I’ve been fortunate to have sourced such a wide variety of categories of goods and services throughout my career. I’ve just been reflecting about the categories I’ve enjoyed and despised the most.

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First, for the category I’ve enjoyed the most…

I absolutely love sourcing enterprise software. Each vendor’s offering is usually at least somewhat different.

I love to see and challenge the logic of how everything works, especially when I come up with the most customized what-if scenarios.

I can program in five different languages, so I like to ensure that every condition is considered by the programmers. It is also very exciting to speculate on efficiencies and productivity improvements and estimate the measurable financial results.

But there’s also the fundamental principles of supplier selection that someone sourcing software must apply. Making sure that the supplier is stable is equally fun, important, and challenging, particularly when you’re an early adopter of a new technology.

Now, for the category I’ve despised the most. Drum roll, please…

The category I’ve always hated sourcing is printing services. Ugh.

Despite the fact that there are oodles and oodles of vendors out there and the compressed pricing in the market has makde printing services a veritable commodity, it seems like reliable printing service vendors are few and far between. Even the good ones seem to have their quirks.

Vendors who are good at one type of printing seem to be poor at other types of printing. Pricing can vary by 200% or more between vendors with absolutely, positively no relationship to quality. Print brokers and distributors who are in business to use their expert knowledge to find the best deal for you seldom can beat the pricing that any old hack can find by surfing a few Web sites. And they usually have no visibility into the production status of your projects.

Overall, a very, very challenging category to consolidate.

I can’t help but think of a recent meeting I had with the Senior Manager of Corporate Purchasing from a large retailer. He brought me the navy blue business cards of his staff members.

He commented that Marketing had been on his case since the shade of navy was inconsistent from order to order. He pointed out how evident that was by comparing the cards of his employees. He wasn’t pleased about having to deal with a printing problem with so much else on his plate.

I feel his pain. I’ve been there early in my career.

And, as a guy in a pretty high-powered position, he shouldn’t have to worry about something as relatively trivial as business cards. But sourcing in the print services category is walking into a hornet’s nest.

If you are, or know anyone who is, an expert at sourcing complete print services, contact me. I’d love to put an interview on the category together for a future edition of PurchTips.

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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