My Procurement Horror Story is a Recurring Nightmare

My procurement horror story for today is a recurring nightmare. It’s one that I’ve lived as a procurement consultant. And it’s one that I’ve lived through being married to a metals trader doing import/export with suppliers in countries where both language and cultural barriers come into play. And it's a nightmare I live through as a small business owner, when working with our vendors.

The nightmare doesn’t include zombies. Or ghouls, ghosts, and skeletons. Nor does it involve the corpses of suppliers who have been beaten up with a hammer into a pulp of reverse auction mania. No, my story is much less gory and interesting than that.

But it’s an important one, however mundane and repetitive it might be.

Specifically, my nightmare involves the serious disconnect between buyers and suppliers in understanding not only suggested specifications, but also how a supplier might be able to provide a better alternative. Just yesterday, I was dealing with our incumbent webinar and web conferencing provider. When we wanted to add additional users, they sounded like they were going to fleece us based on the cost relative to upstarts that would love a shot at our business.

But after 10 minutes of discussion on the phone with our rep, I realized that their “bid” was incorrect and not based on what we wanted. Furthermore, it was based on their interpretation of what we told them in writing. However, comparing apples to apples in this case would be all but impossible, given the significant changes in their offerings and competitors recently in this fast moving market. Adding to the nightmare, it turns out that the ideal solution we could use from this provider is not necessarily one the rep can even sell to us and add to our master services agreement – it’s only available online!

Most online negotiation tools – be they RFX suites or advanced sourcing products – do not solve the problem of buyer/supplier communication. Nor do they enable suppliers to truly collaborate with customers in the spirit of coming up with a creative solution to the specification or need at hand (which is one reason why companies fail to implement material amounts of savings from sourcing efforts involving non-incumbent suppliers).

In my case, it just so happens the only time this recurring nightmare ends for me is when I wake up from the dream and find myself on the phone with the supplier in question. And even scarier than this is that the fact that Alexander Graham Bell’s century-old invention is still the main cure for it!

Next week, I’ll share a real procurement horror story – the kind that freaks and creeps you out. But for today, I’ll leave you with this one thought – isn’t the worst horror of all the one you can’t escape, the one that keeps coming back? Living a nightmare is far worse than waking up from one, even if it is death by thousand supplier interaction pinpricks rather than a slash from a vendor or stakeholder machete.


Think you have a better procurement horror story? Get in the competitive spirit and submit here (winner gets a year-long Plus subscription and can register wearing his or her Halloween finest!). Our CTO recommends watching Walking Dead, Duck Dynasty, or Breaking Bad for ideas.

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