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Monday, September 1, 2014

How Knowledge Management Ensures Supply Market Intelligence

[Editor's Note: The following article is an excerpt from the upcoming book Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement: Research, Processes, and Resources co-authored by Jeanette Jones and Kelly Barner.]

Credit: ddpavumba at

Credit: ddpavumba at

Supply market intelligence adds a critical external context to the data that procurement has access to from internal sources. This broader understanding gained from external intelligence simultaneously improves procurement’s understanding of markets and value potential to the organization.

The investment of time and resources procurement makes to create supply market intelligence and document its recommendations requires that a structure be in place to make the information accessible. From a knowledge or content management standpoint, this includes the administration and maintenance of the documents themselves, as well as the efforts required to make their content sustainably useful.

It is common to hear organizations discuss the need for better knowledge management. In the case of supply market intelligence, both knowledge management and content management require planning and maintenance. Knowledge management seeks to ensure that what people know, and which is predominantly stored in their minds, is captured in some tangible way so that it can be accessed by other internal colleagues. As referenced in a article, Gartner Group has defined knowledge management as “a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise’s information assets.”(1)

Procurement must first master the discipline of documenting what it learns (knowledge management), so that it can successfully address the challenge of making documents accessible and keeping them current for future use (content management). There is no need to run distinct efforts to manage knowledge and content. It is the common ground they share — the discipline of recording and maintaining information — that is the most important. I recommend using the phrase “knowledge management” rather than “content management” because the former emphasizes the ephemeral nature of strategic and value-oriented information. Content management may imply that the information is static or tactical in nature.

Content management also gives the false impression that all of the intelligence resulting from market research has been captured in a document. When viewed realistically, the process of filtering information in pursuit of market intelligence creates knowledge that might not be represented in an intelligence brief. This is especially true when procurement is new to the market in question. “Early-stage knowledge tends to have a much higher tacit component, but in a rapidly changing world this is often the most valuable knowledge — it provides us with early insight into emerging opportunities. So there is a dilemma — the most valuable knowledge is often the most difficult to express and share.” (2)

This dilemma is best solved by ensuring the proper centralization, maintenance, and accessibility for all knowledge related to supply market intelligence. Just as the person conducting the market research plays a critical role in the success of the program, someone must be responsible for handling all of the documents created. While no formal or specialized training is required to fulfill this role successfully, the professional(s) assigned with the task must understand the critical nature of the responsibility. Administrative misses a broad range of opportunities associated with proper reuse and distribution of valuable knowledge.

There are many opportunities for procurement to build positive relationships through supply market intelligence, and the manager of knowledge-based documentation is critical to the effort. A number of business functions, in addition to executive leadership and external supply partners, will see great value in being able to access and even contribute to the supply market intelligence that procurement creates and documents.

By serving as the managers of this collective knowledge, procurement improves its own performance while raising its perceived value inside the organization and out. Every opportunity to share knowledge also gives procurement the chance to demonstrate its understanding and resources, as well as its willingness to collaborate for improved results.


(1) Michael E.D. Koenig, “What is KM? Knowledge Management Explained,” KMWorld, May 4, 2012, accessed June 11, 2014,…/What-is-KM-Knowledge-Management-Explained-82405.aspx.

(2) John Hagel, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davidson, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, New York: Basic Books, 2010, pp. 55.


Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement: Research, Processes, and Resources, co-authored by Jeanette Jones and Kelly Barner, provides procurement professionals with the process, skills, and resources to develop a supply market intelligence program that will deliver organizational value. The new book addresses topics such as documentation, quality assurance, talent management, and analysis. It also provides a thorough and detailed list of qualified resources that cover general procurement topics and solutions as well as market-specific resources. It is being published by J. Ross and will be available in October.


Kelly_Barner_2013Kelly Barner is the co-owner of Buyers Meeting Point, at, an online resource for procurement and purchasing professionals. Her unique perspective on supply management is based on her time as a practitioner, a consultant at a solution provider, and now as an independent thought leader. Kelly has led projects involving members of procurement, supplier, and purchasing teams and has practical skills in strategic sourcing program design and management, opportunity assessment, knowledge management, and custom taxonomy design. She earned her MBA from Babson College, a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Simmons College, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Clark University. In 2012, 2013, and 2014, Kelly was awarded a Provider ‘Pro to Know’ award by Supply & Demand Chain Executive magazine, and in 2013 she was also recognized as one of 28 “Top Female Supply Chain Executives.
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