Texting and Negotiation — As Dangerous as Driving and Talking on the Cell Phone?

Over on Charles Dominick's Purchasing Certification Blog, a recent entry suggests that as "communication methods have changed throughout history, negotiation has followed". He gives a bit of bartering history noting that, "prior to the industrial revolution, people would negotiate face-to-face when bartering, exchanging negotiated quantities of corn for negotiated quantities of musket balls". However, this behavior still exists today in places like Russia where, I once noted, "in the absence of a viable currency, bartering is the oldest form of trade and is the basic economic construct from which modern currency models were derived -- currency as economic common denominator” vs. goods.

But how does this get us to texting as a mechanism for negotiation communication as Charles suggests? Flash forward from his corn for musket ball example and move to a modern currency, the mobile phone, fax, tele- and video-conferencing and ultimately e-sourcing and optimization platforms and you see how we are communicating faster than ever before with trading partners, improving the way we share market feedback and allowing suppliers to respond both inside the box, not to mention outside of it with creative and counter offers. Charles opines that texting is logically the next negotiation tool because if you "stroll through any mall ... you're likely to bump into a few teens walking while staring intently at their cell phones as their thumbs flail away on the keypad in the process of texting [and] these are [the] future representatives of our suppliers".

Aside from numerous communication shortcomings in the texting format, Charles suggests that "when you need a simple response quickly (or want to create that illusion in order to gain pressured concessions from your suppliers), texting might fit the bill in some limited situations" and that ultimately, we should "never fight change when the writing is on the wall". All in all, a fascinating and thought provoking argument. Is it right? Heck no, not in my view, because I believe that going forward, we'll continue to force suppliers more and more to place offers and negotiate through online tools.

However, the interface will change to iPhone and Blackberry applications when we're on the road, or really anytime we're out of the office. So shorthand responses will emerge, but we'll deliver them -- and our suppliers will deliver them -- through specially designed mobile interfaces and applications. Simply put, we don't need to capture and manage yet another unstructured data format (e.g., SMS) in our diverse supplier information management needs. Best to take advantage of emerging mobile technology and tie all of the communications into a single platform regardless of a UI. Because as that very same generation who is so fond of texting gets money, they'll upgrade from cheap Nokia and Motorola handsets to Apple and RIM devices, operating environments where applications are simple, cheap and easy to use -- and offer a far richer and real-time information exchange experience than a simple SMS.

Jason Busch

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