“Maverick, it’s your attitude... dangerous and foolish. Whose side are you on?”
With Top Gun: Maverick coming to theaters in 2020, the world will once again get to watch Tom Cruise, bend the rules as he saves the world from the cockpit of a fighter jet.
Cruise’s character, Maverick, is the archetype of the rogue hero who ignores the directives of his or her superiors and yet manages to get the job done. By breaking the rules, Hollywood’s mavericks are able to achieve things their law-abiding colleagues cannot, in the tradition of other famous rogue heroes including Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon or Harrison Ford in Star Wars.
But that’s Hollywood, folks. In the real world of business, a maverick – or, more specifically, a maverick spender, can do a great deal of damage. A company full of mavericks can prevent procurement from achieving their goals.
Why are maverick spenders a problem for procurement?
Take travel bookings, for example. This is the biggest hotspot for maverick spend in most organizations because employees often prefer to use popular travel booking websites, book hotels or flights where they have loyalty programs, or genuinely believe they’ve found a better deal than that offered through the official channel. This creates problems including:
- Cost: Mavericks may book flights or hotels that are above-approved spend limits.
- Supplier relationships: Procurement may have negotiated a bulk discount with a travel provider, but will breach the contract if travelers fail to use that provider.
- Risk: Users may book flights or hotels considered risky or dangerous, creating an unacceptable risk for the traveler and the organization.
- Tracking: Organizations will not know where their employees are.
- Data: Failing to use the official travel booking system means no data is recorded, making it impossible to undertake meaningful spend analysis.
How to control maverick spend
Find out where the problem areas lie
Is maverick spend occurring everywhere throughout your organization, or is it concentrated in certain functions or categories? Conduct a spend analysis to find out where out-of-contract purchasing is taking place.
Understand why it’s happening
Sometimes, maverick spend is procurement’s own fault. Perhaps the process you have created is frustrating or time-consuming. Busy people will always find a way to circumvent a clunky process.
Ignorance is another key reason for maverick spend; employees are often unaware that there is a preferred supplier for a product or service. They may also lack confidence in using the e-procurement system.
Education and training
Procurement policy and how to purchase goods and services should be a part of onboarding training for every new team member, backed up with regular refresher training. Create a cost-conscious culture by explaining why it’s important to comply with policy, including an explanation of why finding a “better deal” may benefit the individual but will be detrimental for the wider organization.
Create a user-friendly P2P process
Is your P2P process the problem? Rather than rethinking the whole e-procurement system, it’s worth conducting a root analysis to discover the exact cause of maverick spend, because there may be a particular step in the process that employees find time-consuming or confusing. Fixing or replacing a P2P system can be expensive, but the cost pales in comparison to the money being bled away through ongoing maverick spend.
A recent report found that lost savings through maverick spending were reduced by 60% through the implementation of self-service or guided-buying tools.
The big stick approach
If you find yourself facing a real Tom Cruise-type maverick who simply refuses to comply with procurement policy, it may be time for the big stick approach. This may include:
- Requiring additional and ongoing training for maverick spenders.
- Working with HR to implement penalties for non-compliance.
- Requiring sign-off on purchases until maverick behavior improves.
- Limiting purchasing access for non-procurement employees.
Creating a cost-conscious culture
After a particularly risky flight, Top Gun’s Maverick returns to base to be confronted by his furious commanding officer.
“What you should have done was land your plane! You don’t own that plane – the taxpayers do! Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.”
It’s worth reminding your worst mavericks that it isn’t their money they are spending. Nor is it procurement’s – that money belongs to the wider organization, and employees with business acumen understand that maverick spend of any size will ultimately have a negative impact on the company’s bottom line.