Purchasing Insight

Purchase to Pay, Purchasing & Procurement Process, Electronic Invoicing

Browsing Posts published by Ian Burdon

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…

On 8 October 2013 the Aswad Composite Mills factory, in Gazipur, outside Dhaka in Bangladesh burnt down. Seven workers were killed and a further fifty were injured in the fire. As newspaper reports state, the fire came soon after eleven hundred workers had been killed in a blaze at the Rana Plaza factory, a tragedy which led to more than ninety High Street retailers reaching an accord to ensure fire and safety inspections at their suppliers’ premises. The Aswad Composite Mills were not amongst those to be inspected because they were not perceived to be in the direct supply chain of the Western retailers.

I thought of these tragedies when reading the draft Directive on public procurement regarding use of “life cycle costs” in assessment procedures. I am aware of the possibility of bathos in that sentence – I was reflecting on the very real human cost of supply chain decisions the further one looks back through the tiers. continue reading…