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Procurement - don't be the "Ken" of your organisation

30th September, 2014

Arriving on the only day of rain in September, I was only too glad to leave the drenched streets and squelch into the foyer of the QEII Exhibition Centre, Westminster – venue of the 26th eWorld conference last week.


But despite the morning rain, the conference had a nice buzz, and the new exhibitor layout felt right this year – with plenty of exchange between vendors, partners and attendees. APN went to a few breakout sessions – all well attended and mostly well received. However, I did speak to a couple of Heads of Procurement at lunch who felt that there could have been more hands-on demonstrations of exactly how the technology, talked about in the sessions, worked. But - it’s impossible to please everyone – and having some practical demonstrations available at the stands, seems to be a good compromise.


But perhaps it’s just that some groups of people are more difficult to please than others, or maybe those in procurement and finance come at things with an analytical or more critical mind-set. Certainly that’s what Toby Munyard, VP Efficio Consulting felt was something Procurement professionals should be aware of. Procurement has the capacity to help businesses find their way, he said – but often they’re met with resistance, and sometimes that's because they’re seen as the people who present problems.


Using poor Ken Livingstone as an example – Munyard said that Procurement professionals need to guard against being seen as the “Ken” of the organisation. After the Olympic bidding process, essentially you could see his role in terms of a mega procurement process – so while others jumped for joy in a successful bid, Livingstone touched his chin in solemn thought. Not because he wasn’t happy – but because his thoughts went immediately to the practicalities of procuring everything to make sure the production would run. Munyard pointed out that it’s possible to counter that, by instead of using something like regulation or control as a halt to C-level exec decisions, they should use the data at their disposal to offer processes for better business outcomes.


But how do you implement that kind of process and cultural change in an organisation? Well, the guys at Invu (partners of ABBYY) seemed to have it down to a tee. General consensus in the room seemed to recognise that any technology implementation seemed to go through what they called a “valley of despair”. Something which roughly translates as the period of time after the anticipation of a new shiny solution implementation has rubbed away, but before the true realisation of the solution’s expected ROI and outcomes. The key to controlling that hinges on doing your homework in the initial stages, and simple as it may seem – accurately outlining why you want to change. Organisations need to define their measures of success.


And as Stuart Evans, CTO Invu , held up an invoice, complete with a rubber stamp “sent by email” on it – it seemed to me that despite being the 26th year of the eWorld conference, some organisations must still be left wondering what that “e” is all about…