Why Your Sourcing Team Is Bigger Than You Think
6 minute read time
This is part two in our five part series on sourcing in modern times. To read the other parts in the series, go here.
The rise of Amazon has left the Sourcing industry in a panic. Cries are heard from every direction of “sourcing is dying!” and “retail is a thing of the past!” These bombastic statements conjure images of the trampling hordes from Genghis Khan’s army, or a proverbial hurricane, just off the coast, about to make landfall. But sourcing itself isn’t dying, it’s undergoing a massive and rapid change. And with it, the way you source must change as well. Your process has to become less about finding products, and more about finding the resources you need to create unique products. You already have a bigger product team than you think you do, you just need to figure out how to best restructure your process to include internal and external players. This leaves us with two distinct, and equally difficult, questions to answer:
- How big is my product team really, and how can I leverage them to get the most out of their individual expertise?
- If I include everybody, as you say, how can I make sure that I’ll actually be productive? This could turn into a disorganized mess!
Your Giant Sourcing Team
You may have several people in your organization that refer to themselves as merchandisers, or whose job specifically includes visiting trade fairs and making purchasing decisions, but just because they are on the front lines does not mean they make the decisions alone. Nor does it mean that a transition to creating products is a burden only they bear. Marketing has to ensure product-market fit, sales is on the front lines of user feedback, and even finance can advise whether the budget is on target or not. The fact that all these different groups are involved so heavily in every purchase should already help you see that the merchandising department isn’t a lone wolf.
Sourcing in the new world is a strategic function, more than ever. There is a real competitive element to proper sourcing, and your business can float or fall depending on how well you do it. This means that, much like marketing, sales, and finance, it needs to be seen as an integral part of the strategy of your business, and synergies need to exist between the merchandising department and every other vital area of the business. And lucky for you, there is an easy solution: Acceptance is the first step toward healing.
Once you have accepted the state of things and elevated the importance of sourcing in your industry, the next step is to bring every other department into the sourcing process. Each different voice will provide a different perspective for how to improve your products, and by extension, your business. Use your marketing department to understand the latest trends, and to predict where your industry is going in the future. Use sales to tell you what clients have said in the past about your products, and use that as inspiration for your newest creations. Use IT to talk about the technical feats that might be necessary to accomplish your goals, and the feasibility of them.
While you consolidate internally, consider also strengthening your supplier network. Moving toward creating your own products does not mean eliminating your suppliers. To the contrary, it means strengthening your relationships with a core group of them. Your supply needs will certainly change, and it is going to be important to have a great relationship with the suppliers you really need, rather than intermittent purchasing from hundreds of different groups.
These two elements taken together, greater involvement in the sourcing process by your entire team, and stronger supplier networks, become the single most important way to ensure that any product you create is the best it can be, so that it hits the market in the best possible shape. Which leads us to our next question: How in the world does this not become a “too many cooks in the kitchen” style problem?
Keeping Yourself Organized
The first thing you can do to quickly adjust to this new management style is a simple exercise in slashing fat. Draw out your sourcing process on a sheet of paper. Make sure to include every detail of the way that a potential product moves through your company. Then look for redundancies. Do you need two separate teams to review the product at two separate times, or can that be done together? Can you combine any sessions? Any testing that takes too long? Make your sourcing process as lean as possible, and you can have as much feedback as possible with the least time needed to get your product to market.
Ok, so now that you know your strengths and weaknesses, how do you keep everything organized? There are hundreds of PLMs out there, but they all cost a fortune, take far too long to implement, and have a lot of bells and whistles you will never use. If you’re approaching this problem holistically, you know that slapping some expensive service on the top of your current process will only make things worse. Lucky for you, you’re educated enough at this point to know how to assess any tool presented to you. So let’s talk about the strengths and weaknesses of some of the industry’s top performers
Slack. No denying this is a communications giant for the business world. But at the end of the day, that’s all it is. Slack is great for keeping up to date with your colleagues, exchanging information, and staying on top of your work. But there’s no way to streamline any processes, or even build out tasks through the service.
Trello. Trello is a kanban in its purest form. You build to do items, assign team members, and move your items between columns. But Trello, while overall a great tool, can sometime become a jumbled mess – difficult to keep track of information. And with so much information in the sourcing world, you just can’t afford the time it would take to search.
ShowSourcing. This solution resolves every sourcing problem you commonly have. Products that you can easily find, update, and enter information about seamlessly? Got it. A way to easily collaborate with your entire workforce about the status of products in the pipeline, get feedback and vote? Got it. A robust supplier network, so you can get quotes and build out your sourcing processes? Got it! ShowSourcing really checks all the boxes.
You can leverage the knowledge and skills of your entire company, but you have to do so intentionally with a plan to simplify and the right tools to help guide your way. This sourcing revolution means big changes for the industry, but it certainly does not mean sourcing offices are going the way of the dinosaur. They are still going strong. And we will tell you in the next article why things are going to stay that way.