Best Practices in Supply Management Journal

67th Edition, August 2014

Articles In This Issue
"The Path of Least Resistance - Key to Procurement Success"
"Avoiding Trapdoors - Clever Contract Language"

Founder Appearances, Articles, and Reader Job Opportunities.


Upcoming Public Founder Appearances:

September 11th - 12th, Mark Trowbridge will partner with NAPM San Fernando Valley to present a two day workshop on 'Innovative Trends in Technology Contracting' at the Burbank (California) Airport Holiday Inn.  Click here for registration information Tech Contracting Workshop Signup 
September 19th and October 3rd, Mark Trowbridge will partner with ISM Northern California to present the first of three CPSM Exam Preparation Workshops in Downtown San Francisco McKesson HQ Building).  (the second and third CPSM prep sessions will follow in approximate three month intervals).  Click here for registration information CPSM Exam Prep Link 

October 6th to November 14th Mark Trowbridge will host an online training forum on the topic of Technology Contracting.  Weekly web videos and online class discussions & assignments will be part of this forum.  Click here for registration information Online Tech Contracting Forum
November 3rd, 4th & 5th, Mark Trowbridge will personally present our 'Expert Strategic Sourcing' workshop at the Furama Hotel (4 Star) in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia  Click here for registration information Sourcing Master Class Signup
November 10th to December 19th Mark Trowbridge will host an online training forum on the topic of Strategic SourcingWeekly web videos and online class discussions & assignments will be part of this forum.  Click here for registration information Online Sourcing Forum Signup

Job Opportunities:  We are currently helping clients fill the following SCM career opportunities.  Contact Strategic Procurement Solutions by clicking the following link if inerested...Apply for Job Opportunity (Type Job Title Into Subject Line)

- Senior IT Procurement Sourcing Leader, Nashville, TN USA.  Annual Base Salry between $105K and $120K USD, plus excellent bonus and benefits packages.  Relocation negotiable.

- Marketing Sourcing Specialist, South San Francisco Bay Area, California, Technology Company.  Annual Base Salary between $100K and $120K USD, plus bonus and benefits.  Relocation negotiable.

- IT Sourcing Specialist, South San Francisco Bay Area, California, Technology Company.  Annual Base Salary between $100K and $120K USD, plus bonus and benefits.  Relocation negotiable.

- Director of City Procurement, A greater Sacramento Area City, California. Experienced governmental procurement leader with strong Capital and Operational procurement and contracting skills with background in progressive municipal procurement.  Base Salary between $115K and $125K.  Strong Benefits Package. Relocation Negotiable. 

- Procurement Specialist, South San Francisco Bay Area, California, Technology Company.  Annual Base Salary between $85K and $90K USD, plus bonus and benefits.  Relocation



























































This electronic journal is distributed bi-monthly to 
nearly 13,000 Supply Management Professionals around the globe. Note that our educational articles are 'in depth', unlike most online publications.  We hope you enjoy this edition. Feel free to forward to your SCM colleagues!  And keep SPS in mind when your organization needs top quality Supply Management Consulting, Employee Skills Testing & Training, P2P Efficiency Reviews, Cost Reduction Support or SCM Staff Augmentation/ Recruiting Services.



"The Path of Least Resistance - Key to Procurement Success" - by Mark Trowbridge - Principal, CPSM, C.P.M., MCIPS

The "Path of Least Resistance" is a principle whereby moving matter will take the pathway which offers the least amount of resistance. For example, water flowing down a mountainside will divert towards the more downward of two pathways.

Often, people also take the easier pathway. Sometimes this is a negative choice which indicates a lack of will power; for example when a person bends to temptation or negative peer pressure.

But the tendency of people to select the Path of Least Resistance can be a positive factor when applied to supply-chain performance. In that case, choice of the easier path shows wisdom in prioritizing one's effort. The intelligent design of sourcing, contracting, procurement and settlement processes can capture our internal customers' desire to take the Path of Least Resistance.

During the last 12 months (in addition to training many public and corporate groups as well as guiding several ongoing cost-reduction projects), my colleagues and I have conducted several 360o Supply Management Efficiency Reviews for clients in the Technology, Energy, Financial Services, and Governmental sectors. Each of those efficiency reviews found that some of the greatest opportunities to improve the client organization's P2P performance would result from providing their employees an easier pathway to take.

