Direct and indirect procurement are both crucial in business growth. Though they are different functions that require unique approaches and systems, understanding the similarities and differences between the two will eventually help you plan for a successful supply chain and spend management policies.
Direct procurement involves the purchasing of goods, materials, and services directly associated with the production of goods and services that a company is providing. Whereas, indirect spend refers to expenses incurred for materials, services, and maintenance required to operate the business. Both are important for a business, and one can’t exist without the other. But, the approaches are different for both processes.
We present four key areas of purchasing where the differences between direct and indirect spend are highlighted:
Supplier Relationship Management
One of the main differences in approach has to do with supplier relationship management. Direct purchasing teams invest a lot of time and effort into developing and maintaining relationships with suppliers. Delivery schedules and continuity directly affect production; quality of raw materials impacts the quality of the final product, and thus the organization’s reputation and credibility. The relationships with suppliers are usually long-term and collaborative in this process.
In indirect procurement, the focus is mainly on spend management, not vendor relationship benefits. The collaboration with suppliers is transactional, with competitive costs being the focal point.
Investing in strategic rather than intentional relationships and developing better supplier relationships is something indirect spend teams can learn from the direct procurement teams. Also, streamlining supplier relationship management, as direct procurement does, will create better savings opportunities for indirect spend.
Inventory management is all about knowing what goods you have, where they are stocked, and how much you will require.
With direct procurement, to guarantee a smooth production process and to avoid delays, goods need to be held in stock. In contrast, indirect procurement is managed by demand; that is, purchases are made when required, so the stocks, as well as the associated costs, are lower.
Indirect procurement can learn inventory management best practices from the direct procurement team to achieve the right balance between supply and demand activities.
In most organizations, direct costs are managed by centralized procurement teams, with category managers focusing on specific areas of spend. Indirect spend, alternatively, tends to be decentralized and scattered, and in the hands of various internal stakeholders with independent budgets and spend protocols.
Configuring a centralized structure and categories for indirect procurement will enhance efficiency and compliance and reduce costs.
Indirect procurement teams can learn valuable lessons from the direct procurement team in soft skills that are so essential for handling a large number of requirements, internal stakeholders, and vendors.
Use of Technology
Indirect procurement usually has diverse, uneven requirements often generated by a large number of users from a company’s non-procurement functions. To streamline the process, indirect procurement teams are focused on creating an uncomplicated buying experience through easy-to-use technology.
Businesses have begun to realize that upgrading direct procurement systems can help streamline processes, cut risks, maintain quality, and reduce costs. Yet, many teams continue to face problems with decentralized systems that have a non-intuitive user interface. Cumbersome processes negatively impact compliance and productivity.
The best solution for businesses is to invest in an intuitive, end-to-end e-procurement system that serves all procurement needs.