If 80% of an organisation’s spend is concentrated across 20% of its suppliers, you could argue that procurement leaders should be spending their time optimising that portfolio. And in general that’s what happens. However in a mature organisation with steady, multi-year contracts with a small number of key suppliers, the focus actually turns to the tail.
The tail spend is hardly the best friend of procurement – it’s fiddly and time-consuming, requiring research into who’s who in the market across scores of service and product categories. This has given rise to the shortlisting platform. These platforms narrow down the field of suitable suppliers when procurement leaders are in uncharted territory. As if music to the ears of procurement, these platforms are often free, as they are funded by the supplier ecosystem.
The user simply answers a variety of questions about their needs, and is connected with a manageable shortlist of “perfect match” suppliers. Procurement can then get competitive bids from specialist pre-screened suppliers, and the platforms (which typically operate in niches) often provide a value-added layer of telephone advice and thought leadership content.
Let’s look at two examples of these platforms:
The FindaConsultant site matches organisations with management consultants across hundreds of consulting areas and sub-sectors. A procurement manager can specify:
1. A granular consulting sub-category (for example, not just change management but technology change management)
2. a budget range
3. industry experience (if required)
4. if the consulting can be done remotely or from a specific location preference for an individual consultant versus a boutique or large brandname firm
5. timeline (start date and approximate duration)
An Australian government agency that used the platform to find a consultant to prepare a report on Australia’s global competitiveness in a particular area commented, “The three consultants referred were all very proactive and impressive. [Our chosen consultant] was very fast, responsive and to the point.” FindaConsultant helped the client save time in quickly pinpointing specialists (turn-around time is mostly within 24 hours), ensure quality (all consultants on the platform are reference checked in advance) and reduce cost versus going through a recruitment agency or Tier 1 firm.
The Matchboard site specialises in the sales, customer service and back office category. Users answer a wizard comprising up to 10 questions before getting connected with their shortlist of matched suppliers. For example, if an organisation is looking to procure outsourced contact centre services, the wizard has filters including:
1. Location (including Australian cities and other countries)
2. Budget or volume of work
3. Hours of operation
4. Channels (phone, email, chat, social media etc)
5. Industry specialisation
8. Required accreditations or languages in addition to English, if any
The site also features more than 100 articles and white papers, on subjects ranging from customer experience to chatbots and offshoring, to guide people on their sourcing journey.
These two platforms are representative of a new wave of independent B2B shortlisting services, which help procurement departments narrow the field of suppliers in the labyrinthine long tail.