Keeping up with the kids – a challenge for procurement technology providers

I loved this opening to an article in the Times (behind their paywall unfortunately) from Bridget Harrison about how young children are becoming tech-savvy at an incredibly early age.

“My early rising five-year-old cannot yet tell the time, so the other day I left my iPhone by his bed with strict instructions not to wake us up until it said 7.00. I turned it to Airplane Mode, which shuts down the phone and wi-fi, just in case he accidently called America.

Next day he appeared at my bedside at seven on the dot having had a high old time. He’d gone into Settings, turned off Airplane Mode, taken some pictures of his teddies and texted them to his favourite auntie. Then he’d changed the wallpaper on my home screen to a picture of him in his school uniform. He’d gone into Voice Notes (which I had yet to discover) and recorded himself making raaring noises, and he’d reset my ring tone to Choo Choo.

That got me thinking about the challenges faced by software firms, including in our field. They’re all looking to make their products more user-friendly, aiming for more of a consumer-type experience than the traditional and often painful B2B, old-style ERP experience. Every P2P company now talks about Amazon or eBay as the model for their interfaces, and for firms such as Coupa, it is at the heart of their success.

But arguably the user is still moving faster than the firms can respond. If this five year old is already a sophisticated technology user, where will we be in five or ten years time? We’re in the midst of a huge boom in mobile right now, which solution providers are desperately trying to keep up with, but what will be next?

Will today’s five year olds expect everything to be voice controlled by the time they’re thinking of joining the workforce of the late 2020s? Or will it be motion controls, or systems that track our eye movements? (Hang on, that’s already here). Will stand-alone mobile devices be old hat because all the capability will all be contained within wearable technology?

Will we wear our special glasses or maybe even contact lenses with projection of what we currently get on screen in front of our eyes, or perhaps we’ll just have a chip implanted at birth and we will just be able to raise or approve a requisition by the power of thought alone? Will artificial intelligence take away the need for much human thought at all, in the way that Google has destroyed the need for us to remember anything.

By then, I suspect personally I won’t be worrying too much about the impact of technological change on procurement processes and technology. I’ll be in my full-immersion 3-D alternative reality pod, playing bass guitar as my virtual and wholly imaginary band headlines a huge rock festival.  And as for the after-show parties...!  Sorry, Angelina, bit tired tonight, think I had too much of that Latour ’61 again.

Joking aside (or am I?) – the pace of change in consumer expectation and capability is a huge challenge and yet an opportunity for software firms and those in related industries. It is likely to lead to market volatility on the provider side, with the potential for firms to grow and perhaps shrink rapidly. All very exciting, if a bit scary. But anyway, see you at our virtual gig, Glastonbury, 2028...

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