eProcurement Tools Aren't "Half-Assed" — Perhaps Their Users Are (Part 1)

It's an easy refrain to blame the arms merchants for the bullets that end up in child soldiers in Africa (the movie Lord of War portrays the life of one of the better known "merchants of death," featuring Nicolas Cage). But to truly end the violence you need to dig deeper. For example, recent Conflict Minerals Legislation (Dodd-Frank) aims to make profiting from the armed conflict in the region at the hands of child soldiers that much more difficult. While getting more from P2P systems is a far less important topic than saving the lives of boys (or anyone) fighting wars, I do believe the same analogy holds for who is ultimately responsible for a less-than-positive outcome of any sort. Hint: it's not the arms dealer's fault. He's simply filling a need in the middle of a broader controversy.

Stay with me here for a moment while I set the stage around the comments of another blogger. As much as I like and respect Pete Loughlin (and continue to count him as a friend, colleague, and one of my favorite bloggers in the sector), I think he's wrong on one key point in the recent humorously titled post World class or half-assed? The current state of e-procurement. In looking at responsibility for the failure of P2P systems, Pete argues that we should look harder at providers and their sales tactics. He observes: "The e-procurement vendors' sales and marketing material will tell a very different story [than P2P nirvana]. They'll explain how corporate purchasing could be but it won't tell you what, in 9 out of 10 cases, it is really like."

Unlike Pete, I think the blame for implemented P2P systems that have not lived up to their expectations lies almost entirely with procurement and IT organizations themselves, who historically would rather throw money at the problem rather than take the time to fully diagnose the challenges they face and the potential benefits of applying different solution types in their situation. I'd argue that when reckless spending on P2P hasn't lived up to expectations, it's a bit like giving money to a giant, conglomerate non-profit -- maybe you'll feel good about it, but who knows where it will go, and how much will be consumed in overhead along the way before it gets into the hands to benefit those who need it most.

Stay tuned as we continue to investigate this subject and mix our metaphors in an attempt to make some sense of why Pete's little blame game may elicit a chuckle but is a potentially dangerous stunt.

- Jason Busch

First Voice

  1. Pete:

    I’m always flattered when Jason comments on my blog articles even when he disagrees but in this case, I think we agree. There’s very little missing in terms of functionality from the main stream vendors, it the way they have been implemented that is the problem.

    I’m learning that typing on an iPhone when you hve lots to say is a bad idea so I’ll wait for part 2 to comment more

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