Friday, July 18, 2014

Learn About The Future of Procurement Technology Webinar on July 25

Innovation is driving massive change in procurement. What do you need to know to be prepared?

This month, the NLPA brings you an insightful webinar on the future of procurement technology, led by guest presenters from GEP.  Attend "The Future of Procurement Technology:  Portable, Powerful, Pivotal" to understand the 5 key drivers shaping procurement today and tomorrow. 

This webinar will be held on Friday July 25, 2014 at 11:30AM Eastern US time. This webinar is open to all members of the NLPA and a Basic Membership in the NLPA is instant and doesn't cost a cent! Here's how to secure your attendance for the webinar: 

If you're already an NLPA member: Head over to, log into the members' area, and navigate to the "Webinars" tab. There you'll find a registration link, be sure to enter a valid email address as attendance details will be sent to you by email.

If you're not yet an NLPA member: Register for your complimentary Basic Membership in the Next Level Purchasing Association at After doing so, you'll receive an email with information about how to log in. After logging in, navigate to the "Webinars" tab. There you'll find a registration link, be sure to enter a valid email address as attendance details will be sent to you by email.

Registration may be limited, so sign up soon to ensure access to this event. I hope that you will join me for this exciting webinar!

To Your Career Success,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3
President & Chief Procurement Officer - Next Level Purchasing Association
Co-Author - The Procurement Game Plan
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spot Buys: The Nagging Little Things With Big Cost Savings Potential

I hope that you have enjoyed the article, "Negotiating Your Spot Buys."

This article was inspired after an NLPA member asked me for advice related to negotiating his spot buys.  He described his situation where his suppliers began reacting the same way to his negotiation attempts, saying "We're as low as we can go on this."

His reaction when he got this type of response from suppliers?

He placed the order anyway.  Every time.

What's wrong with this picture?

This behavior had two things wrong with it:
1.  It provided a reward for the exact opposite of the desired behavior; and
2.  It became predictable

Rewarding the opposite of what you want and doing it predictably are not the way to greater negotiation results.  And nothing will change unless this gentleman changes his approach.  There's a saying that goes something like "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."  This very much applies to negotiation.

The advice I provided to this gentleman was much of what I wrote in the article.  I hope that it helps him.  And, if you're in a similar situation, I hope that it helps you.  If you're not in that situation, I hope that it serves as a reminder to continuing thinking of new ways to approach negotiations, even for spend as seemingly insignificant as your spot buys.

Look, even if each spot buy order is only $2,000, if you save an extra $250 or so per day on your spot buys by applying the simple things you learned in the article, you can almost justify your salary on spot buy cost savings alone!

To Your Career Success,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3
President & Chief Procurement Officer - Next Level Purchasing Association
Co-Author - The Procurement Game Plan
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At

Monday, July 14, 2014

What Takes Longer: Training Cats and Dogs or Implementing a Procurement Solution?

Cats and Dogs

Have you ever tried to train a cat or dog?  Was your pet agreeable and quickly learned the desired behaviors?  Or did you have to pay for someone else to train (your dog) or just give up (your/my cat)?  Multiply that frustration by 101 and you now know the pain of a system rollout or implementation for most organizations.

So, leaving out the overall costs involved (that’s a whole different blog post!) how long does it take to implement software, SaaS, or cloud-based procurement solutions?

While this is a rather broad question, it is one of great importance.  I’ve witnessed firsthand the distractions involved with large ERP and CRM rollouts, the worst being a disastrous ERP implementation.  For the better part of 14 months, our entire corporate office (an energy company) was at the mercy of multiple outside consultants.  The accidental deletion of a critical financial database without a working backup was the straw that broke the camel’s back and chased the very expensive implementation team out the door permanently.

According to Aestiva Software, a basic software-based procurement system requires four to eight weeks for installation from specification stage to final deployment.  Even though this is considered a basic procurement system, I find this to be extremely aggressive. It does not necessarily take into consideration the size and skill set of the IT department at the client site.

Now, SaaS and cloud solutions offer much greater flexibility and security from such incidents as above, but they still can potentially put your business in a state of flux if you have not properly assessed and prepared for such an implementation.

Procurement Implementation Done Right

Recently, Maher Zebib, Vice President - Procurement at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, stated that their procurement technology, “jumped from software-based to straight into the cloud”.  Zebib added, “The decision was based on many factors, but the best thing was the speed of deployment”.  Using an Ariba procurement solution, it took Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank only eight days from the signing of the contract to running their first tender in the cloud. 

