Author: Pete Loughlin

This week, Berlin hosted the 8th EXPP conference - the largest e-invoicing conference of this kind in the world. An eclectic mix of solution vendors, thought leaders and experts from no less than 36 countries, it's a melting pot where friendships are forged, partnerships positioned and, for a couple of days, commercial rivalries put to one side to advance the cause of common sense in business. EXPP isn't like most conferences. There are very few potential buyers and as a lead generation opportunity for solution providers it would not be considered a great success but the fact that exhibitors come back year after year speaks volumes for the value of the event.

Operating on a global basis can be tough. American companies trying to port solutions across the pond for example, find out very quickly that what works in the US does doesn't necessarily fit in Europe. Just because we speak the same language (almost) and just because we have a similar culture, doesn't mean the local idiosyncrasies can be ignored. And this is especially true with e-invoicing. The rules for e-invoicing are different from country to country. Even within the European Community where the rules are supposed to be the same - they're different. A global solution has to accommodate local needs. That's why it's good to see Tradeshift continue to grow globally by thinking local.

I once lived in a house with a large kitchen with a white tiled floor that was difficult to keep clean. Dark colored soles on shoes would leave unsightly marks and even the slightest spillage would stand out like a sore thumb. We quickly got used to it however and we learned to remove our shoes and clean it very regularly.  The downside of the white floor was that we needed to work hard to keep it clean. The upside was it was spotless. An operating theater in a hospital was no cleaner. You could have safely performed open-heart surgery in our kitchen. Most people don’t choose white floors or carpets especially if you have young kids or pets. Darker colors or patterns camouflage the reality of life and it’s easier to live with a few grubby marks if you can’t see them and it’s exactly the same when organizations specify their business technology solutions. They specify solutions that fit in with the realities of a complex set of business process and design a solution that fits in with that. And quite right too you may say but I’d disagree. Sometimes you need a white carpet solution.

Calling it an idiot’s guide is fairly safe. I’m unlikely to offend anyone. The fact that you’re reading this confirms you’re not an idiot. There has been some pretty high profile research into the power and effectiveness of social media. McKinsey estimate that it’s worth $1.3 trillion in terms of the extra value that the global economy can extract through it’s use. And we do see it used effectively. The B2C use case of viral marketing campaigns and the damage limitation campaigns (O2 deserves a medal for their recent success in managing the fallout from a network outage using twitter and, importantly, a sense of humour.) I spoke to Renette Youssef, CMO at Tradeshift recently about how they use social media as a powerful marketing tool. (You can listen to the podcast here). But how do individual professionals in procurement or finance use social media in a professional context? We see celebrities using social media all the time but as professionals, what value is there in sharing with our followers what we had for breakfast? And is it really a good idea to share pictures of your Friday night out?