SME purchasing activity patterns delphi study: Recognizing patterns in the way Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) organize their procurement activities

Geert Vegter

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    This survey is about recognizing patterns in the way Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) organize their procurement activities. The scope of the survey is limited to the key commodities of the SME.
    A key commodity is defined as the purchased product or service group which is essential for realizing the value proposition for the customers of the SME.
    Prior outcome of our research indicated the existence of four procurement oriented patterns in SMEs.

    4 Procurement Oriented Patterns where part of the study:
    Pattern 1
    Focal company: ICT turn-key designer
    Value proposition of the focal company: ICT Design and assembly of offices on a high quality level at a reasonable price. Operational excellence: standardization in commodities, low transaction costs internally and externally
    Purchased key commodity: Standard ICT software and hardware
    Pattern 2
    Focal company: Horse shoes manufacturer
    Value proposition of the focal company: Standard horse shoes assortment at reasonable prices in a competitive environment
    Purchased key commodity: Standard quality iron, reliable delivery
    Pattern 3
    Focal company: IT innovation driven company
    Value proposition of the focal company: Developing innovative software made applicable for practical usage in devices at a reasonable price
    Purchased key commodity: Delivering applicable solutions on the bases of regular soft- and hardware, to enable the companies’ innovative software function in practice
    Pattern 4
    Focal company: designer and manufacturer of trailers
    Value proposition of the focal company: Designing and manufacturing trailers tailor made for specific requirements of customers
    Purchased key commodity: Designing and manufacturing axles which align to the specific trailer wishes of the customer of the focal company

    Pattern recognition
    About 50 % of the respondents recognized the four presented patterns from own experience and/or read literature. Respondents also suggested pattern variants. It is concluded that this Delphi study strengthens the view that these patterns exist in SMEs. Further research may include further empirical testing of these patterns and their variants.
    Perceived strengths or weaknesses.
    Respondents mentioned a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses of the patterns. No clear conclusions can be drawn from this data.
    Adequacy of the pattern descriptions.
    One of the outcomes of this Delphi study is an improved conceptual framework for describing procurement activity patterns. This framework can be used for collecting SME data in future research, for example by modifying the existing survey questions which are used in the WIM research program to describe SME procurement activities.
    The improved model includes more variables and values than the initial model. Thus future research may lead to more detailed patterns descriptions.
    Missing patterns and pattern variants
    Apart from the suggested pattern variants, respondents do not miss patterns which are quite different from the four patterns suggested by the research team.
    Methodological remarks
    The Delphi study method did not allow for fast feedback on panel member contributions and fast group think processes. For the future it is advised to consider other methods in similar cases, for example the World Cafe method.
    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherHanzehogeschool Groningen
    Number of pages50
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2015


    • smes
    • purchasing


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