The overarching goal of the Disciplined Agile (DA) is to guide organizations on their path to business agility, sometimes called organizational agility. When organizations increase their overall agility, they are able to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways. This enables organizations to deliver more value in a shorter amount of time, predictably, sustainably, and with high quality.
Looking at the Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit in figure 1, we get an idea of the organizational areas that are involved in pursuing business agility.
Figure 1: The Disciplined Agile (DA) tool kit
The DA tool kit shows us that it is not enough to focus on delivery-level agility represented by the Disciplined DevOps layer. To achieve business agility, the organization must pursue agile and lean ways of working at the Disciplined Agile Enterprise layer; like legal, finance, and vendor management.
In this post, we focus on the role of vendor management and how it can contribute to the overall agility in the DA enterprise.
The mindset of vendor management: partnerships are key
Vendor management is a process blade in the DA tool kit. In other words, it represents a functional area inside the organization that serves a specific purpose. The purpose of vendor management is to help obtain products and services from other organizations.
To do that successfully in a disciplined agile way, vendor management follows a set of philosophies that extend the DA mindset:
Figure 2: A Disciplined Agile mindset for vendor management
1. Value through partnerships. We increase value through partnerships with other organizations.
2. Collaborative partnerships. We seek to build collaborative partnerships with other organizations, even when those organizations are our competitors or competitors to each other.
3. Mutually beneficial partnerships. We seek to build, maintain, and evolve mutually beneficial relationships with our suppliers and partners.
4. We co-create with our partners. We co-create throughout the entire vendor management life cycle, including procurement. This means that we may even have both our own experts and vendor experts actively involved in the procurement process.
5. We are trusted advisors. We are a trusted advisor inside the organization to present and guide both supplier and partnering options.
6. Organizational outcomes come first. We pursue organizational outcomes over local process conveniences, working in an enterprise aware manner.
7. We protect our organization. We have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the organization.
8. We address risk holistically. We address risk in an appropriate, proactive, and holistic manner.
The flow of Vendor management: context counts
One of the DA principles is that "context counts". This principle is also applicable to the area of vendor management. Table 1 lists three different types of procurement situations.
Table 1: Different procurement situations
Each of the situations requires a different flow or approach to successfully find the right partners that can deliver the good or service to the organization.
The practices of vendor management: choice is good
Another DA principle states that “choice is good”. In vendor management, we see this manifested in its goal diagram. Click here to see a larger version of the goal diagram.
Figure 3: Vendor management goal diagram
The diagram covers the key decision points of vendor management: from how to manage intake requests, and how to select a procurement strategy, to ways of governing partnerships. Most of the decision points’ options are non-ordered, meaning they are equally preferrable. It is worth noting the two areas that have ordered options: select procurement strategy, and capture working agreements. The ordered options are called out with an upwards arrow, meaning the choices at the top are more desirable than the choices at the bottom from an agility standpoint.
With the goal diagram, you have access to a suite of options, choices and strategies that are presented in architected way for easy access and navigation. The suite of options, choices and strategies allows you first of all to find your baseline today: what is our existing way of working (WoW) in procurement? Secondly, the suite of options, choices and strategies allows you to find areas where you can improve and tailor your way of procuring to better match the given context.
Let’s look at an example. One of the vendor management decision points is to select potential partners.
Figure 4: Decision point for "select potential partners"
The decision point offers a suite of options, ranging from short-listing potential partners, comparing submitted proposals, and holding a big-room event for multiple vendors.
In our example, you are part of the company’s procurement team. Up until this point, your team has solely been relying on the option of “compare submitted proposals” to select vendors regardless of what you are procuring. That is your baseline way of working (WoW). If your team procures goods or services that less straightforward than, say printer paper and toner, you have likely come across some challenges in finding the right vendor. Taking advantage of the information in the vendor management goal diagram, you can now pick a more tailored WoW depending on your procurement context.
For example, procuring a commodity (new paper and toner for the office printers), a straightforward comparison of submitted proposals will likely be sufficient. In fact, you may even go so far as to automate the buying decision completely, such as with printers placing an order for toner when it runs low. But faced with a more complicated context, such as procuring a new fleet of delivery trucks, you have the option to employ additional strategies to increase your chances of success. These strategies could be: shortlisting potential partners, interviewing potential partners, and then comparing submitted proposals. You may even hold a vendor bake off where the shortlisted vendors demonstrate their vehicles.
In summary, context counts. The DA tool kit guides you in tailoring your WoW for vendor management to better match your context increasing your chances of success.