Less is More in New Purchasing – Reducing Complexity in Procurement

Spend Matters welcomes this guest article by Vroozi.

As Spend Matters and Vroozi wrote in their jointly produced research paper Declaration of the New Purchasing: A Buying Manifesto:

“Article 6: More will not be more, but less, and the best purchasing environments will be as much about what we don’t see as what we do.

Complexity in procurement will only increase. This is a given. But procurement will mask complexity and work with the business to provide the right information, at the right time, in context. For example, there could be hundreds of calculations associated with presenting a specific front page or suggested items in a P2P app that pulls in a collected set of supplier-managed e-procurement catalogs. But all the user will see is what is in front of them – and what makes it easy for them to purchase within policy.”

Have you ever heard the expression, “less is more”? Sure, you have. But often, that sentiment is easier said than done.

As things become more complex, “more” tends to become “even more.” For many organizations, a growing operation is a sign of success – but a breeding ground for more complexity. Why should it have to be this way? With all of the technology around us that we use every day to make our lives easier and more efficient, some of those efficiency tools must translate to our enterprise tasks, right?

As technology evolves, so will procurement. This is the emergence of e-procurement – and the basis of “New Purchasing.” As we wrote last week, “The technology we use in our personal lives continues to bleed more and more into the way we conduct our business. This is our Declaration of the New Purchasing: A Buying Manifesto.”

While many of the other enterprise activities in your organization may be battling similar issues, procurement isn’t one that needs to cave in to complexity. Instead, says Article 6 of the Buying Manifesto, “procurement will mask complexity and work with the business to provide the right information, at the right time, in context.”

For an example of masked complexity, think about how people use Yelp. Just because you’re in San Francisco and you’re hungry does not mean that you want to see a giant, master list of thousands of restaurants. What you really want is to narrow your search to the highest-rated restaurants that are currently open and can satisfy your current food craving – preferably within a short distance. With Yelp, users can use their mobile devices to simply type in what they’re searching for and allow the functionalities of the service and their devices to take care of the rest.

Mobile devices can locate where you are using their GPS functionality. Yelp creates a searchable, scalable platform for quickly targeting what you want – and don’t want.

With Yelp, the simplicity lies in what you see and what you don’t see. This same concept applies to mobile procurement, where mobile users can search for specific language through pre-approved supplier catalogs to determine what solutions are the best-fitting, most cost-efficient and centrally located. Again, Yelp doesn’t give you every restaurant, just those from an algorithm that balances the most highly rated, most often rated, etc.

The phrase “less is more” is the same reason for the burgeoning success of the wearable tech market. Like with our mobile devices, wearables are becoming an extension of ourselves, a staple of our daily activity and productivity. As Jason Busch mentioned in his commentary of Article 1:

"I was struck recently when looking at a friend’s new Apple Watch and how it already became a true extension of himself in a matter of weeks, including the ability to respond to updates and notifications based on a quiet ‘tap on the wrist.’ The notion of supporting applications based on ‘wearables’ in the workplace within procurement may seem far off – but it’s actually here today!"

Wearables bring elegance and simplicity to the cutting-edge of new technology. They’re also a great example of “less is more” and of masked complexity, foundations of New Purchasing and modern procurement.

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