August White Paper 1/2015: Getting a Better Grip on External Spending

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    Traditional savings reporting and accounting keep business owners and finance in the dark about external expenditure development. It doesnt have to be that way.External spending represents 50-80% of a companys cost base, but most business owners and finance departments know very little about it beyond the accounting breakdown.Unlike the top-line (contracts and orders, volume and price, customer and product mix, and sales pipeline) or personnel costs (headcount, recruitment plans, salary costs, and fixed-term contractors), very little information about external expenditures is visible to the CFO and senior management. As procurement people sometimes joke, if you want to know what your company bought, ask your suppliers. The problem is structural. Finance sees the accounting breakdown of external expenditures, but it doesnt see purchases from a supply market standpoint, and it cant track why costs in individual categories are rising or falling. Procurement, meanwhile, can only follow the cost development of sample items and expenditure categories but has no easy way of taking a larger view.These two overlapping blind spots make many questions about external expenditures that sound simple, such as why did external expenditures go up last year? or why cant I see the claimed savings on my P&L?, extremely difficult to answer.Having so much spending hidden from view hurts the company in a variety of ways. Business owners face difficulties understanding their past results and forecasting their future results. Savings contracted with vendors are rarely realized with full-effect to the bottom-line. Finance has a much harder time planning. Lack of transparency may also lead the company to seek perverse savings, such as marginal cost reductions in a category where supply quality and availability are matters of life or death for the business. Indirectly, vendors and customers suffer too, from jerky orders and uneven fulfillment. Most seriously of all, this blind spot means that most companies have only some assurance that they have paid the right price for something, and almost none about whether they bought the right thing.


    Simple questions such as why did external expenditures go up last year? or why cant I see the claimed savings on my P&L?, are often extremely difficult to answer.


    Augusts External Spending Performance Management model can shine a light on these blind spots. ESPM can give Finance and business owners greater visibility on expenditures that are currently hidden, and help ensure that Procurement is buying so as to fulfill the companys business objectives in the most strategic way. Implementing ESPM is a three-step process:

    1. Build a common view of external spending.The first stage of ESPM involves creating an integrated understanding of all external expenditures. This is often surprisingly difficult. At most companies, Finance and Procurement have distinctly different views of ex-ternal costs. Finance works over the fiscal year, Procurement over pro-rated 12-month periods. Finance considers mostly the overall expenditure, but Procurement focuses on changes in renegotiated contracts. The financial view is exhaustive, while Procurements is sampling-based.It gets even trickier with Capex purchases. Procurement might look at the purchase price of a generator, for example, but Finance will account for the purchase over the years of its useful life. To make matters more complicated still, subsequent refurbishments or bolt-on modules may change the value and useful life in accounting terms. To gain clarity, we recommend that for the purposes of this exercise, Finance officers take off their green visors and focus exclusively on purchase prices. Obviously this wont always make sense, but we find apples-to-apples comparisons make it much easier for cross-functional teams to evaluate purchases together. Simply reconciling the different viewpoints can go a long way toward enabling the company to make more strategic purchasing decisions.

    2. Select the metrics. Financial measures:Next, we disaggregate the non-negotiable factors, such as currency rates and underlying commodity prices, from the drivers the company controls, such as volume and price. This helps create more transparency to the drivers of external spend and reveal the true results of procurement efforts, such as the price component of the waterfall chart shown in Figure 1 (p. 4).Obviously there are some practical challenges in building a waterfall chart of external spend development. Typically, we can find proper price/quantity data for just 20% or so of the overall expenditures. But dealing with imper-fect data is not a major obstacle to adopting ESPM. When we lack price and quantity data (e.g. due to lack of or incompleteness of purchase orders), we can still build logical volume proxies using the available information.For instance, the financial executives of one major European passenger train company had been trying to find a way to get a better grasp of its


    Dealing with imperfect data is not a major obstacle to adopting ESPM.


    cleaning service bill. They had no proper price/quantity data available from the purchase orders, but they knew the total amount paid to the cleaning service providers. They also had data on two key demand drivers, kilometers driven and number of passengers per route. Introducing this new measure, euros per driven passenger kilometer, brought improved visibility to their cleaning expenses. Even more importantly, this new measure changed their entire view of cleaning -- and ultimately saved the company millions. Previously the supervisors had sent workers from the external janitorial service to clean every train after each run, regardless of how full the train had been. After the introduction of the new measure, supervisors changed the cleaning frequency and also the way passengers were seated in more lightly travelled train routes. (See sidebar 2 on page 10)The specific measure will depend on the purchase, of course. Depending on the purchased product or service, cost per employee, square meter, or machine hour may be the right measure. In any case, picking the right ratio makes all the difference. The right price/quantity by proxy, as we call it, will be simple and scalable but also intuitively understandable to Procurement and the company at large. Once we identify that KPI, it becomes much easier to see where costs are increasing and to renegotiate contracts to pay for the value that actually matters and not, for instance, re-cleaning clean train cars. Non-financial measures:However, having the financial transparency on spend development and its drivers is still not enough. ESPM approach uses complementary, non-fi-nancial measures to ensure that sourcing efforts are aligned with the overall business objectives. While this sounds like common sense, we often see in practice that companies with very different business objectives are having identical sourcing KPIs. This should not be the case.

    A) Exchange rates differences between purchase and reporting currenciesB) Purchase volume differences from one period to the other on recurring purchases onlyC) Paid price difference on recurring purchases only = Purchasing performanceD) Accounting for market realities and changes in the underlying raw material prices

    Fig. 1 : External spend waterfall: building transparency to the drivers of external spend

    A) Currency

    External spend

    Year N Year N+1

    External spend

    B) Volume C) PriceD) Market

  • However, having the financial transparency to spend development and its drivers is still not enough. ESPM approach uses complementary, non-financial measures to ensure that sourcing efforts are aligned with the overall business objectives.



