Which of these 5 roles are you using to harvest your (low & high hanging) fruit?

Alison Smith

Low hanging fruit is a commonly used phrase in purchasing circles to denote the easy to obtain savings achievable from organisational spend. Use of this term comes with an assumption that higher hanging fruit extends into wider value delivered from the procurement of goods and services. Value that looks beyond price to cost, revenue and risk.  

It depends however where you are in your organisational purchasing development on how much of the low hanging fruit is left on the trees, and if the other higher hanging fruit is even considered.

Which of these 5 roles have you got covered?

1.       Responsibility for gathering your low hanging fruit

In an orchard you’d certainly be silly to ignore the low hanging fruit. It’s there for all to see, and generally speaking for anyone to take. It’s not a great idea to leave it on the trees to rot, especially as it could potentially damage the orchard for future harvests.

So make sure you get people out their into the orchard with their baskets, and get them grabbing that fruit before it’s too late!

Roughly translated as – having someone in your organisation reviewing your spend to find the quick wins from what you’re spending with suppliers, because they will be there, but only if you look for them.

2.       Responsibility for gathering your higher hanging fruit

The issue arises when there is no more low hanging fruit, and yet the need to make delicious fruit pies, jams or chutneys still remains. What do we do then?

The first port of call is the higher hanging fruit. This fruit is not so easy to reach and yet they’re often bigger as they’ve had more time to ripen. This fruit may not be so easily seen and certainly not so easily accessed. However, anyone willing to put in the effort, who has a ladder and knows how to use it safely can harvest the crop.

The role for harvesting higher hanging fruit needs therefore to be given to someone who understands fruit trees, knows where to look, and how to get hold of the fruit and deliver it into the basket safely.

At this point you’re going to be needing someone who understands purchasing, tendering and contracting. Preferably someone who also has experience in the market place and of the suppliers of the goods and services your organisation buys. Purchasing are still likely to to be reactive in nature, and perhaps still focusing and measured on prices paid. Some level of contract management will also be taking place.

3.       Responsibility for maintaining your fruit trees

A little more expertise may be needed to help maintain the orchard and trees, increase its yield, and reduce any waste.

Which means we start to need the support of people who understand how to prune a fruit tree to maximise its harvest, how best to gather the fruit to reduce waste, what fertiliser yields the biggest returns, and what companion planting will reduce the bugs.

At this point we’re certainly starting to need the support of a professional tree looker afterer! Someone whose sole responsibility is the trees. Who looks longer term about the sustainability of the trees, and more importantly the size of the harvest.

Which means purchasing moves to being procurement with a broader responsibility than tendering and contracts. I’d be expecting procurement to have a more senior leadership role in the organisation, and be working more closely and proactively with other areas of the business to plan their future spend. Procurement’s focus moves to include cost reduction not just price reduction, and they are measured for the value added not simply lowest price. Managing the performance of selected suppliers also comes to the fore at this point.

4.       Responsibility for maintaining your orchard

In larger organisations we may have someone who’s responsible for all the orchards. Someone able to move resources to suit the weather and time of year and who understands how to:

  • reduce the costs of growing the fruit
  • reduce the risks involved in fruit growing
  • expand the amount of fruit grown
  • change the variety planted
  • expand the types of fruit grown
  • extend the harvesting season
  • move the orchard to one with better soil, and
  • plan next year’s harvest better.

Someone able to think outside the box and look at the situation from every one of the 360 degrees.

Certainly for me planning next year’s harvest is the most important of these. To mix a metaphor, it’s all well and good to make hay whilst the sun shines but, certainly here in the UK, we need to plan for more than just sunshine!

Woopy doo – Procurement is an integral part of the business, and category strategies become the norm, with cross functional teams working together to determine the optimal strategy for the business. Value delivered and measured moves beyond price, risk and cost into revenue, and long term sustainability and supplier relationship management is taken seriously.

5.       Responsibility for developing your fruit harvest

Once the current orchard is depleted, or your fruit needs increase that’s when it becomes more difficult. We still need jam, and yet the orchard is bare. What happens then?

That’s when even more expertise is needed, more creative thinking and a deeper connection to and understanding of organisational goals and strategies. Which will involve exploring:

  • getting more revenue for the fruit picked
  • buying fruit from others
  • considering using less climate-affected areas, or
  • using fruit from other regions.

At this point we’ve got a Chief Procurement Officer in a senior position within the organisation, and innovation and supplier development get added into the procurement toolkit.

In summary I think there’s 7 key take aways from this light-hearted exploration:

  1. Every organisation has low hanging fruit – savings to be made
  2. You’ll only benefit from the fruit if someone harvests it – someone to find the savings
  3. Low hanging fruit only lasts for so long – best to ensure you’ve a strategy for your spend
  4. Higher hanging fruit will be harder to get at – requiring expertise in procurement
  5. Trees will only harvest if they’re looked after correctly – which means adopting supplier and category management
  6. You may get more benefit by considering a wider range of fruit – working proactively and cross functionally with the wider business
  7. Someone who knows about orchards will get a better harvest than someone who doesn’t – why wouldn’t that be a procurement professional with a track record of delivering value

An appreciation of the wider benefits available from procurement (savings, value, risk and revenue) requires a very different strategy for purchasing than simply focusing on low hanging fruit.

Which strategy do you need to adopt to harvest your fruit, and who will help you to do this?

Which ever strategy, and whoever you choose to help you, may your harvest be bountiful.


ABOUT THE Guest Author:

Alison Smith

Alison Smith

Alison Smith is Head Gardener at Landscaping Your life (LYL) where for 20 years she’s used her LANDSCAPE coaching toolkit with procurement teams. These coaching tools predominantly assist the pruning, shaping and flourishing of procurement behavioural skills – ie how procurement teams do what they do.

Utilising her expertise and love for self development, language, and metaphor Alison is author of Can’t see the Wood for the Trees – Landscaping Your Life to get back on track where she uses the sayings we use when we’re stuck to get back on track. In the book Alison shares her belief that ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’, ‘stuck in a rut’, ‘treading water’, & ‘going round in circles’ all contain the solution and are not just a statement of stuckness.

Alison has also recently published a Landscaping Your Life ezine continuing to creatively and insightfully use gardening, and nature’s landscapes as metaphors for our personal and organisational lives, although low hanging fruit didn’t get a mention.

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