As long as it doesn’t go app crazy. For years the doctor has been hearing about how mobile is the next big thing in Procurement, and even though mobile hasn’t really caught on, now a handful of vendors are staring to talk about how apps are the next big thing in Procurement. This is a bit ridiculous. When it comes to Procurement, there’s not an app for that. Can you really get market intelligence from an app? Can you really do spend analysis in an app? Can you really do should cost modelling in an app? Think about what “apps” on your “smart”phone really do. Take a few notes. Convert a few units. Play a simple game. Check your bank balance. Store your boarding pass. Simple, discrete tasks. Nothing about strategic sourcing or enterprise Procurement is app friendly.
But enough ranting. Today’s post is about how B2B can learn from good B2C technology. In particular, how B2B can learn from B2C for:
- total purchase cost calculation
- order and requisition management
- collaboration management
These days, thanks to a number of web sites, consumers are becoming smarter when it comes to analyzing the total costs associated with big purchases like cars and houses as a number of sites, including AAA/CAA and BoA/CMHC, have calculators that allow the buyer to understand the total cost of buying, and maintaining, the vehicle or house they are considering including taxes, insurance, and other incidental costs. These consumers, who are not experts in car or house buying are using templates built by people who are experts to do total cost calculations.
B2B Procurement can learn from this and create sourcing and procurement platforms that come with built-in cost model templates for common categories of direct goods and RFX templates that can be used in sourcing common indirect categories to ensure that the organization asks the right questions, collects the right costs, and makes the right decision. The reality is that across an industry, indirect spend categories are common and there’s no reason that an organization can’t source a solution with pre-built templates for the common indirect categories it sources, which will likely constitute 90%+ of indirect spend. Unless the category is high-dollar, there’s not much point paying a large amount of money to a third party organization, even if the third party is an expert, because it is not likely that the savings will be enough to justify the cost. For most indirect categories, this is likely to be the case.
In 2009, AMR did a study that found that, in an average organization, 30 cents to 40 cents of every negotiated dollar of savings never hit the bottom line. There are a number of reasons for this which include, but are not limited to expedited shipping, volume increases, and maverick spend. In many cases, the biggest culprit is the latter — maverick spend. Maverick spend typically happens because a purchaser is unaware of a contract, unaware of how much it costs to buy off contract, or frustrated with the difficulty of buying on contract with current systems. (It can also be the case that the purchaser doesn’t care because they’re not in Procurement, but this usually isn’t the case.)
This situation can easily be rectified by incorporating some features of best-of-breed consumer shopping technology, such as that employed by Amazon.com, that not only allow a buyer to find the product or service they need, but see which of those are on contract. In other words, just like a search on Amazon.com can find all instances of that book you want, and, if you desire, only show you those eligible for Prime, a Procurement platform that enables a buyer to find all instances of a product they are searching for in an integrated catalog that contains all products and services available from approved vendors — whether in a punch-out site, an online database, or an offline catalogue (maintained by Procurement) — and see which of those are on contract can enable on-contract requisitions and purchase orders. Plus, since it will be easier to buy on-contract than to buy off-contract, there will be a lot less circumventing of the system.
And when it comes to collaboration, B2B can actually learn from best-of-breed professional, and even social, networks and communication platforms. For example, Linked-In not only allows a user to post their resume and connect to fellow professionals, but it also allows them to join discussion groups that allow them to post relevant information on a topic and comment on it. And sites such as join.me and Webex allow for real-time virtual meetings and collaboration.
Incorporating these types of technologies into a Procurement Project Management program allows for collaboration to not only take place on line, but all collaborative communications to be maintained and archived in the platform. This not only helps with conflict resolution, but it goes a long way to preventing disputes in the first place as the platform captures all communications and allows each party to see what it agreed to.
B2B technology can be improved by taking the best B2C innovations and appropriately incorporating them into B2B platforms, but it has to be done intelligently. Not all consumer technology is B2B appropriate, especially if it was designed for C2C purposes, and apps are prime example. However, as it has historically been the case that many innovations start in the consumer space, it’s no surprise that B2B can be improved by appropriating appropriate consumer technologies. It just has to be the right technologies appropriated in the right way and put to the right use.