Tail Spend Management: Benefits, Challenges and Best Practices

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min read time
October 18, 2023
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Have you ever thought that even the most minor expenses could significantly impact your company's savings?

With procurement teams focusing on large spending categories, it is easy to overlook the potential savings hidden within the lesser-known "tail spend," small-value purchases made in high volumes. These can stack up and make up a sizable portion of the business's total expenses.

As per Sievo, Tail spend accounts for around 20% of total spending.

These seemingly tiny transactions can easily slip through management oversight, resulting in missed opportunities for significant cost savings. This unmanaged tail spend can involve a variety of one-time purchases and low-value procurements vital to an organization's smooth operation.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, actively managing tail spend can yield remarkable cost savings, ranging from 5% to 10%.

In this article, we will explore the intricacies of tail spend management. We'll dive into the challenges of managing it and best practices to reduce tail spend in organizations.

Tail Spend Definition

Tail spend refers to minor, infrequent purchases beyond an organization's central procurement process. While they may not be major costs individually, their cumulative influence can account for significant total spending.

Image showing the types of spend in procurement

Tail spend, often known as spot buying, covers numerous low-value, non-core, and non-strategic purchases. It accounts for roughly 80% of total transactions but only approximately 20% of the company's spend by volume.

Image showing Tail spend chart

Tail spend is defined differently by each company, with some defining it based on a certain spending threshold. Others use the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) and describe it as mismanaged vendor spending.

The tail spend consists of a large number of small transactions from a variety of vendors. So, compared to frequent, larger-amount purchases from preferred vendors, tail spend can be difficult to manage and track. Thus, businesses need to implement robust strategies for effective tail spend management.

What is Tail Spend Management?

Tail spend management refers to tracking and managing low-value, high-volume, and frequently indirect spending. It is done to improve the business's cost-efficiency and transparency.

The goal of tail spend management is to simplify the procurement process, revamp sourcing strategies, and curtail unnecessary spending. This often involves the use of automated workflows, resulting in improved financial efficiency and better resource allocation within a company.

Image showing the pain points of tail spend management

Why should organizations manage tail spend effectively?

Why worry about seemingly minor purchases? Tail spend, despite its small individual effect, can greatly impact your company's budget. Here are some reasons tail spend management is critical:

Savings Optimization

Tail spend control promotes wiser spending, assuring budget adherence and greater savings. According to Deloitte, efficiently managing tail spend can result in overall spend savings of 5-20%. It identifies non-compliant spending and invoicing abnormalities, enabling better contract management and removing duplicate services.

Improved Budget Forecasting

A consistent budget is crucial for precise profit and loss predictions. Managing tail spend ensures comprehensive visibility into spending, enabling more precise financial forecasts and positively impacting revenue and expenses. This improved insight into tail spend helps address uncertainties often stemming from limited visibility beyond the primary supply chain level.

Cost reduction and efficiency

Effective tail spend control reduces annual costs by 5-10% on average. Tail spend analysis provides insights that can be helpful in reducing maverick spending (shadow purchases), adjusting purchasing needs, consolidating vendors, and establishing clear purchasing processes. A centralized procurement system improves spend visibility and mitigates vendor risks.

Enhanced Compliance and Stakeholder Satisfaction

Tail spend management prevents unlawful spending while guaranteeing compliance with internal and external policies. The streamlined procurement process using automated systems shortens the purchasing cycle, allowing the procurement staff to focus on value-added tasks.

Image showing how to manage tail spend

What are the challenges of managing tail spend?

Here are the key challenges in Tail Spend Management

1. Decentralized Purchasing Practices

Decentralized purchasing causes fragmented expenditure, making it difficult to track tail spend and negotiate favorable terms with vendors.

Moreover, redundancies and inefficient spending decisions result from a lack of a centralized approach, necessitating extensive manual work to collect data.

2. Lack of System Integration

Inadequate communication across systems makes it difficult to identify spending patterns and chances for cost savings. Also, making wise financial decisions is difficult when there is little visibility; it's like driving in the dark.

3. Effect on Financial Health

Hidden costs accumulated over time due to inefficient processes, wasteful spending, or bad vendor relationships can eventually erode profitability. Minor unmanaged expenses can greatly impact a company's financial well-being over time.

4. Lack of Spend Control

Unapproved purchases, also known as maverick spending, are common in tail spend when clear procurement procedures and guidelines are lacking. Unauthorized spending causes budget deviations and impairs the organization's capacity to regulate total spend successfully.

5. Lack of Data Visibility

Dispersed purchase data across numerous platforms leads to a lack of spend transparency, impeding accurate tracking, analysis, and reporting of expenses.

6. Poor Negotiating Abilities

Engaging with multiple vendors limits a company's capacity to negotiate advantageous terms, resulting in missed cost-saving opportunities. Moreover, consolidating purchases with preferred vendors becomes challenging without a streamlined tail spend control approach.

