Spend Management Days: Toronto Bound

Last week, I gave the kick-off presentation for Ariba's Toronto Spend Management Days event. Incidentally, if you've never been to Toronto, you're missing out. It's a wonderful large city which reminds me quite a bit of Chicago, but with a style and flavor that is unique to Canada. I look forward to getting back again soon (heck, you can even find a Montreal-style bagel there).

While I modified my standard stump speech these days for the Ariba customer and prospect audience -- which can tend to be a bit more senior than many of the in-the-trenches sourcing practitioners that I so often enjoy talking to -- what struck me most about the audience and some of the feedback was the more conservative technology adoption nature in many Canadian companies. Now, this is not a bad thing. Especially in the Spend Management world given the lessons we can all learn -- which I'll get to in a minute -- from those who plunged into the Spend Management technology world head first. Still, it's clear that many companies in Canada are leaving money on the table.

But what are they gaining from being conservative technology adopters? For one, they can look at the mistakes of others in their respective industries, learning from the challenges that many companies have faced from both a process and technology standpoint in Spend Management technology implementations. Consider how many companies have spent millions on eProcurement systems only to implement a dozen -- or few dozen -- suppliers at best, representing only a small minority or spend. Or think about the billions of identified e-sourcing savings which have gone unimplemented over the years -- and often not for lack of trying.

But perhaps most important of all, those companies who are just getting started on their Spend Management technology journey can do so by making the right set of investments in the best possible order. And that means putting spend visibility ahead of other initiatives, as well as taking into account both the "procure" and "pay" side of procure-to-pay -- often times the payment side is overlooked at first, but can deliver significant returns while improving compliance and controls along the way.

Given the advantages of waiting, perhaps those slower moving organizations are not at such a disadvantage. But the time to catch up is now. Those who delay investments any longer will fall behind their peers, sacrificing savings while facing regulatory and shareholder scrutiny for failing to implement procurement controls and processes. Even for laggard and late majority organizations, no longer will engaging a consulting firm to conduct periodic strategic sourcing projects cut it. It's time to get serious, just as Bell Canada and others have about catching up -- and even passing -- their global peers.

Jason Busch

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