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How can a banjo frailing ballad singer in Appalachia operate a more modern business model than a government department? Imagine that I am a finance director in the UK with personal tastes which run to “roots” music. Even for relatively obscure artists in any genre and any country, I will probably be able to find a website either for them or a distributor and buy their music directly as a cd or as a download. I will pay with my credit or debit card and get my cd a week later or my download almost immediately. The artist will get paid relatively quickly and pay a merchants fee which they will have factored into their original pricing. What I will not do is raise a requisition for the cd, have it approved and then issued to the artist, create and issue a goods received note when the item is delivered and approved, match the ensuing (paper) invoice against the receipt and the order and then promise the artist that I’ll instruct my bank to pay them 30 days thereafter. Yet, when I go into work the next morning, guess which process I will insist that my organisation uses?

Today, we're delighted to welcome a post from Ian Burdon, Director of Strategic Business Development, Elcom International, Inc. It’s 2012. We’ve mapped the human genome - been to the moon and back and lost interest in it – and discovered graphene, a fourth carbon allotrope that will transform engineering. Yet when it comes to business processes and conventions, it’s hard to distinguish what we do today from the practices in renaissance Italy. Pete’s post of 14 June “World Class or Half Assed” struck several chords for me but, for now, I’d like to consider only one of them. Particularly resonant was the idea of e-procurement software being designed for the professionals in the system rather than end-users.

I can buy something from amazon in just a few clicks. I feel confident that I’m getting a good price and I feel safe because the product I’ve selected has good reviews. The whole amazon experience has encouraged millions to change the way they shop. The purchasing process (as we like to think of it – it is more accurately a sales process), has been refined and iterated over the years, so what’s gone wrong with the B2B version – e-procurement? The e-procurement vendors’ sales and marketing material will tell a very different story. They'll explain how corporate purchasing could be but it won’t tell you what, in 9 out of 10 cases, it is really like.

Don't tell me your solution is ERP agnostic. I’m a believer in my ERP system and I want to deal with fellow believers. I don’t want to hear that you sit on the fence. It’s a familiar dilemma for vendors. They’d like to please everyone – be all things to all men - or women for that matter. Sales people are always asking product development teams for more functionality, new connectors, compatibility with new standards and so on in order to be compatible with all possible scenarios. So being ERP agnostic – from the vendors point of view – seems like a good thing. Right?

The more I look at the proposed acquisition of Ariba by SAP, the less sense it makes. SAP didn't need the functionality. They didn't need the brand. The Ariba shareholders will clearly be pleased to see this deal go through but what, I wonder, would an SAP sales guy be thinking and what would Ariba's competitors be making of it all?

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