Effective Strategies to reduce tail spend

Here are comprehensive strategies to reduce tail spend:

Get complete tail spend visibility

One of the most significant issues in reducing tail spend is a lack of visibility across diverse spending. Using a comprehensive spend management platform can help consolidate and organize all billing and spending data. It will provide a complete view of spend analytics and budget allocation.

Businesses can gain useful insights about re-aligning spending with budget goals, identifying areas of overspending, and making informed financial decisions by evaluating spending trends over time and categorizing tail spending.

The platform will also help track spending over time, categorize it, and provide insights into prospective expenses, allowing for proactive budget management and cost optimization.

Vendor consolidation

Vendor consolidation is a strategic approach organizations use to manage and reduce their tail spend effectively. We know tail spend typically consists of fragmented purchases from various vendors, making it challenging to control and manage efficiently.

Vendor consolidation refers to reducing or consolidating the number of vendors for similar purchases, ultimately streamlining procurement processes.

The benefits of vendor consolidation include cost savings through discounts, improved pricing agreements, and reduced administrative overhead. It simplifies procurement operations, resulting in streamlined processes and quicker decision-making. Organizations can build more productive and collaborative relationships by working closely with fewer vendors, leading to higher service quality.

Vendor consolidation is a powerful strategy for organizations seeking to optimize their tail spend, reduce costs, and foster more efficient supplier relationships.

Create a centralized procurement process.

A centralized procurement process ensures uniformity and consistency across the business's purchasing procedures. Businesses can enforce consistent spending regulations, improve compliance, and speed up the purchase request approval process using a centralized approach.

A centralized system improves tail spend oversight, reduces the risk of unsanctioned spending, and enables effective tracking and reporting, all contributing to enhanced resource allocation. Businesses can obtain better control of tail spend, minimize process inefficiencies, and assure compliance with compliance standards and regulatory requirements.

Eliminate redundant spend

Tail spend frequently consists of redundant and unneeded expenses dispersed over multiple sources. Using robust spend management platforms will centralize the tail spend data, simplifying spend analysis and the detection of unnecessary spending.

Using automated tools to identify wasteful spending patterns and implementing clear spending limits is a smart way to prevent unauthorized expenses and reduce unapproved spending.

This simple method saves money and makes it easier to make well-informed financial decisions and manage expenses effectively. By eliminating unnecessary spending and ensuring efficient procurement practices, businesses can ensure that their spending aligns with their financial goals.

Tail spend management best practices

Here are some of the best Tail spend management practices to reduce Tail spend;

Use a Tail spend management software

Comprehensive spend management software can easily streamline your tail spend management process. Advanced capabilities such as automated data consolidation, real-time spend visibility, and detailed analytics provided by these platforms can help you get complete visibility over tail spend.

These solutions enable companies to make data-driven decisions and find areas for cost optimization and process enhancement. Integrations will reveal complete spend data, including tail spending, making cost optimization easier.

Image showing the benefits of using a spend management software

Here's how spend management software can help an organization reduce tail spend, check it out.

Cross-team collaboration

When different teams within an organization work together, it can lead to more streamlined and consistent procurement methods.

This collaboration helps simplify the buying process, reduce unnecessary duplicate orders, and strengthen the organization's negotiating position with vendors.

By fostering a teamwork and open communication culture, teams promote efficient spending and uncover strategic ways to save money. Particularly in the tail spend category, and put into action a unified approach to procurement.

This benefits the organization by reducing costs, especially in tail spend. It creates a more harmonious and coordinated environment where everyone works toward common procurement goals.

Create a cost-conscious culture

Creating a culture of financial cautiousness and accountability can greatly impact how your employees approach procurement.

Businesses can induce a sense of responsibility in their employees by providing training and educational resources. They can highlight the necessity of cost management, budget adherence and why following a standardized procurement process is important.

Promoting cautious spending and sticking to budget guidelines can lead to a more thoughtful procurement approach. This results in consistent cost savings and improved financial stability in the long run.

Enhance vendor relationships

Building healthy and collaborative relationships with vendors is essential for negotiating advantageous terms and gaining access to discounts.

Businesses can build trust and transparency with vendors by encouraging open communication and mutually beneficial engagement.

Building these partnerships allows organizations to leverage their negotiation expertise successfully. This results in favorable procurement conditions and long-term cost-saving opportunities.

Companies can make saving money easier and plan for the future by building strong, lasting bonds with reliable vendors.


Tail spend management can be challenging but can become a streamlined and productive process with the right tools and strategies.

CloudEagle, this SaaS management and procurement software, can double as your tail spend management solution. It assists businesses in tracking and managing SaaS spending, including tail spend.

With the complete SaaS visibility offered by CloudEagle, finance teams can easily identify tail spend, consolidate overlapping vendors, centralize the procurement process, and effectively manage tail spend with ease.

Talk to our experts to learn about tail spend management and how CloudEagle can help you streamline it.

Written by
Anam Qamar
Product Marketing Manager
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