    For example, a global fashion retailer H&M focuses on seasonal collec-tions. Its competitor Zaras strategy involves stocking fresh designs on a weekly basis. Considered in traditional sourcing terms, H&M is far more efficient, but an ESPM analysis shows that both strategies are defensible.H&M can use suppliers from lower cost-countries, undertake competitive bidding processes and supplier selection, and drive savings in external spend. Zaras business model, on the other hand, cannot afford long de-livery times from low cost countries or time-consuming bidding processes and renegotiations. Inditex, Zaras holding company, emphasizes supply chain agility, delivery accuracy, and short lead times from the drawing board to the rack. How does this strategic difference change each companys approach to managing external spending? H&M can have a stronger focus on savings, but Zara must prioritize other metrics, such as delivery time and accuracy, that better support its business objectives. ESPM can be applied to other kinds of business challenges as well. For example, a flavoring business that offers high-volume, low-cost flavor blends to the prepared food industry might focus on creating economies of scale by trying to cut the number of active ingredients to improve scope and scale advantages. Executives would probably want to reduce the number of chemicals used in a compound (a major driver of complexity, not only in procurement but also in supply chain and production), and build a low-cost Asian sourcing strategy. ESPM would help them achieve these goals by tracking two simple metrics: number of ingredients in each formulation, and percent of spending allocated to low-cost countries. As these examples show, the metrics must be carefully thought through so that they support the overall business objectives and ensure that the most strategic issues are being discussed by the key stakeholders, including Operations, Procurement, and Finance. In the case of the train company, for example, the new metric not only led Procurement to renegotiate its contracts but also facilitated much improved cross-functional discussions on how to use the train car capacity in the most cost-effective way.Unlike most pure procurement-focused approaches to external spending, ESPM focuses on the underlying intention of the payment, not just the cost of the good or the service. An ESPM practitioner does not ask, did we get the cheapest widget?, but did we get the job done in the most cost-effective way?

    3. Manage the performance.The management practices from target setting to performance follow-up must recognize the cross-functional nature of external spending. While the procurement function facilitates spending, its the budget owner who makes the ultimate purchase decision and consumes the product or service.Clarifying their respective roles is the first step in defining responsibilities, establishing targets, and measuring results. With Procurement entrusted with finding the right products and services at the right price, and the business units in charge of paying for them and consuming them, it make sense to introduce planning that incorporates this common-sense division of responsibilities.

    Measurement has to be carefully thought through so that it supports the overall business objectives and ensures that the most strategic topics are being discussed between the key stakeholders.


    Once ESPM performance management practices are implemented, external spending is no longer a black box, but a mathematical formula with an input, an intuitive cost metric, and an output. Not only do forecasts become more accurate, but when a shortfall does occur, the company can diagnose and correct its causes. With ESPM, leaders from Operations, Finance, and the business units are much better equipped to review past financial performance and project future needs, discuss their sourcing requirements and set priorities for cost savings in the coming year. As a result of these cross-functional discussions using ESPM, the business might redirect purchasing volume to approved vendors and SKUs, alter ordering practices, or initiate new sourcing cases with Procurement. Procurement might revise its ongoing sourcing cases, re-prioritize, and revise the scope or targets of planned cases. In the end, Finance has a clearer view of the future, and is able to make projections based on expected volume and price development.

    1. Procurement function can control external spending only to a certain extent by

    - Negotiating contracts (only covering part of the total spend)

    - Agreeing prices and other terms

    2. Development of total external spending is influenced by many stakeholders

    - Business, sales, production and other functions eventually decide what is bought, how much and from whom

    - Financecaninfluencetheimpact of currency rate or commoditypricefluctuations

    Fig. 2 : Managing external spending: not the responsibility of one but of many





    1. External spend under Procurement functions control

    - Contracted volume- Contract terms

    Volume Items

    Currency ratesCommodity prices Suppliers

    2. Total external spend

  • Example situation - CFO explaining the spend development to investorsThis morning on CNBC were talking to Daniel Leader, CEO of Performance Corp., and his CFO, Emma ControlDaniel, your business has been doing pretty well since last years merger. Weve seen year-on-year growth in Q3 of 12% in a market thats grow-ing at less than 10%. Profits have not grown as fast as expected, though. Can you explain whats going on here? What happened to the cost-saving synergies you guys promised?You are right, Alisa. Our top line growth is spectacular and I am very pleased with how customers have reacted to the merger. We do not expect any significant churn on our client base. When it comes to the bottom line we are progressing well on many fronts too. Let me pass this on to Emma, our CFO. Shell provide you with a super-clear picture on whats going on with our external spending. Right, Emma?Thanks Daniel. Alisa, as you have noted, our profitability has not developed as we hoped, since our external spending has increased faster than our top line, 14% year-on-year. Overall, purchased volume growth has gone up year on year by 11%. Our currency exposure due to the new markets we bought from cost us 1% year-on-year. But what really hurt us in this reporting period was the commodities market, which nicked another 4% off the top. Once you factor out those headwinds, you can see our procurement team has done an excellent job in beating the market, generating a year-on-year price reduction of 2%.Daniel, Emma, thank you for coming on CNBC today. It was good to have you with us. We were speaking to Daniel Leader, CEO of Performance Corp and his CFO, Emma Control. Would you have a similarly credible explanatio...


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