Even if you didn’t grow up watching Mary Poppins, the myth is a familiar one: Somebody shows up at your doorstep, opens their bag of magic tricks, makes all of your problems go away, and sets you on the path for success and fulfillment. And it’s not only pain-free but a lot of fun, too.
Mary Poppins might not be real, but her deliverables certainly can be – when you hire the right procurement consulting firm. And they don’t even need magic; they just need training, experience, and a focus that’s often hard to come by for busy executives.
Just as Mary Poppins delivered more than a traditional nanny, today’s procurement consulting firms do a lot more than improve your KPIs. Here are just a few of the things the right consultant can do for your supply chain.
1. Get Everybody to The Table
Increasingly, strategic procurement is viewed as an essential part of overall company strategy, rather than as a separate unit that’s responsible only for carrying out objectives the company’s leaders come up with. But far too many high-level, strategic planning sessions have a high absentee rate. Some executives always have a fire to put out or some type of business that just can’t wait. And, since the CEO often agrees (even if he never says so out loud), those absences are allowed. So the resulting plan lacks critical input.
A consultant, on the other hand, can take the retreat to the executives. In other words, rather than trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule for one big strategy session, consultants can meet with executives individually, as their schedules allow. Not only does that ensure everyone’s participation, it can quite often enhance the quality of the input since some executives might be reluctant to offer certain insights in front of their peers.
2. Bring Global Best Practices to Your Doorstep
One common objection to hiring a consultant is that they don’t know your business. Most procurement consulting firms specialize in specific verticals, so they probably know more about your business than you think. And, if they don’t, they know the steps to take and the questions to ask to get up to speed quickly.
The real value they bring, however, is what they know not about your business, but about similar businesses. While you have your head down managing your own supply chain, consultants are out in the world witnessing best practices all across the country, if not the globe. It’s their job to be forward thinking. And that’s exactly what allows them to bring you the latest and greatest strategic procurement opportunities and help you integrate them into your business. In fact, some companies now offer ONLINE consulting tools to help manage your supply chain.
3. Provide an Objective Ear
Even executives who started on the front lines have a tendency to lose touch, and what they think happens on the warehouse floor might be very far from the reality. And, just as no one wanted to tell the emperor he didn’t have clothes on, few front-line workers want to correct their boss to say, “Uhm, no, that’s not how it works at all.” A consultant, however, provides an objective, non-judgmental ear to employees who may have valuable insight. And many are trained in ways to probe for that information and then provide it to the higher ups.
4. Help Avoid The Law of Unintended Consequences
Sometimes an idea seems fantastic – until someone points out some of the less-than-fantastic downstream consequences that will result. For example, focusing on different metrics is likely to change employee behavior. And, if that’s your goal, great. But if you were actually trying to accomplish something else entirely, now you’ve got a new problem to deal with. A procurement consulting firm has the experience to anticipate the consequences of changes to your strategy and can help make sure they’re in line with your goals.
Consultants may not have access to Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, but they do have the training, experience, and holistic perspective to help you accomplish what was previously unimaginable. It may just be the spoon full of sugar your facility needs.
About Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.