The third scenario for our procurement predictions for the next decade focuses heavily on a single topic, one that we cover on these virtual pages extensively: technology. Spelled out, the scenario is still simple: Technology Proves More Than Transformative. Yet how this scenario plays out may in fact prove as disruptive and chaotic as any potential procurement path. During any period of punctuated equilibrium, there are those that can adapt and those that fall off the pace, dropping out of the pack entirely. Here at Spend Matters, we believe that current social and web-based world that is taking shape will look very different in only a few years. And without question, emerging enterprise applications, mobile computing, social "intelligence" and technology democratization will change the possibilities (and priorities) of procurement.
Even how we interact with technology will continue to change. Here, the medium will be as important as the actual interface -- desktop, notebook, tablet, phone or reader/pad included. From an interface perspective, we believe that voice and video will become as critical as text for communication. This is one of the reasons that you'll see us continue to invest in increasing levels of video and voice-based content over time here at Spend Matters and our affiliate sites. For suppliers, we believe that video monitoring of production activity, even down to the line or machine level, will become much more commonplace as a means of not only of assuring quality, but reducing risk by enabling system-based pattern recognition and operational efficiency tools to continuously modify and tweak behaviors. The ubiquity of video will also change how we engage our suppliers and internal stakeholders, moving us into a world where physical and virtual face time (with a hat-tip to Apple) becomes more interchangeable -- and frequent.
Medium aside, we think mobile and location-based services will prove highly transformative, eventually making it hard to separate out application capability from content and intelligence. It's our belief that while we've seen the early instantiations of mobile technology applied in a range of source-to-pay applications to date including eProcurement approvals, contract management/signing and tactical buying, we've yet to see the real power of mobile take off. Here, we believe not only will mobile applications and mobile-browser supported applications become ubiquitous for an increasing number of routine tasks (e.g., reporting on category results, tracking commodity indexes linked to total cost break-downs, transactional approvals) but that location-based procurement services will spring up very rapidly starting in 2012 and beyond.
These might take the form of location-based push discounts for certain vendors or merchants (e.g., while traveling to a city or at an airport) that are approved and recommended for corporate use. And they'll also take the form of smart travel, T&E and related applications for frontline users to steer them to being compliant in a manner that makes their life easier (i.e., they'll actually want to use the tools provided to them). Moreover, as location-based applications tie more closely into business social networks (both social extranets and social intranets inside companies as among partner), we'll likely see our devices alert us (and others), provided the proper set of permissions are enabled, of certain areas we might want to probe on during a visit to a supplier.
For example, let's say that we've retained a group like Achilles to manage our direct supplier management compliance activities, including scorecarding, auditing and reporting. When one of the supplier auditors from Achilles goes on-site to conduct an audit, the real-time inputs into an application by the auditor could spark immediately qualifying questions from the members of the buying community that are part of the group collectively auditing the supplier in question. Some of this may even be location centric -- e.g., extra time spent auditing part of a facility could flag members of the community and prompt additional workflows and questions. Moreover, news headlines coming in about a vendor or real-time quality metrics coming from source-systems could also push the auditor in new directions while onsite.
In the second part of this post (Part 4 - B), we'll geek out, covering the types of enabling technology (i.e., systems, architecture, stack) that will matter most for this scenario.