Since the 1980s, globalization of supply and demand has reshaped our markets in successive waves. Today, global sourcing, procurement, acquisitions, and supply chain management have become keys for many organizations to competitive delivery of their products and services. Sourcing is now sufficiently specialized and complex to deserve its own function in large organizations, and has its own graduate degrees. Pralahad and Krishnan’s The New Age of Innovation (2008), is a good study of the value of a global approach to talent and resource acquisition, and even to innovation contracting. Early in his career Steve Jobs at Apple developed a strong talent in global sourcing and cost management to complement his product innovation and marketing skills. Read Isaacson’s Steve Jobs (2011), for an excellent account of perhaps the greatest product futurist of recent times.
Wal-Mart famously developed a sourcing edge in the 1990s with a more automated supply chain management (SCM) system, better predicting the needs of each store based on local buying habits, and effectively driving global suppliers to lower costs at scale. Full featured ERP and SCM systems, previously the domain of chains, are now becoming available to small independent, in cloud implementations. Even small mom and pop businesses can use platforms like oDesk and eLance (8 million freelancers combined in their 2014 merger) to source talent globally, on a project-by-project basis, providing edges to organizations that can manage virtual operations and talent sourcing. Sherman’s Supply Chain Transformation (2012) gives a great intro to best practices in sourcing management. Sourcing was historically a subset of operations, and so the foresight functions of that department (Product, Service & Project Management and Quality) seem most relevant to this new department, though others can also be helpful in many contexts.