Thursday, June 29, 2006

Purchasing Blogs

Ah, the blogging-for-business age is now at its peak.

Business blogs of every shape and size are popping up as people try to make a few bucks out of this newer medium. Actually, I think that some people think that blogging for business is their ticket to lifelong prosperity.

But just as the dot-com bubble of the late-90’s reached its bursting point with an oversaturation of the market of providers and not enough customer demand and cash, so too will the idea that blogging for business is a surefire path to riches.

Look, with no barriers to entry, it is tough for a blog to stand out anymore. The percentage of blogs that are just plain bad is growing. I think that people will eventually associate the blog medium with poor quality writing that isn’t worth one’s time to read.

So before the blog phase dies and leaves only the blogs truly worthy of visiting (which will likely be called something other than blogs to shed the stigma), I thought I’d do a little summary of the better purchasing blogs out there. Here are my favorites from oldest to newest…

Spend Matters: Author, Jason Busch. First post November 30, 2004 – This is probably my favorite purchasing blog out there. Though I don't believe that Jason has any direct experience as a purchasing practitioner, he truly has a good feel for several key business aspects that really do weigh on the mind of a more senior purchasing professional. He dedicates many of his posts to the software sector and global economics and seems to pride himself on reporting breaking news. Spend Matters is definitely a great resource for keeping one’s finger on the pulse of critical and emerging purchasing issues, without having to wait for print publications in this on-demand world.

Charles’ Purchasing Certification Blog: Author, Charles Dominick, SPSM. First post, March 10, 2005. I’m not going to kid myself – I don’t see blogging as a way to make much money, at least not directly. So why do I do it? Most of my “writing” time is spent on the purchasing articles that I publish in Next Level Purchasing’s email newsletter, PurchTips. Over the years, I have found that PurchTips subscribers prefer articles on certain topics and prefer a certain length. So I try to deliver. If I don’t, they unsubscribe. So I place high standards on those articles. But, sometimes, I also see purchasing professionals in need of insights on topics that may not appeal to the masses. And those insights may be longer, shorter, and more biased than those I include in PurchTips. So this is my forum. My blog is a hobby, but one that also allows me to connect with purchasing professionals who may need some help. It’s all about having a little fun with no rules. And if purchasing professionals can benefit, all the better!

Purchase Realm: Author, Matthew Grant. First post, February 15, 2006. Matthew's blog is part of Know More Media – an organization whose mission is apparently to make a ton of money off of blogging. Matthew’s posts can range from educational to funny and his writing is a pleasure to read. He seems to be targeting the more tactical buyer and I commend him for this. There are a lot of tactical buyers out there and they are often ignored in the marketplace. He also likes to comment on bad vendor service in a way that is not only fun to read, but should compel vendors to take notes and ensure that they don't make the same blunders.

Supply Excellence: Author, Tim Minahan. First post, April 30, 2006. OK, I gotta admit – when I heard that a spend management software exec was gonna start blogging, especially this late in the game, I thought “Yeah, this will be good. Suuure.” But you know what? Supply Excellence is indeed pretty good. Tim has posted several truly educational blurbs and has included some quotes from leaders in the field. Like Spend Matters, it targets more of the executive-level purchasing professionals.

Sourcing Innovation: Author, Michael Lamoureaux. First post, June 9, 2006. I just discovered this blog, so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it quite yet. This blog, though new, seems to be the most dedicated to structured, educational material. There is lots of great content here. This is one that I’ll be watching closely as it grows.


Here are some other purchasing-related blogs that you might wanna check out…

eSourcing Forum: Author, David Bush. First post, August 30, 2005.

TechSpend.com Blog: Author, Vinnie Merchandani. First post, February 10, 2006.

Procurement Central: Author, Dave Stephens. First post, February 18, 2006.

Vendor Management: Author, Doug Hudgeon. First post, February 19, 2006.


Hmmm…lots of purchasing blogs were started in mid-February 2006. Did a memo go out or something?

So let's sit back and see how this blogging-for-business thing shakes out. Hopefully, we'll learn a few things while its hot.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wal-Mart's Supply Chain: Model For Risk Sharing?

Supply chain concepts always find a way to creep into my personal life...

The other day, my wife and I went to Wal-Mart. We made a decision to remodel our bedroom, so we were going to paint our walls blue.

Now, we have two small children, ages 2 and 4, so shopping can be challenging. It's like "get the stuff in the cart and get through the checkout line as soon as possible because a tantrum or argument is sure to happen any second!"

So, we weren't as careful as we should have been when we picked out paint.

The friendly Wal-Mart associate took the paint that we picked out, added the necessary colors, and was just about to begin the mixing process when I noticed that the can said "EXTERIOR" on the label. I shouted "Wait! Is that exterior paint?"

It was.

So, I profusely apologized and was ready to offer to pay for the paint when the Wal-Mart associate said "Don't worry. We just send it back to our supplier and they give us credit."

A supply chain issue? You bet.

