Procurement Pub Debate – Arguments From the “Doomed” Side!

Old-Bank-of-England-15Last week's pub debate, as we reported here, sponsored by Trade Extensions, ended up in a win for the “no” camp. So, by a very small majority, the attendees did NOT think that “Procurement is Doomed”. Hooray!

But my goodness, it was a close run thing. Stephen Allott and Jason Busch made some strong arguments that the profession truly is in trouble. The digital revolution is dis-intermediating much of the traditional role of procurement. Buyers and budget holders can find what they want instantly, from a myriad of websites.

Mobile and easy-to-use apps will make ordering the goods (and even services) that people need very simple, and procurement has not yet caught up with the mobile revolution. The new Amazon Business offering, whilst still in its early days, will provide prices better than most organisations can achieve on their own, and you can build your own workflows within the platform very easily. Here is an extract from Jason’s comments on the evening.

“Suppliers like Amazon Business will forever change the way we buy and look at different spend areas. And in doing so, they will reach business users and guide them away from procurement process and structure (whether we like it or not) – albeit they also will empower those procurement organizations that want to work with new disruptive models. Specifically Amazon and others will give traditional, legacy procurement models “death by a thousand cuts” by making the spend “tail” wag the dog.

Talent marketplaces (and worker / workforce intermediation platforms) for buying contract labor or even project-based outcomes will enable business users to spend less and get better results for specific projects or simply hourly labor than previous consulting, services or temporary labor alternatives. Smart organizations will, however, invest in freelancer management systems (FMS) tools to work with this new services procurement undercurrent that empowers users”.

So, the question is, as Jason said, who needs procurement? With close to perfect market information available instantly to everyone, rapid access to suppliers, price transparency, simple systems ... our stakeholder friends within organisations we work for can do pretty much everything themselves.

Now Stephen and Jason did acknowledge that there might still be some role for procurement in the future - and we will come back to that when we feature the arguments against the “doomed” hypothesis. But they suggested that procurement needs to change significantly if it is to survive. Interestingly, that was the one point that the four debaters agreed on unanimously.

The big question though is this. Can the profession and the people in it make that change, quickly and successfully enough to survive and prosper? Nobody can argue that “procurement work” will disappear – it is really about who will do it in the organisation, which means we are questioning procurement’s adaptability and ability to change as much as anything. Our two protagonists on the “doomed” side of the argument were doubtful about that.

Now those of us on the other side of the debate were less negative when it came to that question – and in the next part of this series we’ll get into their more optimistic viewpoint!

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Voices (2)

  1. bitter and twisted:

    I dont like these multipart posts, especially the for/against type.

    You dont want to comment on part 1, as your point may be expressed anyway in part 2. While commenting in part 2 on something raised in part 1 feels a bit naff.

    So in future merge ’em.

  2. Dan:

    A happy time to be working in public procurement (something I never thought I would say!) – I cannot envisage a time where we will be free of all the regulations and directives (even if the UK leaves the EU, the government will still need to have something similar in place).

    Every cloud…

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