When I first traveled to the UK and European markets to help with sales and marketing efforts for FreeMarkets back in 2000, I was not surprised to learn that like other technology areas, many of the countries and regions were a couple of years behind the US when it came to technology and process adoption -- not to mention an overall philosophy and commitment to Spend Management (versus simply transactional buying and purchasing). But on this recent trip, I came away quite surprised at how much things had changed in such a short period of time. Indeed, many European organizations are not only taking innovative approaches to Spend Management (e.g., multi-tier procure-to-pay systems in the construction market) -- they have committed to a culture of learning around overall procurement transformation and improvement.
No place was this more apparent than walking the floor at the eWorld procurement event. Unlike US events where, more often than not, vendors spend most of their time waiting to pounce on the few practitioners who wander into their demo and brochure booth areas, there were at least a few dozen private and public sector practitioners engaged in what appeared to be rather deep dialogue with the twenty or so vendors and consultants hawking their wares and applications. In fact, I often had to wait in line to talk to the providers -- something that rarely, if ever, happens at US trade shows.
This commitment to learning is exemplary in the more innovative approaches that some UK organizations are taking to Spend Management, from the complex allocation of risk in contracting to creative approaches to sustainability and negotiation. Granted, I'd still argue that their technology platform adoption lags the US market, but given the openness of the UK and European markets to consider new approaches, I have no doubt that they'll catch up. Fast.
- Jason Busch