Category Management rarely is a one-person show, and neither is Category Strategy Creation. It is a team exercise involving experts from various corners of the procurement organization and internal customers/ stakeholders from other functions. And sometimes even externals or suppliers, in case a strategic relationship is in place. In short, it quickly gets complex and complicated to manage the process and relevant players.

That makes it challenging and stressful for the Category Manager in charge, demanding skills way beyond the functional expertise and experience they have accumulated. It may not be the favorite part of anyone’s job. Yet, still, all it is necessary to ensure the quality of a category strategy is tailored to the specific situation, the challenges in the market, and fully considers the key business requirements – current and future. Too much is at stake to settle for mediocre strategies!

“The move from being a category management starter to a category management improver could result in a saving performance uplift of up to 153%” –  Future Purchasing Global Category Management Report, 2021/2022

Teamwork makes the dream work – but why do we so often struggle as a procurement team? Most of us in procurement have been trained in working as teams and have gathered our experiences over the years – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most of us enjoy collaborating across the aisles – but not every aspect of it. Especially when the tools available do not support collaboration or cross-functional alignment and leave us with a cumbersome, mostly manual, and vulnerable process.

Pain points in collaboration within procurement often include:

  • Lack of experience – difficulties in delegating tasks to junior team members
  • Lack of learning opportunities – in case of doubt, not delegating tasks at all
  • Lack of standardization – difficulties in determining the approach or format of the desired outcome
  • Lack of shared understanding – wasting time on discussions about methodology
  • Lack of transparency – insecurity about the progress being made by individual team members
  • Lack of accountability – often impossible to understand who contributed what and how changes were made along the way
  • Lack of system support – eternal struggle with consolidating or updating files and keeping track of versions
 

And then, there is, of course, the necessity of cross-functional collaboration and the need for alignment with internal customers and stakeholders. How do existing tools support those along the traditional process? Poorly, if at all.

Does any of that sound familiar? Have you been in or witnessed situations where any of that happened? I for sure was – both as a consultant and as a procurement director. But whatever it was – or still is – that made you flinch when thinking about creating a category strategy as a team, it should no longer bother you. A game-changer has come to town.

“Almost everything in the traditional process of category strategy creation was discouraging me from reaching out to or from involving others. Oftentimes, I decided to just do it on my own instead, sacrificing quality for speed and ease of completion.” – Senior Category Manager, European Chemicals company, 2021

Enter Cirtuo Guided Strategy Creation™ – the AI-powered game-changer

Digitization and AI are the keys to successfully addressing the above-listed pain points. Compared to whatever it looks and feels like in your company today, imagine what it would be for you and all parties involved if the following were available at your fingertips!

Imagine a new reality!

  • Having all data and information, the collective know-how around a category, in one place – on one digital platform
  • Having everyone involved in category strategy creation aligned along one standard methodology, set of analytical tools, and common language
  • Being able to see the latest version of any category strategy at any point in time – be sure that it is the most recent and complete one
  • Being able to assign specific, clearly defined tasks to team members or outsiders and monitor their input and progress in real-time (including a complete log of all activities and changes made)
  • Allowing less experienced team members to get involved and take over defined tasks, not worrying about inferior results thanks to the guidance and AI support provided by the solution
  • Being able to always trace back from the outcome of the analysis to the exact pieces of input and assumptions having been made – allowing for in-depth review and challenge
  • Imagine not wasting a minute of your time on formatting, copy-pasting, or arranging the content for a report – because all that is automated and happens in split-seconds
  • Being able to align local/ regional/ global category strategies and, eventually, initiatives for implementation in that one solution on that one digital platform – bottom-up as well as top-down, and as easy as drag-and-drop (“Multi-Layer-Strategies”)
  • Engaging with stakeholders on their essential requirements and wants to be based on a transparent methodology, guaranteeing efficient alignment and full transparency

With collaboration and alignment becoming that easy to initiate and follow through, the inherent complexity in category strategy creation will no longer scare anyone. Everyone involved will feel the benefits on their own skin – along the process and about the results achieved.

“We now have a standard methodology and collective way of working, and category managers are being constructively challenged in their way of thinking … Our plan is to continue strengthening supplier collaboration and innovation.” – Stephane Morel, Novartis; THE PURCHASER Magazine Issue 09, March 2022

Collaboration and alignment made easy – Complexity no longer hurts

A prime effect of AI-supported digitization is that it allows you to compress the time period you need to create and align a full-fledged category strategy from months to weeks! From weeks to days – even if it involves working as a team and across functions. This is a new reality, as proven by early adopters of this technology. Don’t settle for less!

Aligning a category strategy draft with the CFO at 11 am? A tailored Executive Summary, focusing on working capital and financial risks, can be composed in less than a minute and shared immediately. With a few mouse clicks, you decide what will be included or not. A follow-up discussion with the Head of R&D at 1 pm? A new Executive Summary version is only a minute away, focusing on innovation, quality, and supplier relationship development. Alignment of business requirements with the Sales Director at 3 pm? You guessed it – whatever is relevant for the following specific recipient, you’ll have it ready in a minute.

“Applying Cirtuo “Guided Strategy Creation™ has reduced the average time we need to develop a detailed category strategy by more than 50%. Enhanced efficiency boosts our effectiveness.” – US-based global Retailer, Indirect Spend, 2022

Another welcome side-effect of automation: The eternal battle with Powerpoint slides and Excel charts, consuming so much time and attention at the expense of the actual content, analysis, and conclusions, no longer needs to be fought. Teams no longer struggle with consolidating separate documents, documenting versions, and managing the storing of files in the right places. A complete strategy document, in its most recent version, be it as a full report or an Executive Summary, is automatically created and available for download. At any time or stage in the process. Just like that.

“At BT Sourced we leverage Cirtuo internally as a “Salesforce for procurement” to increase collaboration, generate savings, and improve the bottom line.” – Cyril Pourrat, Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board, 2022

So how much easier will it be to collaborate and align with category team members and stakeholders when any of them have permanent access to all the information and the latest version of the category strategies in real time!When regional category strategies can be aligned with global initiatives in a few quick iterations.

  • When a sudden unexpected event takes out the capacity of one category team member working on a strategy, any other team member can seamlessly step in and continue the strategy creation.
 
  • When a major external event disrupts supply chains or dramatically changes the supplier landscape, any team member can start adjusting the input the strategy is based on to quickly arrive at a new set of adjusted strategic options that reflect the new reality – and promptly can be translated into concrete actions.

Facilitating teamwork in procurement and enhancing collaboration across functions has never been as crucial as in times of sudden changes and volatility – but thanks to digital AI-empowered solutions like Cirtuo Guided Strategy Creation™, it has never been easier.

Allow Cirtuo Guided Strategy Creation™ to super-charge your category teamwork and make stakeholder alignment easy and transparent while relying on a proven AI-enabled solution. The impact will not only be felt in the daily life of Category Managers and stakeholders but ultimately also be seen in the company’s bottom line.

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AI-powered software that automates category strategy creation. Introducing the solution for faster decision-making, leading to greater business impact and value delivery.

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