestern fringe of Washington, D.C., Early was contemplating on whether or not to order his men to invade the nation's capital? The battle worn troops exhausted from the fight at Monocacy forced Early to pause his attack on the feebly manned Fort Stevens.

Not engaging earlier, gave just enough time for the Union leaders to garner a force of volunteers to the union troops, which was reeling with wounded and raw recruits. If Early had engaged with the Union troops a day earlier, the attack could have potentially brought about a different conclusion to the war – an opportunity to have the seat of the Federal Government!

Well, that was way back in history, but it provides lessons for the present day. Coming back to the present let us put our focus on the world of procurement and the generals who run them – the Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs). It's no surprise that CPOs today are working their way to have a seat on the executive table. CPOs today are faced with various challenges, right from meeting the internal business needs to managing external uncertainties. Finding more savings though is the one that tops the chart according to a study conducted by Ardent Partners. This also comes out to be the top priority for CPOs to address in the coming years.

Given the challenge, what does it take for the CPOs to get their organization to the next level of performance? The answer according to Ardent's survey conducted is: early engagement. In a survey of 270 CPOs and other procurement leaders, Ardent Partners found that the top strategy for elevating procurement's performance to the next level is early engagement in sourcing events.

Engaging early provides an opportunity to work with different stakeholders to get a clear picture of the sourcing requirement, which in turn enables the procurement team to make the right sourcing decisions to meet the business need. It also provides the procurement team time to scan the supplier market and find new suppliers who would be willing to partner in the growth of the organization (especially when it comes to Greenfield opportunities). More than anything else by engaging early, procurement can transform itself from merely an order taker to a value added strategic partner.

So can technology make 'engaging early' & collaborating easier for procurement?

Yes, it can to a large extent. Procurement teams today are leveraging technology as a sourcing cockpit for effective collaboration with cross-functional teams when it comes to various activities like requirement gathering, contracting, sourcing, and supplier management.

Cross functional sourcing teams can leverage the cockpit to manage and effectively track the status of sourcing projects across different stages, thus enabling actionable decision making capability to any address gaps/blockers during the different project stages. Having an easy-to-use and faster platform also goes a long way to improving internal client and external supplier satisfaction – both key to driving greater savings, quality, and supplier risk management. In the end, this elevates not only procurement's performance but also the performance of everyone involved.          

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