Algorithms Matter

OK, I admit it. The first word in the title of this entry is probably the least sexy grouping of four syllables in the English language -- if not any language. Even though I've spent much of my career living in numbers from a financial perspective, I was never a math whiz in university or secondary school. I got by, charming my professors and teachers in other ways (or not, as it sometimes worked out). Only if I had known at the time that I'd be spending my future analytically-focused career combining qualitative and quantitative analysis together! Alas, algorithms do matter, and I wish I had realized it during my formal education. Still, it's never too late to immerse oneself math.

Alan Buxton recently pointed out in his blog an Economist article from September that delivered a three-page briefing on algorithms for all of us who are not on professors in operations research. However, the briefing skimmed over optimization in supply chain decisions from a contract award perspective. Alan notes, "not only did The Economist fail to quote Michael Lamoureux, they didn't even mention procurement. To be fair they did mention supply chain, but supply chain attracted dramatically less words than even call centers did ." Hmmm ... perhaps optimization will have to come down from an elitist decision-support level from a procurement perspective, reaching the rest of us, before it goes mainstream and makes it into the business headlines. I see this as an opportunity more than anything else, and I reckon that if vendors such as CombineNet, Emptoris, Iasta, Verticalnet and Ariba can make more noise about the more basic elements of their optimization solutions and what they're capable of, then next time The Economist offers up a similar brief, that they won't overlook optimization in procurement.

Jason Busch

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