A Procurement Innocent Abroad: Notes and Nibbles

I got back from a quick trip to the UK and Holland earlier this week to check in on some of our efforts and colleagues in the markets (and to partake in a weekend of R&R in Edinburgh, a city that combined a great spirit – and spirits – with fabulous history lessons). As usual, I came away from the trip with yet another vantage point on the world of procurement, and specifically, innovation within it.

No doubt, I visit my colleagues in Europe to work and build our little business over there. But I also do it to learn – and grow. Even though not much in Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad is overly serious, he does have one line that captures the value of visiting different places.

To wit, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”  To “men and things” I would also add procurement.

On this trip alone, I came away with the following notes and nibbles – observations to ponder and items to chew on:

  • Much in the world of payment innovation (not just invoicing and discounting, but actual payment mechanisms) appears to be coming out of Europe. For further recent musings on payments that came out of this trip, see 10 Reasons For Procurement to Work With Payments (Part 1) from earlier this week.
  • P2P, especially eProcurement, is exceptionally hot in Europe right now, but it’s not the local big name (e.g., SAP) that is benefiting the most in winning new business. Moreover, the selection process for P2P in Europe is often very different than in the US, with a quite consensus-driven approach to tool selection and proof of concepts involving sizable teams.
  • Scottish beer is underrated. Many Brits look down on it, yet even during a heat wave in Scotland, I was able to get a number of great, local cask ales at various pubs. And of course there is that much more famous drink to imbibe if you need to truly lift your spirits – or just warm up.
  • The Dutch market perplexes me in its way of combining the insular (Dutch companies tend to be very Dutch, if that makes sense) and the global. Aside from the Brits, they are the trading nation throughout history and have some of the largest multinational firms in Europe. Yet it would seem that they have much to learn and bring in from the world outside in the realm of procurement, just as they go about exported finished products and virtual goods.
  • With the slight exception of the UK, Europe used to be very mercantilist in dealing with the world, at least during the age of colonization and early trade on the high seas. Now they are in the business of exporting ideas, at least within procurement. For example, what I heard that BravoSolution is doing in the Middle East, bringing what we all take for granted in the West as procurement process and technology use, shows that it’s Europe who is exporting ideas to the global purchasing world (versus taking for its own use).

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some more detailed takeaways from the trip, including diving into regional trends in P2P and payments, among other areas. Stay tuned.

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