Book Review Common Sense Supply Management

Supply Chain Magic

Book Review Buyers Meeting Point Common Sense Supply Management

In September 2012 he published a new book that reflects a broader perspective on his experience and our profession. By taking a step up – or back – however you chose to see the difference between purchasing and supply management, Dr. Tom takes a new look at the challenges and opportunities in supply management and presents them by sharing many of his own experiences as an independent management consultant.

We’ll be delving further into Dr. Tom’s perspective in an interview with him in February. His short segment writing format allows the reader to get through a number of mini-cases quickly in the first section of the book titled ‘Tales from the Supply Management Trenches’. Dr. Tom then spends the remaining chapters of the book taking on one subject at a time in greater depth. There is something for everyone, including Six Sigma, negotiation, governance, bureaucracy, and strategy. Supply management professionals will also appreciate his checklists and glossary of terms.

Looking back on Dr. Tom’s time spent ‘in the trenches’, I particularly appreciated his desire to meet a goal and then go one step further for the sake of achieving optimal performance. In one of his engagements, he was working with an integrated paper company to transform their purchasing group into a supply management operation. Using Six-sigma methodologies, they reduced workload and errors before completing a successful supplier rationalization effort. Rather than considering the transformation complete just because expectations had been met, he and his team took the additional step of putting a p-card program in place for their ‘superusers’, eliminating nearly all paperwork.

Other themes of note include the need to have empathy for suppliers in order to establish collaborative relationships and balancing the importance of social media with the effectiveness of face-to-face communication. Technology has its place somewhere behind enabled people and process. As Dr Tom puts it, “The procurement must come before the e”.

Dr. Tom’s deep experience and long career in the supply management space make this a book best related to by practitioners with some experience in the field rather than a primer for those new to the game. As to which trenches you currently find yourself in: supply chain, procurement, and purchasing professionals in any industry will benefit from Dr. Tom’s experiences and honest retelling of both successes and lessons learned.

This month’s featured publication is Common Sense Supply Management.  Since we have worked with author Dr. Tom DePaoli in the past, we took the opportunity of this new book being out to get an update on his perspective of supply management as a discipline, how social media is affecting the interactive dynamics, and on our role in the larger organization.

If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Tom’s work, visit the You can also read our review of

Buyers Meeting Point: Do you have a working definition of ‘Supply Management’ in your mind? What changed in our profession or in your career that caused you to focus this book on supply management after writing Common Sense Purchasing?

Dr. Tom DePaoli: I did have a working definition of supply management when I started the book. I emphasized the relationship aspect. I somewhat agree with the ISM definition. “The identification, acquisition, access, positioning, management of resources and related capabilities the organization needs or potentially needs in the attainment of its strategic objectives.” Supply management is much more strategic than the traditional concept of purchasing. Since I have transformed many traditional purchasing organizations into supply management organizations, I understand the strategic nature of supply management. The other difference is that in supply management, the relationship building is much more complicated and at multilevel. It is not just a matrix but a multidimensional matrix of relationships! The supply management professional needs versatility and powerful relationship building skills. Their understanding of the business must be broad and well grounded. Their understanding of the many marketplaces, domestic and global, is also essential.

BMP: You give many examples of the benefits of face-to-face interactions, both with suppliers and internal stakeholders. Do you feel that supply management professionals have become too reliant on virtual communication?

Dr. T: At times I believe that they do become too reliant on virtual communication. These are great tools but nothing beats face to face interaction, supplier site visits, in person quality discussions, visiting internal stakeholders and asking for their input, and just going out in the field and asking questions and learning. In my experience, these actions yield a lot more useful data and more importantly encourage collaboration. The issue is always time management and which face to face interactions are critical.

BMP: What trends have you seen with supply management professionals making use of (or missing out on) the benefits of social media?

Dr. T: Supply management professionals need to use social media more to network, share ideas and discuss problems. There are various professional supply management organizations that have running discussions that supply management professionals can participate in and share information. One of the most valuable is asking for help on sourcing especially when you are cold sourcing a new part or service. Supply management professionals will usually give you a good honest answer on a supplier and share their supplier performance data.

BMP: You make the comment that the head of supply management must be at the vice president level (p. 50). When you combine this with the need to get Finance’s sign-off on savings definitions (p. 115), do you feel that Finance is the best organization for supply management to report to, or should we be positioned on the operational side of the business?

Dr. T: Supply management should be independent of the finance organization in a company. They should report directly to the CEO. Finance should sign off on the scorecard that supply management keeps especially around savings. Many financial organizations are still using standard cost techniques instead of activity costing. As you know total cost of ownership savings include many qualitative savings that must be valued fairly. Supply Management is strongly operational; no other internal organization has a bigger impact on the bottom line. We provide the critical tools, resources, services, and parts etc. that make operations possible. Often, we control or influence a very large percentage of the cost of goods sold.

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