This article will discuss three tips for ways the principle of "least resistance" can be used to improve SCM performance...

First Tip - Put yourself into the shoes of your customer departments. Is it easier for them to work with, or to bypass, your procurement group? Some department heads may subscribe to the principle that it is "It's easier to get forgiveness than to ask for permission." These are the people who go around the procurement group and have a supplier ship the product, and later get the invoice approved by "some executive" in their chain of command. Or they ask the supplier to submit a proposal and later ask the sourcing group to "please get a contract put in place" (i.e. "papering the deal").

Several years ago, one of my colleagues and I assessed the procurement, contracting, and payables operations of a Blue Shield health insurance company. As we were interviewing the firm's payables group director to understand enterprise-wide operational compliance to the procurement policy, we learned that company policy allowed an "exception" to the procurement rules to be approved by any senior vice president. The accounts payables group sent an email warning of non-compliance to each offender, along with a PDF copy of the company's procedures..."to discourage them from doing it again".  

We asked the payables director how many times this occurred, and she did not have an answer. So we set up a tracking system to determine the number of warnings the payables group sent out...which totaled 97 incidents of non-compliance during the following two weeks (for those with calculators, that's 2,562 times a year when offenders were slapped on the wrist). Obviously, it was "easier" for departments to bypass the procurement process in this company. Only by making an improved procurement process "the path of less resistance" has this procurement group been able to begin changing the behavior of their internal customers.

Second Tip - Try processing a purchase order transaction yourself through your organization's P2P system. Was the system selected and configured by some finance team to capture every imaginable accounting detail...or is it formatted to support a logical business process? Is it an "Amazon-like" experience...or does a cumbersome ERP system require users to navigate through multiple screens to enter every line-item? Are SKU's illustrated by clear photographs and understandable descriptions...or do users have to guess at the identity of products?

If the procurement system is a pain for you to work with; don't be surprised when your internal customers figure out other ways to get what they need. In the 2014 eProcurement Wave Report(1), Forrester Research says, "...many complain to Forrester about low adoption of their current eProcurement platform...[around] 50%."

Even if a good eProcurement (or eSourcing, Contracts Management, etc.) tool has been selected by an organization, poor choices about the configuration of the tool can make it unfriendly to procurement's internal customers. Trying out the system yourself can open your eyes to needed changes. As Forrester Research says in the same report(1), "Make the right way easy and the wrong way hard".

Third Tip - Take your procurement policy and procedure manual home over a weekend and read it through. Is it understandable for the average employee to comprehend? Or was it written only to be understood by someone who has worked in the procurement profession?

For example, does the policy explain why competitive bidding is a preferred methodology, or does it merely insist that bidding must occur? Does the document describe ten violations of the bidding policy rather than positioning the internal customer to work with procurement to follow the right process?

Merely having policies and procedures does not create a "path of least resistance". Trying to understanding overly-complex policies may, in fact, be a cumbersome process for our internal customers.

When Strategic Procurement Solutions helps clients to develop (or improve) policy and procedure manuals, we often recommend the creation of two sets of documents. The first is an easy-reading guidelines document for the customer departments who need to navigate through the process with the help of the procurement group. The second is a more-detailed desktop version only for the procurement group which provides thorough instructions for each aspect of the acquisition process.

It's sometimes easy to think that the internal customer needs to have every detail about the acquisition process, but that's wrong. Many procurement policies are sort of like using a nuclear bomb to kill a fly.

Creating an "easier path" through the procurement process will gain us higher participation and satisfaction from our internal customers. The groups which make the procurement process easier for their customers to use will achieve higher adoption rates, reduced 'maverick' spending, and earlier involvement in strategic sourcing.


Strategic Procurement Solutions helps companies and governmental groups assess their supply management activities through our 360o Supply Management Efficiency Assessment. We also assist companies in selecting and configuring P2P technology tools, as well as developing user-friendly policy and procedures documents. Please contact us at for information about these services.


