Accelerating the source-to-award process to transform procurement | Fairmarkit (2023)

Tail spend, a concept that is common in procurement departments but rarely optimized, is finally getting its time in the spotlight. By having a sound tail spend management strategy, a procurement department can become a key competitive advantage for an organization. In a down economy when cost-cutting is a high priority, the best savings opportunities lie in areas of indirect spend, which have been relatively unexplored in comparison to overly-negotiated direct materials.

The 2019 Gartner Procurement Diagnostic Suite Survey found that procurement teams that managed predominantly indirect spend delivered a higher ROI than procurement functions that managed direct or hybrid spend. Additionally, these teams also delivered a higher savings rate to the business, proving that tail spend can be a gold mine for cost savings.

In this post, we will cover the following:

  1. What is tail spend?
  2. What is maverick spend?
  3. What are the different ways to define tail spend?
  4. How do you manage tail spend?
  5. What are the benefits to managing tail spend?

What is tail spend?

Tail spend is often defined as the money a company spends on purchases that account for roughly 80% of total transactions, which makes up about 20% of the company's spend by volume. There is no one size fits all definition for tail spend across different businesses, or even across one business, simply because every organization and business unit’s spending is unique. What is considered tail spend in one category may not be the same in another. These purchases are often too small to go through procurement and are not frequent enough to be included in cataloged systems.

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Tail spend can have many definitions, and none of them are right or wrong. Tail spend can include anything from maverick spend to misclassified purchases, so it’s important to identify what tail spend is and define what it means in your organization. It’s also important to define the length of the tail in relation to your organization’s core, strategic vendors.

What is maverick spend?

Maverick spend is spend that is not under contract, not managed by procurement, and is noncompliant (e.g., there are not 3 bids if 3 bids for a buy is corporate policy). Also known as rogue spend, maverick spend is a type of tail spend that can be a major cause of bloated spending at a company. P-card purchases are often a major source of maverick spend. These type of purchases usually are part of tail spend, but require a different set of strategies to get under control.

What are the different ways to define tail spend?

Here are some of the most commonly adopted definitions:

Defined based on spend threshold: Any vendor with an annual spend below an arbitrarily defined number. This can range anywhere from $100k to $1 million, depending on the size of the company and its spending.

The 80/20 rule or the Pareto principle: Procurement departments always have more incentive to focus on large, multi-year contracts because of the larger savings realized. Yet this leads companies to basically ignore almost 20% of their budget. This unmanaged spend is a more traditional definition of tail spend and is typically considered the 80% of transactions that constitute 20% of a company’s spend, otherwise known as the Pareto principle. Some organizations may be at 70/30 or 90/10 but the pattern is generally the same.

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Accelerating the source-to-award process to transform procurement | Fairmarkit (1)

Not actively managed spend: Tail spend can very simply be defined as any vendor that is not being actively or strategically managed by procurement.

It doesn’t really matter which of these you pick, just as long as the business is aligned and in agreement with the definition.

The best, and more advanced approach to defining your tail include the following:

  1. Get a visual representation of cleansed, normalized spend information to the best of your ability.
  2. Add the risk stratification so you know what spend to go after, why you want to attack that spend, and what the potential cost-savings and value add is.
  3. Factor in your industry-specific dynamics.

Accelerating the source-to-award process to transform procurement | Fairmarkit (2)

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How do you manage tail spend?

When you boil it down, the most difficult aspect of tail spend management is the lack of data and visibility. This can happen for a number of reasons such as procurement and contract management running on separate systems, siloed subgroups within the same organization (when they may be using the same vendors and resources), a large number of vendors, and decentralized policies. Download our full eBook on tail spend management fundamentals for a comprehensive guide on how to begin optimizing and managing your tail spend successfully.

Identify yourtail spend

As mentioned, tail spend is different for every organization. Identify and define what tail spend means for each business unit at your organization so procurement can take the appropriate steps to effectively manage it, optimize it and measure it.

Streamline internal processesaround tail spend

In order to save money and gather relevant data, it is imperative to have centralized processes and ensure they are enforced. Streamlined processes mean better payment terms with preferred suppliers across departments and can lead to more strategic buyers within your organization.

Put your procurement data to work

Once you’ve streamlined your internal processes, organizing, classifying, and analyzing spend data will lead to greater spend awareness, informed purchases, and business decisions.

One study conducted by The Hackett Group estimated that 7.1% savings on average can be achieved by better managing tail spend, which often comes along with a reduction in time spent per purchase and increase in bids per RFQ.

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Use a crawl, walk, run approach

Develop a solid plan that includes a crawl, walk, run approach. Begin by identifying one business unit that has a tail spend issue and roll out a tail spend management program. Ensure key stakeholders are bought in and aligned, and technologies, such as automated sourcing platforms, are connected to your P2P or ERP system. Socialize the importance and successs of the program to stakeholders and end-users.

