The Song Remains the Same – So Why Can’t We Sing It?

As the world’s second oldest accepted profession (or is it the third as maybe astronomy came first, as we have examples of astronomy dating back 17,300 years), Purchasing should be well understood by now.

Even the first Purchasing Manual, The Handling of Railroad Supplies — Their Purchase and Disposition, written way back in 1887 by Marshall M. Kirkman and printed by Chas, N. Trivess, has the basic definition of the requirements of a purchaser down flat:

The purchase of goods embodies many varied talents and experiences. The ability to buy advantageously, depends largely upon the knowledge of men possessed by the purchaser and his skill in taking advantage of this knowledge. His value will, moreover, be dependent upon the discretion allowed him, and his judgment in exercising it. The position also requires technical skill. The person filling it must be experienced, otherwise his acts will not command the confidence or respect of his associates. His wisdom and fairness must be such that if he selects material contrary to the requisition made upon him, the person thus over-ruled will tacitly acquiesce therein and abide by the demonstration of its wisdom afterwards. (Pages 38 and 39).

Even though today we might write this paragraph as:

The purchase of goods requires talent and experience. The ability to take advantage of supply market dynamics depends on having the appropriate knowledge and the skill to take advantage of that knowledge. The ability to deliver value depends on having the discretion, and authority, to do so. The position also requires technical skill and the ability to use the tools, old and new, provided to the purchaser. Moreover, the purchaser must be experienced and skillful, otherwise others will not respect her decisions. Her wisdom much be such that if she selects new products or services than the ones the organization, and its employees, are used to, the organization, and employees, will understand that she made the best decision taking all of the information from all of the stakeholders, and suppliers, into account.

A few new words, but the same old wisdom. However, in addition to these few new words, now we have to deal with much more complicated words and a plethora of acronyms like:

  • ABC
  • ATP
  • B2C
  • CLM
  • DPO
  • EOL
  • FIFO
  • GRC
  • HIS
  • HTS
  • ITU
  • etc.

that will drive even the sanest of men mad as a hatter. In an effort to capitalize on a newly recognized opportunity, the consultancies have invented a new language to make the simple complex, and the practical improbable, and the vendors have followed suit. The only thing new since the introduction of the telephone is the platforms that exist to support you, powered by the internet and the latest advances in computing technology. So while most consultancies go on and on and on about EQ, you’ve always needed EQ, just like IQ, and the critical factor is TQ. Today’s purchaser requires much more than the ability to use a phone, keep a ledger, add some numbers, create a shipping schedule, and navigate trade law to succeed. Advanced analytics and optimization. Automated workflows and P2P automation. Complex cost modelling and CAD/CAM skills. Not your traditional everyday purchasing situation that existed before the information age.

So learn the tech, and your job will be a lot easier. And keep reading SI which will, as it has always done, continue to alert you to the technology platforms and skills that you need.