Arsène Wenger learns a lesson about strategic sourcing

2 September 2011
As I have blogged previously, the world of football often provides an useful metaphor for the world of procurement. A news article I wrote last week warned of the need for businesses to take a step back from “just in time” sourcing, because it can easily turn into a case of “just not there”. This was a simple point, but it wasn’t until Arsenal’s Sunday afternoon 8-2 thrashing at the feet of Manchester United that I really began to appreciate it. In the run up to the match Aresnal boss Arsène Wenger had lost two of his key suppliers – Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri – but had failed to develop a contingency plan to deal with the rapid disruption to production their exit would bring. As a result he was left with little option but to try and patch up his supply chain with inexperienced suppliers, such as youngster Carl Jenkinson (stay with me with this analogy), that couldn’t handle the demand placed upon them (evidenced by Jenkinson’s sending off). His counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, knows effective strategic sourcing takes time. A few years ago, he knew he needed to rejuvenate his supply chain that was looking a bit tired. Instead of waiting until it collapsed, he identified some prospective suppliers, took a hands-on approach to their development and allowed them to gain experience in different environments (by loaning them out). As well as bringing in some proven performers, he was able to slot in replacements when needed and keep his chain intact. The message that came across to me was that whether in procurement, football or just business generally, a long-term strategy that caters for the worst case scenario is key. Especially if one of your biggest rivals wants to steal your number one supplier.
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