Eventually, increase the scope within that business unit. Start introducing more automation to ensure you have structured data and a positive feedback loop. Then, you can begin further leveraging the data and get stakeholder buy-in for a larger rollout. Once you have proven your business case, roll out to all business units, and fully automate tail spend management to give your procurement team time back in their day to focus on more strategic initiatives.

What are the benefits to managing tail spend?

By properly managing tail spend, some of your biggest cost and time savings can ultimately come from your smallest purchases. Utilizing digital technologies, such as intelligent sourcing, to source, track, and manage your tail spend, the result is greater cost savings, risk reduction, and efficiency.

According to Boston Consulting Group, companies that used digital data to manage tail spend cut annual expenditures by up to 10%. Gartner shared that procurement teams that successfully managed their organization’s indirect spending in 2019 delivered a return on investment of 6.88x and a savings rate of 6%. But teams managing only direct spend delivered a procurement ROI of 5.46x and savings rate of only 4%.

Additional benefits of managing tail spend include:

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  • Cost savings
  • Increased spend under management
  • Reduced risk
  • Improved data quality and reporting
  • Improved SLA & compliance enforcement
  • Increased productivity per FTE

New and innovative technology that leverages automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and structured data is transforming the way buyers are purchasing and optimizing tail spend. By having a sound tail spend management strategy, a procurement department can become a key competitive advantage for an organization and allow the company to beat out competitors lacking a tail spend management practice.


What are the key processes of sourcing and procurement? ›

6 Step Strategic Sourcing Process
  • Analyse Your Internal Needs And The Market. ...
  • Identify Potential Suppliers. ...
  • Develop A Strategic Sourcing Strategy. ...
  • Negotiate With Suppliers. ...
  • Implement The Strategy. ...
  • Review Performance And Implement Continuous Improvement.

What is the most important step in the procurement process? ›

Contracting is a crucial step for any organization for maximum value creation and stimulating buyer-supplier collaboration. This step of the procurement process involves assessing critical factors like pricing structure, the scope of work, terms and conditions, timelines of delivery, etc.

What is accelerated procurement? ›

Accelerated procurement procedures establish alternative procedures to operate during times that demand enhanced flexibility, responsiveness and accountability by public organisations.

What are the top five most important aspects of a good procurement process? ›

The 7 Key Steps of a Procurement Process
  • Step 1 – Identify Goods or Services Needed. ...
  • Step 2 – Consider a List of Suppliers. ...
  • Step 3 – Negotiate Contract Terms with Selected Supplier. ...
  • Step 4 – Finalise the Purchase Order. ...
  • Step 5 – Receive Invoice and Process Payment. ...
  • Step 6 – Delivery and Audit of the Order.
Sep 17, 2019

What is the most important thing in procurement? ›

One of the most important procurement department functions is to purchase goods, services or works from external sources. It plays a vital part in the company's overall business strategy as it requires strategic planning to acquire these things at the best possible cost.

What is procurement process in your own words? ›

Procurement involves every activity involved in obtaining the goods and services a company needs to support its daily operations, including sourcing, negotiating terms, purchasing items, receiving and inspecting goods as necessary and keeping records of all the steps in the process.

What are the 3 factors that impacts the process of procurement? ›

3 factors affecting procurement planning
  • Market Analysis. Before devising a procurement plan, it is vital for the buyer to have a strong understanding of the market dynamics of the industry they are looking to procure work from. ...
  • Spend Analysis. ...
  • Needs Analysis.

What is the most challenging part of the procurement process? ›

Risk mitigation

Supply risk is always a major challenge in the procurement process. Market risks, potential frauds, cost, quality, and delivery risks constitute the most common type of risks. Additionally, compliance risks like anti-corruption, policy adherence, and more keep your procurement leaders up all night.

What is an example of sourcing strategy in procurement? ›

The following are examples of sourcing strategies: Direct purchase: Sending a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a Request for Quote (RFQ) to select suppliers. Acquisition: Purchasing from a desirable supplier. Strategic partnership: Entering into an agreement with a selected supplier.

What is an example of sourcing and procurement? ›

For example, while it's the sourcing department's job to negotiate contracts with suppliers, including pricing and minimum order quantities, it's the procurement department that'll eventually use that information to know how much to budget whenever a certain quantity of supplies is required.

How do you source in procurement? ›

The sourcing process involves:
  1. Collecting data on good quality sources of goods and services.
  2. Negotiating contracts.
  3. Market research.
  4. Product testing for quality.
  5. Considering outsourcing for goods.
  6. Constituting standards that the company will use.

What are 3 key components in the development of procurement strategy? ›

Your procurement strategy must include a: supplier engagement plan. capability development plan.

What are the three stages of the procurement process? ›

Typically, there are three stages to a successful procurement process: (1) Planning, (2) Research & Evaluation, and (3) Negotiation & Implementation.