I would suggest there were vast resources available from both Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Ariba to make this solution come to fruition so quickly and successfully.  However, I think the most important comment Zebib made was in regards to customization:

“Keep it out of the box.  Don’t try and customize - the more you customize, the more you spend time and work drags on. Take the solution as is - configure it to your needs - but don’t try and customize. These are usually best-in-class solutions.”

Why "We're Unique" Doesn't Matter

The comment “we’re unique” has come from the mouth of every CEO or leadership stakeholder I have ever spoken to.  But, is your business “so unique” that it is worth the pain and misery of a customized solution?  My answer is a definite NO!  Regardless of all the time, effort and money spent customizing, you will still find people having to do workarounds for certain procedures somewhere down the road and sooner rather than later.

We here at the Next Level Purchasing Association would love for you to share your stories of the implementation of your procurement solution. Whether it was lightning fast and smooth sailing (hurray for you!) or worthy of a Lifetime Sunday night movie, we’d love to hear from you!

Monday, July 07, 2014

NLPA Vendor Review: GEP Takes a SMART Approach to Procurement

SMART by GEPWhen a software vendor describes their product as “artfully designed and visually appealing”, my exaggeration detector is immediately activated.  Those are some mighty bold words to throw around in a world where many “modern” software, SaaS, or cloud offerings look like they were built from a nightmarish 1990’s GeoCities template that was virtually impossible to navigate.  

Fortunately, there are no such worries with SMART by GEP.  GEP has built an aesthetically pleasing, fluid to navigate and, most importantly, powerhouse full procurement suite that can be implemented into a large enterprise with relative ease as it is a device agnostic cloud solution.

GEP focuses on 3 areas of procurement:  procurement software, procurement services and procurement strategy.  Today, we will be focusing on the procurement software piece of GEP’s business which is called SMART by GEP. 

According to GEP, SMART by GEP is, “optimized for mobile computing and is the first and only comprehensive sourcing and procurement platform native to cloud, mobile and touch technologies.”  

Currently, SMART by GEP is available on the IOS platform.  GEP estimates that it will be available on the Android and Microsoft platforms later in 2014.

Tablet View SMART by GEPIn terms of being a procurement solution, SMART by GEP is a true suite, encompassing spend analysis, sourcing, contract management, eProcurement and supplier management.  Unlike other self-proclaimed procurement “suites” in the market that have one powerhouse module and only the most basic of capabilities in other modules, GEP’s solution possesses extremely strong capabilities in each of these modules.  

SMART by GEP has a fluid, seamless interface between its modules, giving the users the ability to “Flip to RFx” items on a contract and being able to place orders from items sourced through an RFx.  All the modules with SMART by GEP can talk to each other.

The GUI for SMART by GEP is very pleasing to eye with smooth fonts, appropriately contrasting colors and easy to read charts and graphs across desktop, tablet and mobile phone devices.  It is also a very process-oriented system, with chevrons (>) along the top of the various screens, guiding the user through each step of the process.  The user has the ability to go back and forth between screens without getting lost in a complex maze of selections.

Within SMART by GEP, suppliers can update particular elements of their information in the buyer’s system.  They have a separate login for each customer, though, because each customer may require different information (e.g., who the sales representative is, etc.).  While this may seem cumbersome to the suppliers, it works to the benefit of the buyers, further ensuring that the information and specifications they receive match their particular requirements.

The Supplier Performance Assessment form can more than adequately capture and report on the performance measures that every procurement department should use.  Its ability to be customized enables well-educated purchasing professionals to capture and store the wealth of information necessary to make informed decisions.

eProcurement capabilities in the market have matured and GEP certainly has all of the requisite capabilities necessary for an enterprise-based system.   The spend analysis capabilities are quite good with robust drag-and-drop customization and drill down features, way beyond the standard reports that others try to pass off as “spend analysis”.

While the spend analysis capabilities are quite good, there is room for further development so that procurement strategists can identify sourcing, savings, supplier rationalization, and other opportunities more quickly.  You are able to analyze spend from specific line items to enterprise-wide views in a single click.  GEP did share some plans that indicated a very strong vision for future versions.

The contract management module is everything one would want in such a module, with ability to employ templates, author collaboratively (between procurement, legal, sales and key stakeholders), compare versions, work offline, and more.  This central contract repository allows for an unlimited number of documents/versions, regardless of size.

SMART by GEP Platforms
GEP partnered with Hubwoo in the past year to utilize Hubwoo’s network of one million suppliers.  While GEP claimed that this partnership would facilitate procurement organizations’ access to any of those suppliers’ catalogs through the eProcurement module using list prices, I don’t think that the total value to procurement organizations of this partnership is 100% clear at this point in time.   

