Purchasing Insight

Purchase to Pay, Purchasing & Procurement Process, Electronic Invoicing

Browsing Posts published by Ian Burdon

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…

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…

I had the pleasure of attending the formal launch of “Electronic Invoicing, the next steps towards digital government” on 30 April.

The report is a welcome indication of the seriousness with which the issue is taken in government. It is also a sensible document which does not fall into the trap of underestimating the complexities of the subject. I particularly liked that, although it favours some form of overt or covert mandating of eInvoicing, it does not mandate any particular technical means of achieving this.

Inevitably, when reading the document, questions arise and I explore a couple of them here. These are not intended to be criticisms of the work of the inquiry team, more ‘thoughts occasioned by’ the document and also as indications of some of the difficult issues facing them. continue reading…

The great American commentator and satirist Jim Boren (1925 – 2010) long ago coined the term ‘Dynamic Inactivity’ to describe a form of bureaucratic behaviour which we all recognise. Dynamic Inactivity is defined as the devitalisation of ideas by the promulgation of ‘viable concepts’ and ‘action plans’ which serve to mask the underlying formulation of ‘inaction concepts’. For Boren, Dynamic Inactivity means doing nothing, but doing it with consummate bureaucratic style.

Perhaps the greatest disappointment in public sector eCommerce in the last decade and a half has been dynamic inactivity. Lots has happened: millions of Euros have been spent on policy development, technical studies, conferences and analysis, economic analysis, standards setting, monitoring, recommending and blah, blah, blah. In reality, f*** all has actually happened of any significance. continue reading…

I attended the round table event on e-invoicing in London on the 9th December and I shared some thoughts on the event here. I want to share a few more thoughts, but this time I want to look at the way the debate is framed technically.

I have previously criticised PEPPOL for being far too rooted in technology rather than business. I am not alone in making that comment although I seem to have my head above the parapet more often. A similar sense washed over me at the roundtable, partly from the contributions from the European Commission and Open PEPPOL but also from other industry insiders there.

My feeling is that there is an industry agenda in play here, an agenda which ignores business realities. The impetus is to seek a ‘solution’ which ticks all the boxes of the industry ivory tower whereas if we really want eInvoicing to gain traction we need to look at what is already working in the market and at what participants actually want. continue reading…

Recently I had the pleasure of being with both Pete Loughlin and Peter Smith of Spend Matters Europe at an eInvoicing roundtable event in London on 9 December. The event was both enjoyable and frustrating.

Before I share some reflections on the event and to avoid any doubt, I say immediately that I support the use of eInvoices – but I am also sceptical about the way in which the debate is being framed.

One of the oft-repeated assertions during the roundtable was that the business case for e-invoicing as an activity in its own right is “overwhelming”. One commenter from the floor said at least twice that the government is “sitting on” several £billion in benefits which, I presume we were to infer, would be available if only the UK Government would adopt eInvoicing.

I do not believe this to be the case, at least in the terms it was presented. continue reading…

A couple of articles ago I mentioned the EU’s draft Directive on eInvoicing. It is a sensible document. However it has some problems which raise important questions.

The core problem is that the reasoning in the Explanatory Memorandum to the draft is flawed. This is not just grumpy pedantry but something fundamental.

continue reading…