Three ways that mobile is transforming procurement

Three ways that mobile is transforming procurement

New technologies always promise to disrupt – it’s nearly always hype or enthusiastic futurology manifesting itself as over excitement that hasn’t really been thought through. But it’s not always hype and it’s great to see optimistic expectations actually being delivered in the real world.

I tell you what you want what you really really want – Doritos!

It was 1995. Monica Lewinski was in the White House, Windows 95 was launched, the Spice Girls were becoming the biggest girl group ever and last but not least, the internet fridge was launched. Don’t believe the nouveau geeks who swear that the internet of things is something new. The Internet fridge has been breaking it’s promise to disrupt the world of chilled groceries for nearly two decades. It seemed like a good idea but no one really thought it through.

Many of us consider internet marketing to be intrusive. We shouldn’t complain. We know what the deal is it when we sign up for “free” services in the full knowledge we’re inviting the marketers into our inbox and onto our desktop. But if you thought internet marketing was intrusive, try inviting the marketers directly into your fridge to manage your snack inventory. You might believe you’re buying into the internet of everything but, believe me, let an internet fridge into your kitchen and within weeks it will be full of nothing but Tortilla chips and salsa dip.

Three ways that mobile is transforming procurement

Purchasing Insight logoSometimes though, the hype delivers. I don’t want to claim futurologist credentials but for many years I have quietly expected that mobile will be transformational in procurement and in just the last month or so I’ve seen some real examples that illustrate that that transformation is happening.

In terms of the concept, none of this is new. Like the internet fridge, these things have been talked about for years. The slideware about mobile technologies and procurement is mature – old hat even – but what is new is that it’s now happening for real out there in the field. It’s not making a song and dance – it’s just happening.

1. Mobile approvals

One of the perennial objections to properly controlled P2P processes is the challenge presented by emergency requirement. “How can we be expected to raise a P.O. when the office is flooded at the weekend?” “Preferred supplier? It was the only supplier who would come out and secure the warehouse at 2 in the morning.”

It seems like a fair objection but I was talking this week to a CPO who had recent experienced of just this type of situation. A large building on a University campus has burned to the ground and there was frantic activity to address what was a major incident. From a purchase to pay perspective, how did he cope with those circumstances? “It was easy” he said. “I simply asked that all requests for disaster recovery spend be routed to me and I’d see it was approved immediately. I was walking around the supermarket on a Saturday clicking ‘approve, approve’ on my iPhone.”

2. Spend analytics

If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say “I don’t even know what the organization spends its money on.” There are two main difficulties with spend analytics. Firstly the raw data just doesn’t exist or is so hard to pull together that it might as well not exist. The second is its transient nature. A spend report is out of date the moment it’s published and if it takes the best part of a month the collate and analyze the data in the first place, the best view you have of spend is a historic snapshot.

Tungsten spend analytics – you read that right – is different. It’s (virtually) real-time spend analytics based on electronic invoices received. That in itself is a big advantage because the analysis represents what is actually being spent rather than simply PO spend. But its real strength is what it makes a CPO feel like. The traditional way to feel like a CPO is to feel exposed. Clutching a spend report that is incomplete, historic and riddled with errors and contradictions, it takes great strength of character to face a board meeting and look like you know what you’re talking about. Contrast that with what it feels like to be armed with real time, complete and accurate data accessible on an iPad in the cab on the way to the board meeting.

Like mobile approvals this isn’t rocket science. Tungsten themselves wouldn’t claim the credit for the idea – indeed the idea of real time spend analytics isn’t earth shattering. It is the execution that’s impressive – the intelligent convergence of a few existing ideas and another example of a transformational change in procurement.

3. Deem

Deem re-launched their re-branded procurement suite a few weeks ago – we covered it here. There are a number of reasons why the procurement profession should be paying attention to Deem but there is one feature that stands head and shoulders above the others. Deem develops for mobile. Desktop is an add-on. That is as important as it is obvious. If you were to start with a blank piece of paper and designing a P2P and expense management suite today, you’d design it for the always-connected, BYOD generation of businesses. Deem are walking the walk on this.

I hear phrases all the time like: “Our guys are working on that”; “We have that in beta”; “Our next release will do that” or “Look at this video of what we think the world will look like” and I think to myself: “internet fridge”. Even if you can show me the product, it’s only impressive when you come across it in real life – just there, being used.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

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