The classic supply chain is supplier-organization-customer and this situation illustrated which of the three supply chain members would bear the risk in this case.

The exterior vs. interior mistake was clearly my mistake. In all fairness, I should have had to eat the cost.

Now, if Wal-Mart wants to bear the cost and do something fantastic for its customers, that's great. I love to see great customer service and giving the customer the benefit of the doubt. That's great for business, great for branding, great for building customer loyalty, great for building positive word-of-mouth, etc.

But the question is: should the risk of a customer mistake be borne by the supplier instead of the organization who sells directly to the customer?

I have so many competing thoughts on this, but I'll reserve any conclusion and invite you to submit your comments. Here are some thoughts from both sides of the coin:

  • Wal-Mart is reputed for beating up their suppliers on price, do they really have to force them to accept the risk of customer mistakes, too?
  • Shifting risk as far down the supply chain away from the customer is simply aligning every supply chain member with the ultimate goal of serving the end customer
  • Is there an opportunity for a struggling Wal-Mart competitor like Kmart to become more successful by having a more supplier-friendly approach to supply chain matters?
  • It is smart purchasing by Wal-Mart to anticipate these types of issues ahead of time and therefore negotiate them into the contract.
  • Every buyer should make his own company's profitability a higher priority than its suppliers' profitability, though supplier profitability should be a concern, right?
  • Should risk of customer mistake be borne only by those who are somewhat able to control it through processes that educate the customer and have direct contact with them?
  • Should Wal-Mart's be a standard supply chain model?

Please comment!

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

SPSM Anniversary Is News In Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce posted this news article on its site.

We've been talking with a number of media outlets about the upcoming second anniversary of the SPSM Certification, so there are probably more articles like this on the way. I'll try to keep you up-to-date with links here on this blog.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Friday, June 23, 2006

Purchasing Services

I hope that you have enjoyed the article "Purchasing Services: The Pitfalls, Part I."

Purchasing services is a challenge for those who have strictly purchased goods in the past. As I alluded to in the article, there are many pitfalls. The article itself, being the first in an irregular series, focused on on-time delivery.

One additional tip that I'll add here is to quiz your supplier not on lead time, but rather on completion date. For example, you could ask your supplier to respond to something like this...

"If I placed my order on July 1, when will the service be complete? What if I placed the order on July 15? July 30?"

Sometimes, the completion date is dependent upon your organization. We'll talk more about that topic and its specific challenges in Part II.

So stay tuned!

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Business Preparation for Avian Flu

There was an interesting article in today's Post-Gazette, which gave some examples of how businesses are preparing contingency plans for the arrival of avian flu.

As I've said here before, avian flu is going to require some different approaches from procurement professionals. This particular article even cited the input of Giant Eagle's director of IT procurement.

The avian flu threat is definitely driving some business changes and procurement leaders need to be proactive, flexible, and ready to switch gears. I encourage you to take some time to think about how avian flu could affect your organization and what you can do in procurement to support your organization's survival in the event of an outbreak.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce

I just thought that it was noteworthy to point out that Next Level Purchasing has recently become a member of the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce.

It seems like a good organization for a community that has lost many jobs due to US Airways' reduction of service in Pittsburgh (which never made much sense since they gave away a monopoly where they charged massive fares not to mentioned a large, skilled labor force with a lower-than-average cost of living, but don't get me started...).

Conversely, we've tripled our employee count in the airport area compared to last year, so I'm looking forward to us being a more visible and active part of this particular business community.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Friday, June 16, 2006

Spend Matters Guest Post

The last two weeks have been insane with coast-to-coast travel and the stomach flu! So I haven't posted much here, but I'll be back in business soon.

Spend Matters featured a guest post of mine yesterday. You can check it out here.

I have some catching up to do. I'll be back soon.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Supplier Diversity in Pittsburgh

Kudos go out to Elwin Green at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for writing this piece on PNC's new supplier diversity executive, Eunice Sykes.

Though I am a big fan of the Post-Gazette, I do have to say that corporate procurement is a topic that they don't cover frequently enough. I'm hoping that today's article marks a turning point.

If you came across this blog post while searching for info on supplier diversity, check out my article on starting a supplier diversity program.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cost Savings Ideas

I hope that you have enjoyed the article "Cost Savings Ideas: EDMC Case Study."

It was a real pleasure working with Dr. Lunney. I met her at one of her speaking engagements last year and she really impressed me with her knowledge of, and passion for, procurement.

One caution that I do want to make about the article is this: Dr. Lunney's 4-step sourcing process is indeed a very appropriate way of envisioning the process from her level (she is a Vice President of Procurement). But, taken out of context, this process can seem incomplete.

At the buyer/purchasing agent/purchasing manager level, I believe that there needs to be a more granular description of the sourcing process. We actually teach a 10-step sourcing process in our class "Savings Strategy Development." This ensures that more "i's" are dotted and "t's" are crossed.

Again, it is not that I am saying that Dr. Lunney's process is "wrong" and ours is "right." I believe that they are both right on.

