Purchasing Insight

Purchase to Pay, Purchasing & Procurement Process, Electronic Invoicing

One of the issues that procurement professionals complain about is respect. Or status. “Procurement isn’t taken seriously”. “They only involve us when things get difficult”. It’s a very common issue for procurement in many organizations. I’ve seen it at it’s most extreme in financial services where procurement is so far removed from core business that it really is difficult, for what is considered by many as the the most boring of back office functions, to be taken seriously at a strategic level.

But is this really any different from any other part of business? Perhaps procurement people need to take a look in mirror and frankly, get over themselves. continue reading…

For my sins, I have been looking at the NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation – Metadata, the opening two paragraphs of which read:

The NHS Procurement Atlas of Variation has been developed to deliver greater transparency by comparing the prices paid by different trusts for the same types of products.

This will allow trusts and their suppliers to understand where better value is available and then act on this information to reduce costs (my emphasis).

Discontent with the Atlas has been well documented and I don’t need to rehearse those arguments here. What surprised me was that, even now, after all of the improvements in public procurement in recent years, the DoH could issue a procurement policy document that treated price, value and cost as synonyms and expect to be taken seriously.

This is an antediluvian notion, that procurement is about securing the best (usually lowest) price and nothing else. It is not. continue reading…

It’s not quite a revolution. No-one is fighting in the streets but the world is changing. For decades – indeed centuries, banks have wielded a power over business and the wider economy that was virtually unquestioned. The effect wasn’t always negative of course. It is hard to see how the economic growth of the 20th century could have happened without these institutions. But neither was it all good. There are anomalies in the way the economies of the western world operate  - there are unintended consequences, winners and losers. The fluctuations that occur in our economies are exploited by the banks who have a privileged central position and their actions can amplify the ups and downs in exchange rates, interest rates and stock prices. These accentuated aberrations can be very damaging to economies, businesses and individuals. But there is one aspect of the way our economies have run that hasn’t fluctuated and has always been pretty consistent – you never see a poor banker.

But now there’s a change in thinking. Some of the anomalies that we see – in particular the unfair playing field that exists between wealthy businesses and their smaller suppliers – are now being seen as unacceptable. Extending payment terms in order to optimize cash flow is a good thing only if you take a very isolationist view – if you see self-interest as the only thing that matters. If you take a wider view, you see that delayed payment hurts vulnerable suppliers, it pushes prices up and can damage an economy – at the very least it does nothing to help an economy that is on it’s knees and struggling to get back on its feet. This is why there’s been a change of thinking and ironically, it is the banks we can thank for the change. continue reading…

We’re in the middle of August and there are two unusual things about the summer in the UK. Firstly, we’re having one and secondly, we haven’t seen the scandalous use of purchasing cards in public sector exposed.

I’ve been looking out for the story that emerges every year about the £1 billion spending spree that public sector workers go on each year. Apparently, they use “state credit cards” to fund all manner of things like “taxi rides” and “business lunches”. Food from Marks and Spencer is often quoted as the disgraceful example of a waste of taxpayers money. Daily Mail readers from all over the UK are aghast: “Food from Marks and Spencer! I wish I could afford to feed myself at M&S.” continue reading…

No PO No Pay is often thought of a means to “train” suppliers providing them with a somewhat negative incentive to comply with their customer’s purchase to pay processes. “No PO No Pay No Exceptions” – I’ve said it myself – but in practice not only does it not work, it’s directing effort in the wrong direction. continue reading…

As we enter the silly season, here’s a great idea from Ian Burdon.

I have pretty much stopped looking at my “business” Twitter feed. This isn’t because of general disaffection with social media – I also have a “civilian” Twitter account full of music and authors and beer that I keep a regular eye on. No, it is because of the endless flood of nonsense relating to procurement and e-procurement that tracks across my screen.

I understand why this has happened. There is a marketing mantra that you should issue (x) number of tweets per day or per week, without regard to whether they have any meaningful content. Also blogs and journals need to maintain a steady flow of stories to stay at the forefront of their readers’ minds. The confluence of these and other streams overflows onto the Twitter floodplain and leaves everything soggy and somewhat smelly.

And there is the rest: the incessant self-aggrandisement; the business-as-usual presented as if a disruptive triumph of innovation; and the strings of abstract nouns, opaque in their individual meaning, gibberish when strung together like a charm bracelet, that remove rather than enhance communication. continue reading…

It’s reckoned that more than 50% of businesses employ between 2 and 5 people to prepare and create procurement dashboards and spend reports. This was revealed just recently as an output to some research performed by Rosslyn Analytics but it will come as no surprise to many procurement professionals. And it’s not just the excessive time and resource that is dedicated to the collation of the numbers that is problematic, the accuracy of these dashboards and reports is often appalling. continue reading…