What Can We Learn from the Founding Fathers’ Bill of Rights in Drafting a Procurement Bill of Rights?

In my previous attempts at articulating a Procurement Bill of Rights (see Related Posts below), I outlined many provisions to consider. As a side note, I’ll be diving into them more deeply in the upcoming webcast next Wednesday (registration is here).

But, I thought it’d be good to go back to the ‘source code’ for much of its inspiration – the US Bill of Rights. It’s a document that is relevant globally as well as within an enterprise context for governing procurement processes internally and with external providers. Let’s touch on a few, which I will obviously simplify and even take a bit of license with, so bear with me. And don’t start pulling out your pocket versions to throw at me (which you can’t anyway).

You must be informed of your rights. Fifth Amendment here. Read my series above and join the webcast. It’s always good to step back and take stock in your rights before others (like poorly governed corporate IT groups) tell you what you can and can’t do. The U.S. was formed because the colonists were being taxed without adequate representation in their own governance. If procurement is being taxed directly by IT or by broader corporate G&A/overhead, then such burdening (pardon the pun) must be accompanied by meaningful representation in choosing procurement providers (not just software either – see our integrated procurement services continuum model here).

The sixth amendment also comes into play here in that it guarantees the right to an impartial and judicious legal process. In addition, procurement solution buyers also have a right to a judicious and impartial solution selection process. Providers themselves also have a role to play in ensuring that their “Feature 500” product development process is clear, fair, and actually doable (compared with just trying to freeze the market and placate customers/prospects). Of course, your might ask, “Does such a typically incrementalist and stovepiped approach destroy innovation?” But that is a post for another day.

Technology users (and industry analysts) should be able to freely state their grievances and their requirements. I personally know this one well. When I worked for a traditional industry analyst firm, to paraphrase George Orwell in Animal Farm, all providers were equal, but some were more equal than others. This was one of the reasons why I left that industry and why it’s so liberating to be here at Spend Matters, where we don’t have to become toothless regurgitators of vendor spin in order to earn their blood money.

It’s like the scene with Anthony Quinn in the movie Lawrence of Arabia. We don’t work with providers not because we have to, but because it is our pleasure – and because we are a river of truth to our readers (see here and here)! But I digress.

Anyway, procurement organizations must obviously advocate for themselves here, but they also need to get IT and service providers to be equally open in order to find an approach that is based on best practices and supports the three core groups (and business users and finance too).

As a corollary, the IT state should not be dictating the spend management solution church where you pray. In other words, IT should advocate for a safe and coherent IT architecture (data security, data standards, need for integration, IT risk mitigation, etc.) that provides security for the enterprise. But at the same time, it should not impede on the states’ rights (i.e., partner functions and business units) to extend/improve their value chains via solution providers intelligently. So, the government must allow the states to govern themselves as long as they are not violating national security interests or other core functions.

When government itself tries to become a solution provider for complex processes and systems, rather than letting the innovation from supply markets be safely and smartly tapped at a more focused level, sometimes things don’t work out so well. OK, I’m not calling your corporate Intranet the same as this site, but you catch the meaning. Corporate IT must be able to separate out its role as steward/protector of corporate IT assets from its role as co-service provider working alongside ERP providers, ITO providers, etc.

If it fails in this role, the First Amendment must then move to the Second Amendment to allow a well-organized procurement militia to bear arms in the form of innovative best-of-breed providers, who can serve up such capabilities as a complementary service: applications, content/intelligence, labor, or the processes themselves.

Of course, the providers themselves mustn’t start behaving like the state, especially the powerful ones. I’m again thinking of the Animal Farm passage where the men and the pigs appear indistinguishable from each other. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches/seizures and from violations of privacy. Similarly, SaaS-based providers need to provide appropriate data security and privacy, with clear contractual language on what the data will be used for (or not used for).

The Eighth Amendment comes into play here in terms of not imposing excessive bails or fines. Of course, “excessive” is open to interpretation, and we’re certainly not here to tell providers how to run their business. But we do have the freedom of speech to opine that policies such as forcing users on to a proprietary network that charges suppliers a percentage of the value of an invoice is not going to be a well defensible strategy in the medium to long term. I touched on these topics in my Procurement Bill of Rights series and will explore them in more detail in my upcoming webinar (I hope to see you there!).

Finally, to leave no doubt about the intent of the Bill of Rights, the founding fathers made sure that in future debates pitting the power of federal government against the power of states and the people, the power shall go to the people. In the enterprise, it’s the people who own the budgets. So it’s up to procurement, IT, and third parties to get on the same page in how to serve them at federal level (corporate center or global shared services), state level (business unit; regional level centers), or local level (sites). And when procurement itself is the budget owner, it needs flexibility and resources in order ot provide world-class procurement services to the enterprise.

So, God bless those best practices… and God bless the united processes of procurement.

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Voices (2)

  1. Thomas Kase:

    The 2nd Amendment just puts in words that we can’t have the right to defend ourselves with deadly force restricted – kill those bad apps – no permission needed.
    BYOD or even BYOA (bring your own app) since some firms (ref. Concur) offer clever options for individuals to run mobile apps even in organizations that have chosen (IT Dept again) not to give those to end users.

  2. Jason Busch:

    Re: Second Amendment. I find that gun control is greatly overrated (and small weapons aren’t always enough to get at the spirit of the notion) … sometimes you need to go nuclear on the IT and ERP borg to protect your liberties — before bringing in the smaller, innovative providers to clean up the mess before starting over. But one last thought: sometimes daylight (in the form of hard data about program results and costs) is enough to start a revolution without firing a single shot.

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