But it is important to know the audience for which each process description is designed. A 10-step sourcing process is way too detailed to share with an executive-level individual and a 4-step sourcing process is not specific enough to be crisply followed by the individuals who will actually execute the process.

In closing, I'd like to recommend that you take advantage of any opportunity you may have to hear Dr. Lunney speak. She is truly a special talent in the supply chain world and I feel very fortunate that she was willing to share her expertise with the readers of PurchTips.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Change @ Inside Supply Management

I noticed that Roberta Duffy is no longer the editor at Inside Supply Management magazine.

Does anyone know what happened?

There gotta be a story there - she was there so long.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Purchasing Certification vs. Purchasing Certificate

I just thought of a question that some purchasing professionals may be asking in their minds when they review our Web site:

"Why should I earn the SPSM Certification rather than earn a purchasing certificate from the local community college?"

There are a few reasons:

1. There is a subtle, but significant, difference between a certification and a certificate. A certification is earned and then must be maintained through documented continuing education. Therefore, its value is long-lasting. A certification communicates that you are committed to keeping up with your profession and are schooled in the latest developments in the profession. A certificate is earned once and not maintained. Therefore, its value decreases with every passing day because it communicates that you were knowledgeable about the profession at a past point in time, but it does not indicate that you have any current knowledge.

2. The SPSM Certification is a globally recognized purchasing certification. Prestigious employers from throughout North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia/Oceania have enrolled their purchasers in the SPSM Certification Program. A community college certificate is just that - a community-specific certificate. It is unlikely that anyone outside of the community will be aware of it.

3. Employers advertise jobs for which they state a preference for candidates who have earned the SPSM Certification. For examples, check out http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/purchasingjobs.php . How many job postings say "We prefer candidates who have earned the purchasing certificate from Luzerne County Community College?"

To sum it up, if you are interested in having a line item on your resume that is truly valuable, earning the SPSM Certification is far better than earning a purchasing certificate from a community college.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Supply Chain Research Experiences

In doing my latest round of supply chain research on on-demand spend management solutions, I contacted a few solution providers and had some polar opposite experiences.

I was really impressed with the professionalism of the people at Ketera. They were very responsive, helpful, and just plain knowledgeable and nice. I think that it says a lot about a company. If they are so professional with someone like me, I can only think that they treat their customers real well.

On the other hand, one of the big players never even returned my call. I feel for their "smaller" customers, who probably undeservedly get less favorable treatment than their big ones.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

Friday, June 02, 2006

Procurement Certification Questions

A government entity that has certification requirements for its purchasers recently contacted us with some questions about the SPSM Certification. I thought that I'd post the Q&A here as you and others may benefit from knowing the answers...

Q: What classes are required for the SPSM Certification?

A: The following classes are part of the SPSM Certification Program:

1. Mastering Purchasing Fundamentals - http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/classesfundamentals.html

2. Microsoft Excel For Purchasing Professionals - http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/classesexcel.html

3. Supply Management Contract Writing - http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/classescontract.html

4. Microsoft Project For Purchasing Professionals - http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/classesproject.html

5. 14 Purchasing Best Practices - http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/classes14.html

6. Savings Strategy Development - http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com/classessavings.html

In addition to successfully completing these six classes, the candidate must pass the SPSM Exam and submit an application.


Q: What does the curriculum cover?

A: In summary, the SPSM Certification Program covers the main skills that purchasers need for success in modern procurement: purchasing fundamentals, analysis & spreadsheets, contract law, project management, purchasing best practices, and sourcing (including negotiation).


Q: What are your standards for issuing certifications?

A: The SPSM Certification Program was developed in close accordance with ISO17024, the international standard for professional business certifications. To pass a class, the candidate must have a combined quiz score of 70% or higher for that class. To pass the SPSM Exam, the candidate must have a score of 70% or higher.


Q: What is the exam process like?

A: The SPSM Exam is taken online at a scheduled time. It consists of 90 multiple choice questions and has a time limit of 90 minutes. The material for the questions is equally drawn from the six purchasing classes. Most questions are situational in nature, meaning that they do not involve memorization of terms, but rather the application of knowledge and skills to real-world situations. There are several different versions of the SPSM Exam to ensure the integrity of the exam.


Q: Is Next Level Purchasing a nationally certified/recognized organization?

A: Next Level Purchasing is a globally recognized purchasing training and certification organization. Prestigious employers and government and government-related entities (including the United Nations) from throughout North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia/Oceania have enrolled their purchasers in the SPSM Certification Program.


Q: Are your CEUs/CPEs recognized by other national organizations?

A: Yes. Next Level Purchasing is an official Educational Partner of the National Contract Management Association. In addition, the American Production and Inventory Control Society and the Institute for Supply Management accept our Continuing Education Hours for their recertification requirements.

More answers to common procurement certification questions can be found in the FAQ section of the Next Level Purchasing Web site.

Respectfully,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Career?
Earn Your SPSM Certification Online At
http://www.NextLevelPurchasing.com

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