About the Author - Mark Trowbridge, CPSM, C.P.M., MCIPS is one of Strategic Procurement Solutions founders. His 30 years in procurement leadership began in the Manufacturing, Airline, and Financial Services sectors...culminating in a role leading three-quarters of the strategic sourcing activities, and all of the contracts management responsibilities, for Bank of America (then, the USA's third most-profitable company). During his final two years with Bank of America, Mark's areas of responsibility delivered a Quarter Billion Dollars in cost reductions. During the last 15 years, Mr. Trowbridge has worked in the consulting field with many leading corporate and governmental clients. His business travels have taken him throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Malaysia. He is a frequent author on supply management topics, with articles appearing in publications like Supply Chain Management Review, Inside Supply Management, IFPSM's eZine, eSide Supply Management, and Strategic Procurement Solutions' own Best Practices in Supply Management Journal.  Mark's  is among the top 1% Most-Viewed LinkedIn profiles.


(1) The Forrester Wave™: eProcurement, Q2 2014


"Avoiding Trapdoors - Clever Contract Language"- by Robert Dunn, MBA, C.P.M., Principal

Long gone are the days of procuring "simple" products. In today's marketplace, an increasing portion of supplier-provided products and service also have a technology component.

Software has long been a carefully-contracted acquisition category. For many years, procurement professionals have known that well-written SW licenses and development agreements should contain a "Harmful Code" clause which...


- Protects the licensee against "Malware" (such as a Virus or Trojan Horse); and


- Precludes the ability of the Licensor to imbed the SW with disabling code or access (such as a Trap Door).


The inclusion of this type of protection is also just-as important for a wide range of agreements today as we transition to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) or other hosted technology-enabled services where the software resides on the supplier's web platform.


Harmful Code language is also now being included in agreements for Consulting, Audit, Creative Agency, Engineering, or Maintenance services under which the supplier's employees send emails or electronic files to us. And it is especially important to include in contracts under which supplier personnel or systems directly-access our organization's computer systems or data files.


A good "Harmful Code" clause should require the supplier to protect us against some or all of the following...


- To exercise due diligence in scanning software (or products containing technology elements) for viruses and other malware;


- To ensure its employees all have current updated anti-virus tools on their computers to ensure clean documents and emails are transmitted electronically to us;


- Require that the product does not contain any 'trapdoor' that would allow the supplier to access the software to disable its functionality or disable full performance. Some providers have used this method to punish their customers for being behind on billing payments, maintenance renewals, etc.; and

- To make sure that online technology or service subscriptions cannot be disabled without a notification process.

One example of a Harmful Code clause is as follows: "The Software and any media used to distribute it contain no computer instructions, circuitry or other technological means ("Harmful Code") whose purpose is to disrupt, damage or interfere with Company's use of its computer and telecommunications facilities for their commercial, test or research purposes. Harmful Code shall include, without limitation, Viruses, Worms, Trap Doors, Trojan Horses, and any other instrumentality that will cause the Software to cease to operate or to fail to conform to its specifications upon (i) use by more than the licensed number of users or (ii) termination or expiration of this Agreement; unless otherwise expressly provided herein. Licensor shall indemnify Company and hold Company harmless from all claims, losses, damages and expenses, including attorneys' fees and allocated cost of internal counsel, arising from the presence of Harmful Code in or with the Software or contained on media delivered by Licensor."


Strategic Procurement Solutions help clients in the private and government sectors optimize their Contracting Management practices. We work with procurement leaders and their legal counsel to develop template agreements, clause libraries and fallback language. We also evaluate contracting management processes, CLM system utilization, and techniques. Our skilled instructors train procurement audiences with onsite workshops like Strategic Contracting™ (2 days) and Innovative Trends in Technology Contracting™ (2 days).   More information can be requested at


Disclaimer - Strategic Procurement Solutions' informative articles should not be construed as legal advice. Readers must discuss content with their own legal counsel to determine possible application to your own environment and governing laws.

About the Author:  Robert Dunn, MBA, C.P.M. is one of Strategic Procurement Solutions' founders.  His 40 years in procurement leadership covered management positions in the Government, Technology and Financial Services sectors; culminating in a role directing all of BankAmerica Corporation's procurement operations.  He has served as President of two ISM/NAPM affiliates, and taught supply chain management at the post-graduate level for California State University - Hayward and St. Mary's College - San Francisco.  He has also worked with major corporate and governmental clients in the consulting industry for the past 18 years, and was one of the founders of Strategic Procurement Solutions.   Robert has worked on major procurement initiatives in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia.  He is a noted author, with recent articles in eSide Supply Management and Strategic Procurement Solutions' own Best Practices in Supply Management Journal (the latter of which is now distributed to over 13,000 readers).

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