Contrary to popular belief – just ask Ikea what they spend on their catalog – print spending is not dead. Granted, while digital has completely upended the market, print and its intersections with broader marketing and agency spend refuses to be completely recycled into something else. If anyone enjoys telling the history of it, I do. Print buying once comprised a very large chunk of spend across all sectors with most large non- and for-profit Purchasing departments, employing many dedicated buyers. And it has refused to die, despite all the prognostications that it might. Even back in 1980, when personal computing began to skyrocket, predictions that we would be a paperless society by the year 2000 abounded. It hasn’t exactly happened that way, even though we’ve become much more efficient at sourcing and managing the lifecycle of print procurement – and spend volumes have dropped. From a practitioner’s point of view, print buying today has become just one of many categories handled by a single buyer. In many cases, we’re still buying truckloads of paper. This shift fascinates me – and raises a lot of questions.
The Friday Rant Category
I’ve been working at Spend Matters for well over a year now, and I still don’t understand why this profession has such an identity crisis when it comes to deciding what to call itself. At Spend Matters we use “procurement” as our default; other sites in our space call themselves Procurement Leaders, The Strategic Sourceror and My Purchasing Center, to name just a few. How can all of these publications have so many terms for what seemingly should be the same functional area? Help me out, purchasing/procurement/supply management people. Let’s figure this out once and for all.
A couple of weeks back, I authored a post on Spend Matters, “Die Factoring, Die,” which was also picked up my colleague, David Gustin, on Trade Financing Matters. The essay attempted to address a serious topic in a humorous, somewhat satirical way, starting with a title that was intentionally overboard. In my attempt to have a bit of fun with the topic of factoring, I failed. I offended a number of people in the factoring community with my language and metaphors.
Full disclosure: I am a below-average consumer of beef. But the continuing increases in beef prices and the recent change in country of origin labeling — not to mention the confusion around grass fed, vegetarian feed only and organic labeling — have me miffed, have made me crazy. So, where to begin?
My view of offline factoring models is that they're the equivalent of burning coal with turn of the early 20th century technology for power or heat when we could be splitting atoms or using wind or solar power instead. Like using coal for energy, factoring is wasteful, inefficient and generates unintended side effects. But what’s the solution, you ask? Easy.
The application programming interface (API) has become an ubiquitous topic in the discussion of procurement and supply chain technology. But do we need something more? Something more powerful than a swaggering giant that lords over us, something with a punchout that will get us the control we really need? Finally, the answer has arrived: the Chuck Norris API.
This title is a line from the hit HBO show Silicon Valley, a parody of life in the bubble that stretches south from San Francisco to San Jose. But it’s not really a parody; it’s more of a reality show. I’ve lived here since 1987, but only on the inner and outer edges of the bubble. But if there is one thing that I absolutely abhor and resent about life around that bubble, it is the debasement and trivialization of “the platform.”
Colman’s Mustard, TA National Trading and Amazon Business: Juxtaposing Questionable Merchant Practices With Awesome Customer Service
A recent purchase of Colman’s mustard via Amazon Business (using our corporate account) was a reminder that there are some unsavory merchant practices lurking in the shadows of the digital commerce world. And TA National Trading, the merchant in question in this case, either made a bad mistake or intentionally attempted an old trading company trick that is more common in the third world (unfortunately) than something we usually see in developed countries.
Keith Emerson, the keyboard player for the trio ELP (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) died earlier this month, unfortunately at his own hand. As the consummate perfectionist, he didn’t want to disappoint fans as nerve damage had been affecting his right arm at the age of 71. What a tragedy — and waste of genius’ life. I’ve been playing a lot of ELP recently, and although it’s been a real hit on my productivity, I can’t help myself.
When I tell people that I am a services procurement and contingent workforce industry analyst, I usually get either a glazed look or a look that betrays a kind of sympathy or pity. That is usually the time — after a moment of uncomfortable silence — to turn the tables and ask what they do. But given that I am an analyst, I have felt compelled to ask myself and try to answer these questions: What is an analyst? What does an analyst do? Here’s what I found.
Just over 30 years ago, Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in print when I was in college. The cartoon series resonated with me strongly, and I have loved sharing it with my kids because of its humor, certainly, but also the way in which it captures a love of life not overly jaded by the trappings of everyday society. I’m not going to go overboard here, but there are some things that perhaps we can all learn from a little boy, his stuffed tiger and a healthy dose of imagination.
I confess that I have a mild addiction to the tune of a rather particular type of spirits that I go through at the rate of a bottle or so every few months: the very un-American Fernet Branca, a truly wonderful liqueur that not only centers the mind but also settles the stomach and the nerves with just a few sips. While definitely an acquired taste, the lessons of Fernet Branca as applied to procurement, from a leadership role or below, are many.