What are the three procurement methods? ›

There are three main types of procurement activities: direct procurement, indirect procurement, and services procurement.

What is procurement process example? ›

The procurement process includes the preparation and processing of a demand as well as the end receipt and approval of payment. Comprehensively, this can involve purchase planning, standards, specifications determination, supplier research, selection, financing, price negotiation, and inventory control.

What is the 6 step sourcing process? ›

These steps include:

Sourcing Project Data Gathering & Analysis. Source Plan Development & Approval. Contract Management & Execution. Supplier Relationship Management.

What are the 7 principles of procurement? ›

7. Principles of Procurement
  • Accountability. ...
  • Competitive Supply. ...
  • Consistency. ...
  • Effectiveness. ...
  • Value for Money. ...
  • Fair-dealing. ...
  • Integration. ...
  • Integrity.

What are the three key risk in any of the procurement? ›

6 Common Procurement Risks
  • Inaccurate Needs Analysis. ...
  • Inadequate Vendor Management & Sourcing. ...
  • No Supply Chain Risk Management. ...
  • Underdeveloped Contract Management Processes. ...
  • Lack of Automation. ...
  • Poor Procurement Planning. ...
  • Strengthen Supplier Relationships. ...
  • Streamline and Automate Procurement and Supply Chain Risk Processes.
Jun 17, 2022

How do you overcome procurement challenges? ›

One way of overcoming procurement challenges is by building healthier supplier relationships. Organizations must realign to new stakeholder needs to identify cost-saving opportunities. Organizations must use agile and proactive procurement strategies.

What are the 5 R's in procurement? ›

We will give a brief overview of the five rights (or five Rs) of procurement, and the importance of achieving them here as follows:
  • The “Right Quality”: ...
  • The “Right Quantity”: ...
  • The “Right Place”: ...
  • The “Right Time”: ...
  • The “Right Price”:
May 14, 2018

What is the main purpose of procurement? ›

The purpose of procurement is to obtain competitive prices for supplies, delivering the most value.

Why is procurement process important? ›

What is the Importance of Procurement? Without procurement, it would be impossible for most business operations to function. Procurement management ensures that all items and services are properly acquired so that projects and processes can proceed efficiently and successfully.

How do you define procurement and why is it important in development? ›

The procurement function makes it possible for organizations to plan, acquire and distribute their needed resources - from paper and pens, to mobility items, IT systems and applications, security contracts, consultancies - to continue the business operations of the firm.

What are the 5 main categories of procurement sourcing functions? ›

Middle level – there are 5 procurement categories:
  • Administrative support.
  • Travel.
  • Professional services.
  • Insurance.
  • Information technology.
Oct 7, 2022

What are key challenges in procurement? ›

Top 5 procurement challenges — and how to overcome them
  • Lack of internal communication.
  • Procurement bypass.
  • Difficulty tracking contracts.
  • Poor supplier relationships.
  • Lack of technology.
Dec 8, 2022

How do you simplify procurement process? ›

4 Ways to Simplify Your Procurement Process
  1. Cut Out the Manual Work.
  2. Streamline Workflows.
  3. Improve Supplier Collaboration.
  4. Expand Your Network.
  5. Finding the Right Solution.
Feb 10, 2021

What is responsible for procurement process *? ›

The procurement team is responsible for managing the procurement process and monitoring expenditures throughout the whole project lifecycle. Additionally, they are tasked to negotiate with private or government contractors regarding the price, quality, and delivery terms.

How can we reduce delays in procurement process? ›

To reduce the possibility, it's important to prepare solicitation documents that are clear and comprehensive, and to ensure the procurement rules and stipulations of the solicitation documents are followed.

How do you streamline procurement process? ›

5 Tips to Streamline Procurement Contract Processes
  1. Automate manual processes to eliminate human errors. ...
  2. Empower stakeholders with visibility into the process. ...
  3. Focus on ease of use and remove barriers to adoption. ...
  4. Leverage existing investments. ...
  5. Manage regulatory compliance.
Jul 24, 2020

What are the 3 P's for procurement management process? ›

The Three P's of Procurement

There are three Ps in the procurement management process; people, process, and paper.

How do you streamline work process and improve workflow? ›

8 Steps to streamline work process & improve workflow
  1. Process mapping. ...
  2. Analyze your current workflow. ...
  3. Identify the areas that should be automated. ...
  4. Simplify the work processes. ...
  5. Document everything. ...
  6. Automate workflows. ...
  7. Test the new workflow. ...
  8. Refine the workflow over time & optimize where needed.
Dec 22, 2022

What is an example of procurement process? ›

Some examples are: Purchase requisition – an internal document that a manager or finance team may review to approve the purchase. Purchase order – an external document that the organization sends to its chosen vendor. The PO details the goods and services being purchased, payment terms, delivery dates etc.


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