26 JUNE | JULY 2017
source. He says it was an e;ective way to open doors to more spend
categories as well as increase trust in and visibility for procurement.
He recalls one of the most intricate strategic sourcing events the
team handled: “spend categories that our clients worried couldn’t
be sourced,” he says. “For example, Anne Deering, our U.K. partner,
sourced midwifery services for the U.K.’s National Health Service.
It was complicated — probably the most complicated category we
sourced — and very sensitive.”
TECHNOLOGY BOOSTS SOURCING STRATEGIES
At the end of the 1990s, Slaight saw the potential of using emerging
technologies for strategic sourcing by streamlining the sourcing
process and conducting online competitive sourcing over the internet.
“I saw the internet being used for order entry on the sales side
(Amazon). I wanted to see if supply management could use this new
technology for a downward auction to speed up the process,” he says.
“I didn’t think the internet could keep pace with the software we used,
but we decided to try it out. It was risky, but not life-threatening.”
Slaight and the A. T. Kearney team conducted the first internet online
reverse auction for the Sprint Corporation in 1999. “We had about
85 suppliers vying for telemarketing services,” he says. “We realized
a 35 percent to 45 percent savings by putting the bid in front of so
many suppliers — and it all happened in less than an hour.” The use of
emerging technologies was here to stay.
Another key element of successful change in supply management is
collaboration, Slaight believes. Although it’s more time-consuming,
meaningful collaboration allows supply management professionals
to obtain internal cross-functional buy in as well as innovation or
improvements from the external supply base, he says.
“Collaboration will not only strengthen your relationships with teams
in your own company, but also with suppliers,” he explains. “I have
no respect for companies that steamroll suppliers — you don’t build
loyalties that way.”
INCREASING SUPPLY MANAGEMENT INFLUENCE
Slaight has witnessed — and been involved in — many changes
in supply management over the years. One change he hopes will
continue to evolve is increasing the visibility and influence of the
profession. Improving supply management visibility, he says, was “a big
step, and one that has to be continually strengthened.”
He adds, “A colleague of mine, John Blascovich, a partner with A. T.
Kearney, says one quick way to assess whether a company has an
influential supply management organization is to ask the CEO to name
the company’s supply management leader.”
Technology has helped improve and streamline processes in supply
management, “but getting that seat at the table, making use of it, and
being recognized for your contributions will continue to be the key to
success now and into the future,” Slaight emphasizes.
In pursuit of better visibility, Slaight proposed
a pro-bono collaboration by A. T. Kearney
with Institute for Supply Management®
(ISM®) and CAPS Research, a program jointly
sponsored by Arizona State University and
ISM, to conduct studies examining the future
of supply management. He also was involved
with the refocusing of ISM as it shifted from a
confederation of membership units to a more
centrally directed organization.
The R. Gene Richter Scholarship Program, an
increase in the number of supply management
undergraduate and graduate degree programs,
and more companies providing internship
opportunities are, he says, “wonderful indicators
of a rich future” for the profession.
“Supply management has come a long way in the
42 years I have been involved with it, and it has
exciting opportunities in the years ahead,” Slaight
Mary Siegfried is a freelance writer based in Chandler, Arizona.
FROM LEFT: TIMOTHY R. FIORE, CPSM, C.P.M.,
THE 2016 J. SHIPMAN GOLD MEDAL AWARD
WINNER, WITH TOM SLAIGHT, THE 2017
RECIPIENT, AND THOMAS W. DERRY, INS TITUTE
FOR SUPPLY MANAGEMENT® ;ISM®; CEO.