Playbooks? Those Were the Good Old Days!

THE PROPHET Jason Busch recently posted about 50 Years of Pivots in Procurement where he stated that:

  • 1980s: Procurement is Supply (prioritize)
  • 1990s: Procurement is Sourcing (save)
  • 2000s: Procurement is Transactional (systematize)
  • 2010s: Procurement is Spend (manage)
  • 2020s: Procurement is Playbooks (rinse/repeat)
  • 2025 : Procurement is …

the doctor‘s first response to this: Playbooks? He wishes!

In the late 2000s and 2010s, the top Procurement consultancies had playbooks that had good processes, methodologies, and metrics that would help any organization not best in class out-of-the-gate because they were built on tried-and-true processes, analysis, and results that worked. They weren’t centered on just implementing tech for tech’s sake, trying to roll out Procurement for the masses (who didn’t want, or need, a full Procurement solution — just easy acquisition of the products and services [they were responsible for buying to do their jobs on a daily basis] in an organizationally compliant way), or implementing AI for the heck of it (because they over-invested in training their workforce on Gen-AI solutions that have no value).

But that’s not the worst of it. In the doctor‘s view, the worst of it is that

2025 Procurement at many organizations is (on the road to) “Consumer” (intake/orchestrate).

Procurement is now all about ensuring every single person in the organization can “buy” on their own from the catalog or preferred vendor with no real management as long as they have “budget”, “authority”, or it’s a “preferred vendor”.

That’s just transactional Procurement on steroids. (i.e. it’s 2000 all over again, we just survived Y2K, and we don’t know how to manage spend with tech … really?) Now, it’s true that getting Spend Under Management (SUM) is good if you do something with that Spend Under Management data, but this surely isn’t.

Why? First of all, if you talk to a real old timer who did Procurement in the 80s/90s about this “intake” or “orchestrate” phase and they’ll probably say they just don’t get it. As far as they are concerned, Procurement is supposed to be more strategic and focus on all encompassing processes, strategies, negotiations, etc. Not about trying to manage every single nickle-and-dime purchase in the organization. This is one of the leading reasons results (and costs) in most organizations are getting worse, and not better.

Secondly, see our recent post on how Marketplace Madness is Coming on how

  • “Pay For View” Intake makes no logical sense
  • “Solution Sprawl” Orchestration doesn’t make any logical sense either
  • when it comes to I2O, it’s “where’s the beef” and “where’s the market” [hint: not where most of the providers are looking]

Furthermore, the age old analogy applies here — they can’t see the forest for the trees. Nor can you manage it that way. If you spend too long trying to focus on each individual sick tree you come across, the sickness will spread and consume the forest. Sometimes you have to just cut and burn the tree.

In other words, the madness is taken us towards consumerism in Procurement, and it’s the wrong path! We need to get back to process-centric playbooks, and let the tech take back-stage, as the tech supports Procurement, it doesn’t do it, or solve it, on its own.