The sourcing module in SMART by GEP allows for users to rate prospective suppliers on multiple criteria with multiple weighting capabilities.  This feature really caught my attention as it gives the user the power to develop complex measurements and then save these scorecards to compare against other weighted criteria developed by themselves or another co-worker within the SMART by GEP system as opposed to cobbling together multiple spreadsheets or hand-written documents.  This flexibility enables stakeholder collaboration and excellent supplier ratings summaries with easy drilldown into user-by-user rating details wherever they are situated throughout the world. 

It additionally had an impressive interface that allowed the user to configure different views of supplier performance trends over time. 

Large organizations are typically not satisfied with having just one great procurement technology module – they want them all!  In years past, these organizations would have to engage with separate vendors for their sourcing, eProcurement, spend analysis and other tech needs in order to have the best tools available.  With its impressive development and organic growth over the years, GEP makes a compelling argument that large organizations may be able to get all the tech functionality they need for all areas of procurement from just one vendor.  For more information, visit GEP at

Greg Uhrlen
Marketing Manager
Next Level Purchasing Association
1315 Coraopolis Heights Rd, Suite 1001
Moon Township, PA 15108 

Phone: 1-412-262-1334

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Procurement Software Solutions: Never Assume You Know What You Want Before You Start Looking

I hope that you enjoyed the article, "10 Types of Procurement Software, Part II."

In preparing to write this two-part series and taking a fresh look at the offerings of software providers, one distinction between providers became clear:  there are two types of "combination solutions" and "complete suites."  One type is the solution/suite that has one really strong module and is weak in all other modules.  The other type is the solution/suite that is solid in all modules.

So, many times, software buyers will assume that they should go with one provider who "does it all."  The risk is that they will sell themselves short and not get the quality of capabilities they really need by allowing this self-imposed constraint to guide their selections.  If they would let themselves deploy, say, a best-of-breed contract management solution from one provider along side a sourcing solution from a different provider, they could really get the best of both worlds.

Of course, there are suites that have strength across the board.  But you may find that the cost of these power suites is more than you can handle.  Or you may not. 

In my mind, the key is to go into the software buy with an open mind.  Cast a wide net.  Then, whittle down your options as you compare capabilities, cost, provider stability, and more.  Don't block yourself from even seeing options that you may learn to like.

To Your Career Success,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3
President & Chief Procurement Officer - Next Level Purchasing Association
Co-Author - The Procurement Game Plan
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

On This Day In Procurement History...

On this day ten years ago - July 1, 2004 - a bold move forever changed the way that procurement professionals get educated and become qualified for advancement.  The Next Level Purchasing Association (NLPA), then simply known as Next Level Purchasing, launched the Senior Professional in Supply Management® (SPSM®) Certification that day.

In the 3-1/2 years of our existence prior to then, we simply provided online training for procurement professionals.  But there were some things that we kept hearing over and over from procurement professionals who completed our training.  Things like:  "I learned so much in these six courses, I should be certified" and "Your educational material is so much better than [the other guys']."

So, we decided to give that certification thing a try.

Today, 10 years later, the SPSM® Certification has become the most globally-recognized procurement certification, having been earned by procurement professionals in over 90 countries around the world.  The SPSM® Certification has become, and is increasingly becoming, a requirement in many procurement job descriptions.  People tell us over and over again that the SPSM® Certification is the best procurement certification available.

But despite this success, we never rested on our laurels.  This is perhaps best evidenced in our announcement last week, when we launched the Strategic Procurement & Supply Management Body of KnowledgeTM (SPSM-BOKTM) and revealed our plans to expand the SPSM® Family of Certifications from three (SPSM®, SPSM2® and SPSM3TM) to four (adding the SPSM4TM), truly giving procurement professionals the comprehensive portfolio of education they need for their entire careers.

We're doing some exciting things to celebrate the SPSM's 10th anniversary - a landmark day in procurement history.

We have added a Pinterest profile at

We have added an Instagram profile at

And on all of our social media including these two new profiles, today we are debuting our "SPSM-BOKTM Memes."  Most of us who spend any amount of time on social media are familiar with memes - those pictures that have text added and get shared among online friends.

As a cutting-edge organization, we think that memes can also be a great way to proliferate procurement education in today's world.  So, our SPSM-BOKTM Memes will each feature a photo with its text being an educational excerpt from the SPSM-BOKTM.

