Tail Spend in Procurement: What is it and Why Should You Care

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In the intricate landscape of procurement, it is common to fall prey to sneaky non-strategic expenses —usually known as ‘tail spend‘—which can quietly nibble away at a company’s finances. These minor yet cumulative costs often evade the attentive gaze of procurement and finance professionals, resulting in unseen financial leakage and missed savings opportunities.


Characterized by its erratic and elusive nature, tail spend is a challenging component to manage effectively, because these expenses typically fall outside core transactions, making them difficult to catch, and therefore to monitor and control. However, ignoring these expenses altogether is quite risky, as the collective impact of tail spend on a company’s wallet is far from trivial and can cover up to 20% of an organization’s total spend.


A bit difficult to take for granted, no? For those dedicated to fiscal responsibility and efficiency in procurement, mastering tail spend management is a must.


In this article, we want to demystify tail spend, and offer invaluable insights to professionals seeking to harness control over these difficult to grasp expenses to ultimately bolster their organization’s financial position.


Here are the topics we will cover today:

    • What is Tail Spend?

    • The Challenges of Managing Tail Spend

    • Choosing the Right Tool to Help

    • The Importance of Addressing Tail Spend at the Right Time

    • Key Takeaways


What is Tail Spend?

Before we dig deep into the topics, we need to understand first what tail spend is. Tail spend represents those seemingly minor expenditures that, when unmanaged, can sneakily impact an organization’s bottom line.


It refers essentially to the procurement spending that is not actively overseen or strategically managed, considered to be “tactical” and “non-strategic”, as opposed to the top 20% of suppliers that account for 80% of total spend and transactions of an organization. Though each of these purchases may seem inconsequential in isolation, their cumulative effect is far from negligible.


The Challenges of Managing Tail Spend

Understanding what tail spend is marks just the initial step of the journey; the real challenge kicks in when attempting to effectively manage it. The character of tail spend is elusive and unpredictable. Its components are fragmented, often stemming from off-contract buying or maverick spending, making it challenging to harness and control.


The unpredictable nature of tail spend makes it a slippery contender in the procurement arena, necessitating meticulous attention and strategic oversight to prevent it from spiralling out of control. If left unchecked, tail spend can inadvertently inflate an organization’s operational costs, which collectively accounts for a substantial portion of a company’s total procurement spend. Addressing tail spend is not merely about controlling costs but also about unlocking potential savings and improving the efficiency of the procurement process.


So now that the tail spend “monster” has been identified, how do we effectively deal with it? Well, procurement professionals need to delve into the process of evaluating the array of procurement software options present in today’s market, each claiming to address and simplify the complex issues related to tail spend.


Choosing the Right Tool to Help

The process to evaluate what the right tool is to effectively manage tail spend demands careful consideration and comparison of key features of each software solution, including essential functions like purchase order processing, contract management, and supplier management. These critical features are non-negotiable, as they are foundational to any procurement software aiming to effectively streamline and manage the intricacies of tail spend.


Selecting the ideal tool isn’t a straightforward task; it requires identifying a software that doesn’t merely meet your list of requirements but also aligns with your organization’s existing systems and procurement objectives. The aim is to find a partner in software form—one that intuitively understands the challenges associated with managing tail spend and offers solutions to make the process smoother and more efficient.


In this quest, clarity about your specific needs and challenges is crucial. Is the solution user-friendly user-friendly and intuitive? Does it have a clear interface that’s easy to navigate? This can help ensure that staff can quickly learn how to use the software, and the easier it is for your team to get the hang of it, the more efficient your procurement process will be.


While many solutions may boast an extensive range of features, the pivotal question remains whether they provide the right combination of functions that address your current and future procurement challenges head-on. The right software solution doesn’t just solve present issues; it anticipates future challenges, aligning seamlessly with your strategic procurement goals and vision.


Last but not least, we all know money matters. So don’t forget to consider the total cost of ownership when selecting the right software, including the cost of the software itself, any installation or setup costs, and ongoing maintenance costs. And while you’re at it, consider the return on investment (ROI) you could get from implementing the solution on your company.


The Importance of Addressing Tail Spend at the Right Time

Addressing tail spend is not only about implementing the correct measures but also about initiating these measures at the appropriate time. Timing is pivotal when managing tail spend, as it significantly influences the effectiveness of the implemented strategies and the resultant cost savings and efficiency improvements.


Early intervention is beneficial to your organization for several compelling reasons. Firstly, it allows for proactive management and control over unregulated, non-contracted purchases that often characterize tail spend. Engaging with tail spend at the initial stages provides an opportunity to streamline these purchases, promoting adherence to procurement policies and preventing maverick spending.


Moreover, addressing tail spend promptly facilitates improved visibility into the organization’s overall spending patterns. With greater transparency, procurement professionals can make informed and strategic decisions, optimizing supplier relationships, negotiating better contracts, and identifying opportunities for consolidated spending, which ultimately results in substantial cost savings.


Another point to raise is that timely attention to tail spend supports compliance with internal procurement policies and external regulatory requirements. It ensures that all purchases, irrespective of their size or frequency, comply with established guidelines and standards, mitigating risks associated with non-compliance, such as legal penalties and reputational damage.


Key Takeaways

If you takeaway anything from this article, take this: ‘tail spend’ is often underestimated. And because the spend is usually scattered, the full financial impact of its poor management can be easily overlooked. Don’t let it fool though, their collective effect may have a considerable impact on an organization’s financial health.


Addressing this financial undercurrent not only prevents unnecessary losses but also unveils potential savings, turning tail spend from a hidden foe to a managed, understood aspect of spending that positively impacts the financial health and operational efficiency of the organization. And how to do that? Effectively managing it.


Effective management entails strategic oversight and meticulous attention to prevent it from escalating uncontrollably, as its components are often fragmented, unpredictable, and result from off-contract or maverick spending. Choosing the right procurement software tool is crucial in this endeavor. The ideal tool should not only meet organizational requirements but should also integrate seamlessly with existing systems and objectives, be user-friendly, and offer solutions anticipating future challenges related to tail spend.


Moreover, addressing tail spend timely is essential, as it influences the effectiveness of strategies implemented, supports compliance, improves visibility into spending patterns, and ultimately leads to substantial cost savings and efficiency improvements. Properly monitoring tail spend is crucial for those seeking fiscal efficiency. Through strategic management of tail spend, companies can not only prevent financial leakage but also realize significant savings, contributing positively to their financial health and operational efficiency.


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TMS is an AI company that creates cost savings from Telecom expenses.


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