Functionality fetishism

Functionality fetishism

There’s a Venn diagram on which I sit near Jason Busch. Many of our views, some of our backgrounds and parts of experience overlap. But it’s not an exact match and the difference is illustrated by Jason’s piece commenting on my view that many, if not most e-procurement implementations are “half assed”.

Purchasing Insight logoI think Jason misinterpreted my argument slightly. I actually think we are mostly in agreement. The leading e-procurement vendors, in terms of the functionality they offer, have for over a decade been capable of delivering great improvements to procurement organization.  But the vision wasn’t delivered for a variety of reasons – sometimes, as Jason says, because money has been thrown at the problem instead of proper considered evaluation or, on the contrary, lack of follow-through investment that leaves catalogue data to rot on the vine and render the program worthless.

But Jason and I do look at the situation from slightly different perspectives and the nuances of these perspectives can lead us to different conclusions – both, I should point out – equally valid.

I don’t know of a more respected analyst when it comes to the field of procurement technology than Jason Busch. A few months ago, I picked the phone up to Jason and asked his opinion on e-procurement usability. Without any advance warning of the question he was able to reel off a detailed and current analysis of the tools available today and their relative strength. His rapid response to the SAP Ariba acquisition was as expert as it was insightful and as a speaker he can give a scintillating ad lib talk.

I’ve spent the last 20 or so years inside organizations designing and implementing business solutions that utilize purchase to pay technology. I’ve taken a great deal of interest in the technology vendors but I’m as interested in how technology implementations are executed and the real and actual business benefits that get delivered as I am in the polished promises peddled by the vendors.

In some quarters, especially in the analyst community, there’s a functionality fetish. An excitement about all the bells and whistles and what technology can do. But it’s an excitement that is pointless if the functionality doesn’t fit the real world and real people, real laws, real culture, real politics – can all conspire to make the best functionality in the world fail.