Each SPSM-BOKTM Meme will feature a bible-esque "chapter and verse" citation in the format firstnumber-letter:secondnumber (e.g., 1A:1).  The first number will correspond to the "level" of the SPSM-BOKTM (1 through 4).  The letter will reference one of the 18 "competencies" of the SPSM-BOKTM (A through R).  The second number will reference the lesson (1 through 8) of the online course for the applicable competency.

But today is not as much about us, as it is about you - the procurement professional.  Why the NLPA does what we do day-in and day-out is to help you grow and get closer and closer to reaching your potential.

Before founding the NLPA, I sat in your chair as a procurement professional.  I encountered the same challenges you do.  I know how you feel when things go wrong and I've experienced the glory that you can achieve when you succeed in this challenging profession.  I think of you every day.  I lead my team to focus with laser-like precision on making your life easier, giving you the resources you need to succeed, and providing you with the skills and qualifications that will get you where you want to go in your procurement career.

So, rather than simply celebrating the wildly successful 10 years of the SPSM® Certification, I also want to raise a toast to you for all of your hard work in procurement.  I hope that, on the SPSM's 20th anniversary in 2024, we can celebrate how far you've come in 10 years and that, in some way, the SPSM® Family of Certifications contributed to your success.

Thank you for being the motivation behind 10 years of building the world's best procurement certification - the SPSM®!

To Your Career Success,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3
President & Chief Procurement Officer - Next Level Purchasing Association
Co-Author - The Procurement Game Plan
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM® Certification Online At

Mobile Procurement Security - Can You Afford the Risk?

My goal today is to make you squirm.  I want you to feel a little uneasy.  Most importantly, I want you to think, hard, about a subject with the questions I am about to ask.

The questions I pose to you are these: 

  • What happens if you are the unlucky person who loses their mobile device at the airport, at the gym, or at the office? 
  • Will you miss your electronic tether immediately or will the freedom from rings, dings and, vibrations take you back to a simpler time in your life? 
  • Will your phone end up being sold at a pawn shop? 
  • Will someone steal your personal information? 
  • Will someone who isn’t your biggest fan at the office place and approve a 3 million dollar order with a specialty steel plant in China? 

Do you think such incidents could not possibly happen to you?
I'm afraid I've got some bad news!  

Bad News Barrett (Copyright WWE)

According to the 2014 Consumer Reports infographic shown below, 1.4 million people lost their smart phone in 2013 up from 1.2 million 2012.  However, a more chilling tale is that 3.1 million smart phones were stolen in 2013 up from 1.6 million in 2012. 

ConsumerReports infographic where is my smart phone

So approximately 4.5 million smart phones were lost or stolen in 2013 and of those, according to the ConsumerReports survey, 34% of these phones had no security measures activated on the device whatsoever.

Mobile Procurement on the Rise

Now these are some very sobering statistics, but wait a minute, I have some more numbers that should make you, as a procurement professional, think even harder:

According to an article on that quotes a 2013 study by AnPresence, Inc. based out of Reston, VA, “31.5 percent of respondents have deployed or will deploy mobile apps for procurement, among other functions, in the next 12 months. An equal proportion will do the same with apps for supply chain partners and shipping and distribution”.

So think about this topic in very rough estimates, approximately 1/3 of all businesses will be utilizing mobile apps for procurement by the end of 2014.

Now, chances are if you are using mobile procurement apps, you are needed to review and approve purchases when you are out of the office.  Perhaps you are a road warrior or work between multiple buildings on a large campus.

It would be nice to assume that a mobile procurement app requires the user to login anytime the app hasn’t been used for x amount of minutes.  The reality is that many people don’t want to be bothered logging in and out constantly (guilty as charged here) and find their own ways around it. Thus, this creates yet another layer of security risk. 

Mitigating Risk

So, armed with all the data presented here today, it is your turn to ask, no, make that insist, your procurement software or cloud provider answers, in detail, some serious questions about the security features built into their mobile apps.  

If you are not sure which questions to ask, get your Information Technology team out of that freezing server room and get them involved in the process. (Believe me; they will appreciate the chance to offer their input!).  

Refuse to accept answers that skirt your line of questioning and probe deeper when you feel the answers are clich├ęd and thin on content.  That way, you’ll sleep much better at night!  Don’t risk being on the receiving end of the blame when your stolen phone places and approves a 3 million dollar order.

Greg Uhrlen
Marketing Manager
Next Level Purchasing Association
1315 Coraopolis Heights Rd, Suite 1001
Moon Township, PA 15108
Phone: 1-412-262-1334

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