e-Procurement Software

Ever since I read Hell’s Angels by Hunter S Thompson, I’ve always found the image of bikers compellingly attractive. And so I’ve not spared any cash when it comes to getting my own image right. When I’m wearing my black Rukka Merlin jacket with matching water-proof Gore-Tex, armored leather jeans and my Schuberth C3 Pro helmet with built in antennae, even though I say it myself, I look the business. All I need now is a bike. I remember from my teenage years, as I suspect will many others, the sad soul with the helmet and no bike. Pursuing the biker dream with not enough money for the full package, he missed the point. Having a helmet doesn’t make you a little bit of a biker. It makes you a little bit of an idiot. Making only a partial investment isn’t always an incremental step towards a complete solution. Often it’s a waste of money. And that’s what e-procurement is if it’s implemented in isolation – a complete waste of money.

Last week at EXPP I had the great pleasure of meeting Dave Wallis, Director Eastern Hemisphere (great job title) for OFS Portal. You could be forgiven for not knowing of OFS portal. OFS Portal is highly niche specializing exclusively in the Oil and Gas industry. In their own words it is a “group of diverse suppliers working together with a non-profit objective to provide standardized electronic information to B2B trading partners to facilitate e-commerce in upstream oil and gas products and services.” That is pretty specific but don’t let that mislead you in any way – there’s many industries outside of upstream oil and gas that could take a leaf out of their book. They are in many ways exemplars for purchase to pay and they’re now adding to their credentials by partnering with Tradeshift.

The first golden rule of business: "Thou shalt not committee". Decisions made by committee are compromises - almost by definition and in an attempt to satisfy everyone, no one is satisfied. Democracy is overrated. This is how the EU Commission does things, or at least it appears how to do things. We see it all the time. Discussions about e-invoicing standards and interoperability - recommendations to industry made by a mixture of biased vendors and the independent, self-appointed Messiahs of e-business. It's no wonder the rest of us look on in dismay at some of the misguided nonsense that emerges. And the timing? Decisions made by committee take an age. By the time decisions are made the world has changed and it’s back to square one. But it's not always like that

We live in transitional times. It was 50 years ago that Thomas Kuhn published “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” which introduced the world to the idea of the “Paradigm Shift” – a term since misappropriated and misused in many walks of life including business. Kuhn was referring to those moments in scientific understanding when the whole frame of reference shifts and the world is reinterpreted in a completely different way. The usual examples are the shifts in understanding brought about by Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and others.

For some reason, social media gives credibility to even the most suspect stories. Take a read of this article: How We Screwed Almost the Whole Apple Community. The authors drew a screw with a non-standard head. They emailed the drawing to themselves with a text suggesting (but providing no evidence) that it might be a leak from Apple and then posted a photo of the email and drawing on Reddit. They then waited to see what would happen. It took 12 hours for things to liven up. First, the Apple blog Cult of Mac reported ”Apple May Be Working On A Top Secret Asymmetric Screw To Lock You Out Of Your Devices Forever” and thereafter it went viral. The interesting thing for me was their analysis of the credulity of each successive wave of commentators as the story moved from Reddit to the IT press to bloggers to social media.

Shortly before I stopped working for Government I attended a particularly dispiriting conference. The theme was “Delivering More With Less”. I went to a session on “Re-engineering Government Procurement” and listened to assorted “experts” and senior figures claimed that the thing to do was to sort out procurement processes then hand it all over to SAP and Oracle. I could have thrown myself out of a high window had we not been on the ground floor. One speaker wondered out why things were so often going so badly in government despite their having invested in ERPs and there was a sense of bafflement when I asked if he had considered that things were going badly precisely because they were using ERPs.