Daily Archives: July 25, 2007

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Stastics is Wrong. Dead Wrong!

Over on Supply Excellence, Tim Minihan posted a VERY SERIOUS piece entitled Purchasing is Dead. (And Other Conspiracies.) that calls to light the recent injustice of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to supply and spend management professionals everywhere! It’s so devastating, that I asked for kind permission to re-post Tim’s original blog post in its entirety, since I do not have the time to dig into the atrocity contained within today. I encourage you to read this post in its entirety and take the action he suggests. Thank you!

As proof that you can’t believe everything you read, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that overall employment for purchasing and supply managers is expected to “grow slower than the average for all occupations through the year 2014.”


  • Don’t tell that to the VP of Procurement and Operations at a Massachusetts-based manufacturing company I met with last week. He was griping “I can’t find people with the right talent fast enough.”
  • Or the U.K.-based procurement executive that worried that his veteran team lacked the skill set required to compete in today’s global and technology-proficient marketplace: “Many of our [supply management] team have been doing purchasing a certain way for decades. They are uncomfortable with adopting new processes and systems. I am concerned about driving adoption.”
  • And certainly keep it a secret from the hordes of CPOs that have sounded the alarm on talent poaching occurring in their ranks.

In fact, in a recent study of top purchasing and supply management executives, Aberdeen Group outright refutes BLS’ claims, reporting that ” top CPO’s rank recruiting, training, retaining, and aligning their organizations as their #1 goals.” (Download a free copy of the full report here.)

BLS’ errors don’t stop there. The government agency goes on to wrongly report that “demand for purchasing workers will be limited by improving software.” On the contrary, every recent study on supply management employment trends reports that technical skills and experience implementing, managing, and using procurement and supply management software are among the most in demand. (Listen to Professor Joseph Carter of Arizona State University and the Center for Advanced Purchasing Studies’ views and advice on the supply management talent issue.)

Pulled from 2004 assessments, the overview makes working in a salt mine seem more attractive than joining the purchasing ranks. (Although, BLS is positive about working conditions for purchasing employees, stating that “most work in comfortable offices.”) Case in point: the agency’s stats for purchasing compensation is also way off the mark when compared to recent annual salary surveys from ISM and Purchasing magazine. BLS reports the average purchasing/supply management salary at $72,450 while the Purchasing survey found it to be $83,205 and the ISM survey found it to be $88,380.

BLS’ assessment is not only wrong, it casts the entire purchasing and supply management discipline in a bad light. (And just as the C-suite is beginning to recognize the critical importance of the function.) With the purchasing getting such a bad rap as a career choice, the talent crunch in this sector will only get worse.

What can you do? In addition to improving your recruitment, training, and retention approaches, write or call the Bureau of Labor Statistics and demand they correct this egregious mistake. The agency has a special “hotline” set up to field “complaints concerning information quality.” And, when it comes to their 411 on purchasing there is a serious quality issue.

Lodge your complaint via e-mail: dataqa@bls.gov. Be sure to identify the information quality issue (see above), how it is negatively impacting your organization (ditto), and provide references on how the data can be improved (double ditto).

Your action can help secure the continued growth and enhance the profile of the purchasing and supply management profession!

Thanks Tim for this great piece of investigative work and bringing this injustice to the profession to light!

The Coupa Sunflower Starts to Blossom

Coupa, who just hosted their first webinar, is still heads down in their quest to make their enterprise e-Procurement application better and better by the day, and still succeeding. Now covering the full order management cycle from requisition to two-or-three way reconciliation, the only thing it doesn’t do yet, at a basic level, is payments. However, you can export your purchase orders, invoices, and goods receipts to an XML, or CSV, file and integrate into your e-Payment system that way. It even has the option to track tax codes, which will simplify you tax reclamation processes. They have begun directing mid-size organizations to their hosted e-Procurement
application as well, as they build up to a rumored major announcement
slated for early September.

For a product that’s been out of the gate for less than a year, it’s come a long way. With it’s built-in basic RFP capabilities, which will soon support direct supplier entry of relevant bid and product information in addition to the e-mail based interface it already supports, you have the option of starting with an RFX or a purchase order (template). When the order arrives, you can generate a goods receipt for three-way matching, and the system can be configured to automatically send the buyer a notice when an invoice is submitted if they haven’t confirmed receipt of the goods or service.

And you don’t have to take my word for it anymore – you can ask for
references from one of their clients if you feel it’s necessary. But with their low price point, you might just consider buying it to try it. Coupa has adopted the low-cost per-user model made popular by SalesForce, SuccessFactors, and others. Their ultimate goal, for larger organizations, is a price-point less than some organizations are still paying for their e-mail inboxes. Speculation on pricing from nervous e-Procurement competitors continues, but I have it on very good sources an average organization can expect per-seat pricing of slightly less than $40 per user per month (with a minimal commitment) – or not much more than the cost of hosted e-mail and calendar functions with IT support for many organizations – for a fully featured e-Procurement system.

Plus, unlike hosted behind-the-firewall solutions, you get updates and constant improvements for free. Coupa intends on releasing a series of minor updates to their solution between now and the fall, when the next major version of their enterprise platform will likely be released. What can you look for? Although an update schedule has not been finalized, since Coupa believes on implementing commonly requested feature first, you can expect streamlined payment system integration, more built-in reporting, and more pre-enabled punch-outs in the coming months. Add this to their newly completed filter-based budget reporting, enhanced approval workflows (with approval limits), tolerance-based invoice matching, multi-currency support (including the ability to integrate with the Bank of New York exchange rate web-service on a regular basis), improved survey and template creation, and extremely-fine grained roles-based security (with template support), and the solution footprint has considerably improved.

So, if you’re looking for an e-Procurement system, be sure to check it out. You might just find what you’re looking for. And when it comes to constant improvement, you can be sure they’re going to Coup-at-it