The application of category management is not something that arrives fully formed into our organisations but is a journey in the development of understanding and insights.
This simple observation clarifies that to excel at cat man and extract the maximum benefit, we need an approach that develops our practice year on year.
As this is unlikely to happen without some intervention, we need to plan for that development. We should have an annual category management improvement plan which targets improvement in the use of the category management process, the supporting skills to enable it and the systems which power it.
Of course, to develop a plan which describes the next step of the journey, it is essential to understand where we are now. A structured evaluation of our current approach is a solid basis for developing improvement plans. We could do this ourselves by designing an evaluation approach or adopting available category management benchmarking. Either way will allow us to describe areas of strength and weakness.
Once we have that clear view, we can build an improvement plan that considers our organisational aims and goals and the fundamental need to improve. It is far better to develop an improvement plan that increases our capability in category management and delivers against organisational aspiration.
As an example, we might identify a weakness in the development and use of business requirements, at the same time as we need to address a business goal that has greater emphasis (such as social value or net-zero carbon). As such, we could focus our attention on the use of business requirements, including those new elements. We could deliver some targeted coaching to category leads to address the expectations, offer workshops in the use of business requirements and test and feedback on examples as category work is carried out. This type of focus, when applied with some rigor, will lead to improvements.
By keeping a close eye on the outputs and targeting the inputs, we will see progress in the application of category management. Of course, the annual improvement plan may want to address several facets of category management in any particular year and may be tailored to individual capabilities and needs. We could also use a range of learning and review techniques, such as peer learning sessions. The final test is the quality of the content of strategies and the measured delivery of benefits from implementing those strategies.
Our research shows that those who improve their Cat Man practice deliver more and better outcomes over time. There is a measurable benefit from being good at this, and therefore the effort put into a category management improvement plan does deliver benefits.
A great starting point is to get a benchmark study on your current practice, which we can deliver from our global category management survey results.
If you want to know more about this, please click the “Let’s Talk” button.
About Mark Hubbard
30+ years experience in procurement and supplier management, in line and consulting roles
Previous employment: Positive Purchasing Ltd, SITA,
QP Group, BMW, SWWS, Rover
Education: BSc in Engineering Metallurgy, MBA University of Plymouth
CIPS: Current Member