In her role as Social Sustainability Leader, Heather McCreary is responsible for designing, implementing and leading external and internal solutions to support ICG Commerce clients’ strategies in the areas of social sustainability, supplier diversity and development.
connXus.com: As a company that specializes in procurement on behalf of your client companies, your organization is unique. Can you tell us about ICG Commerce?
Heather McCreary: ICG Commerce is a comprehensive procurement solutions provider that focuses exclusively on managing spend for Fortune 1000 corporations, primarily in the areas of non-production, or indirect, goods and services. Our specialized procurement infrastructure integrates dedicated teams of specialists, real-time market intelligence, enabling technologies and lean and six sigma processes to inform strategy and continuously optimize clients’ spending. We actively manage over $17 billion of indirect spend in categories such as Marketing, Information Technology, Corporate Services, MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations), Logistics, and Travel.
connXus.com: Could you tell us about how the company is organized?
Heather McCreary: Our Sourcing and Category Management specialists are organized by practice, each with an exclusive focus on a specific supply market. Our sourcing experts work with client stakeholders to define objectives, identify and qualify suppliers, and identify the best total cost agreements with suppliers; while our category management teams monitor spend, savings and compliance and implement continuous improvement strategies to ensure suppliers meet commitments and our customers optimize spend. We also have dedicated transactional teams to standardize and streamline buying activity to improve control, visibility and compliance/savings realization. We have more than 500 sourcing and procurement professionals with deep expertise in categories that are available to assist our clients across our global delivery centers located in North America, Asia, Latin America and Europe.
connXus.com: How does your company establish a strategic sourcing plan? How does your company source new products and/or services?
Heather McCreary: We help our clients maximize procurement performance and the impact of their procurement organization by providing all of the elements needed to optimize the entire procurement value chain. We apply a combination of deep expertise, powerful information and tools and proven processes to everything we do. Our expertise and infrastructure helps customers address sourcing, savings implementation, transaction management and category management. Our sourcing experts are armed with deep category knowledge and market insight, and are equipped with an arsenal of strategies, information, and tools to help customers maximize savings opportunities. Our savings implementation process and technology specialists transform and automate the purchase-to-pay process and prepare suppliers and internal stakeholders to ensure that negotiated savings are realized. Our transaction management professionals actively manage day-to-day buying activities to drive compliance while making the buying process easy and more efficient for our customers’ end users. Lastly, our category management experts, who are equipped with purchasing and market data, routinely identify and implement solutions to further reduce maverick purchasing, improve supplier compliance and performance, and drive incremental unit-cost reductions and supplier performance improvements.
connXus.com: How does your group fit in to the overall organization?
Heather McCreary: Our Social Sustainability offering is embedded in our overall strategic sourcing service. We help our clients build, enhance, or accelerate their Supplier Diversity Programs. We also help to ensure that our clients meet their MWBE goals through strategic category planning activities. Our approach is fully integrated and seamless to our clients. Our Sourcing, Category Management, and Buying teams are all committed to actively pursuing and realizing the supplier diversity goals of our clients.
connXus.com: How does your Social Sustainability offering support your clients’ supplier diversity goals?
Heather McCreary: Today’s forward-thinking organizations know that reflecting the diversity of their customer and employee base throughout their supply chain is the right and smart thing to do. We developed an area of expertise in locating, growing and developing a diverse supply base and we have the right knowledge and infrastructure to support our clients in the build out of their Social Sustainability and Supplier Diversity programs.
connXus.com: How did you get into supplier diversity?
Heather McCreary: In the late 90’s I was hired to build a supplier diversity program for a large utility company, which is a $3.5 billion firm that operates 18 power generation plants throughout the Mid-Atlantic States. After that I led Diversity Programs at several enterprises, which led to my role at ICG Commerce. As a supply chain professional, I always felt compelled to support social sustainability initiatives. When enterprises prosper from a diverse customer base, companies should look for ways to connect with and ‘give back’ to the communities that support them. It’s just good business. As our society continues to evolve, the best, most strategically-minded organizations appreciate the long-term value of diversity. I love it.
connXus.com: What do you like the most about your role?
Heather McCreary: I enjoy assisting capable and qualified MWBE businesses connect their services and products to larger enterprises and seeing them grow with mutual benefit.
connXus.com: . . . and the least?
Heather McCreary: When great suppliers can’t meet one of our customer’s needs due to size, geography or other reasons, but we see potential, it can be disappointing. When this happens we provide feedback to help those companies improve and realize future success. We support the growth and competitive advantage of MWBE’s by spending the extra time to provide coaching.
connXus.com: How does your company define “diverse supplier?”
Heather McCreary: Each of our clients defines “diverse supplier” for themselves, which in many cases include women, minorities, small business, and veterans. They also have their own philosophy and objectives for their social sustainability programs and we have built our specialized procurement infrastructure to flexibly support the specific goals and objectives of every client.
connXus.com: What are the qualities you look for in a supplier?
Heather McCreary: Capabilities, quality, cost of services, financial stability, management structure, industry experience, and area of expertise are a few, as is the ability to continually create value for the customer.
connXus.com: What’s the best way for a potential supplier to approach your organization?
Heather McCreary: Our solutions are tailored to each specific customer’s requirements and needs and all suppliers must be approved by our customers. We leverage a variety of internal and external data sources to identify qualified suppliers who can participate in appropriate sourcing initiatives and RFP’s.
connXus.com: How should a business contact your organization in order to be considered as a diverse supplier?
Heather McCreary: Our preference is that MWBEs ensure that they are registered and visible to their local chamber of commerce and other trade/ industry organizations. ICG Commerce’s operating model utilizes local, regional and public/private sector organizations to expand contracting opportunities for Minority and Women owned businesses. We will typically access subscription data services such as Hoover’s and CVM. It is important for a supplier to understand if they are being categorized as a MWBE supplier within these databases. We’ve also started using connXus as another resource.
connXus.com: How can a supplier develop a good relationship with a large company’s purchasing department?
Heather McCreary: Keep contractual commitments, make process improvement recommendations, and offer innovative ideas to reduce cost and/or risk within the supply chain.
connXus.com: How can a potential supplier make a good impression?
Heather McCreary: Research and preparation of a compelling value proposition is of great importance. Too many supplier candidates find it difficult to focus their proposition on an unmet business need while others are laser-like in building a business case that demonstrates the value they offer. Make it easy for a buyer to buy; create a commercially attractive solution to a business need and follow-up with robust customer service.
connXus.com: What are some of the biggest mistakes suppliers make when approaching your organization?
Heather McCreary: Not doing the homework required to understand the strategic sourcing process and failing to tailor their value message accordingly. While important, companies rarely buy just on price. A supplier’s financial stability is obviously an important selection criterion, as may be the capability to interact with the customer’s I.T. systems and Quality Assurance protocols. I would advise suppliers to research via non-competitors or trade groups the “hows” and “whys” of the strategic sourcing process, as well as the key ‘must haves’ to conduct business with the client enterprise.
connXus.com: If there was one thing you could tell potential suppliers to do in order to successfully work with your organization, what would it be?
Heather McCreary: They need to understand that ICG Commerce is relentlessly focused on seeking the best overall value in goods and services for our clients and we remain completely objective. Our client is the final decision maker. We perform deep-dive analysis of supply options and then make fact-based recommendations. While price is always an important factor, it is not the only factor. Others include quality that precisely matches the need, short order-to-delivery cycle times, and robust customer service performance. Each of these factor into lowest total cost of ownership and value, as determined by our clients. Potential suppliers would do well to articulate their proposals across these various dimensions.