Spend Matters Yearly Round-up: Part 1

(While we were busy consuming turkey and champage, we asked our guest writer, Ross "Milkki" Mulkern, to look back over the Spend Matters Year, and pick out some highlights... here's his first quarter review. More through the rest of the week).

And so the time has come, once again, to sit back with a well earned tipple and get all misty eyed and nostalgic over the various procurement happenings of the past twelve months…

There have been good times, like Spend Matters getting into The Times with our article on the controversial MOD/Alix Partners contract, and there have been bad, such as our Dear Leader Cameron condemning procurement folk as the “enemies of enterprise”! Most of all however, it has been, in the words of the BBC, “The year when a lot happened”.

January kicked off with the much feted acquisition of Rivermine by Emptoris. The latter, a global leader in sourcing, acquired US Telecoms Expense Management provider Rivermine in a very amicable take-over. This was a mutually beneficial assimilation, providing Rivermine with the contacts and sales channels to establish a greater foothold in Europe, whilst expanding the scope of Emptoris’ presence in complex procurement solutions.

We rounded off the month in fine style (if we do say so ourselves) with one of our most commented posts ever, the ignobly entitled “How to fiddle your procurement savings report”. Peter’s rather self explanatory list of loopholes and sneakery available to the unscrupulous procurement person received a huge response from readers, suggesting yet more ways to fiddle one’s savings, you sly dogs!

On February 17th, the UK Cabinet announced a squeeze on the top suppliers. This proved to be a controversial move, sparking discussion as to whether or not this approach would result in real world savings.

Speaking of savings, this was also the month that we held our very first Spend Matters Debate, the hot topic being whether or not cost reduction should be a CPO’s top priority. Eloquent discussion was put forward on both sides of the debate, but in the end, it was decided by a slim margin that procurement should take a wider view, particularly in looking for client innovation.

Towards the end of the quarter, the PM himself decided to have a pop at us Procurement folk, vilifying those in public procurement as the “enemies of enterprise” and the main cause of the problems smaller and innovative firms have in wining business.  Regarding Cameron’s statements, CIPS CEO David Noble remarked that, given the current economic climate (apologies for having to use that awful, awful phrase) the PM’s “strong statements” were perhaps “unsurprising”.

He went on to praise the decision of the Government to encourage 25% of public spending to go towards SMEs, before stating that “Understanding the value the procurement profession can bring is fundamental to the success of any organisation. As the professional body for the profession, we have a role in highlighting and communicating the importance of fairness and professionalism in streamlining government buying practices to increase efficiency and value for money, whether the contract is awarded to a large corporation or an SME.”

Whilst ostensibly offering a defence of the industry his organisation represents, we felt it was a rather lukewarm defence, in light of the incendiary nature of the PM’s comments, prompting Peter to write his own, decidedly more impassioned, letter to Downing Street.

On February 22nd, we proudly published the very first issue of our Spend Matters newsletter, much to the surprise of many recipients! The newsletter has since become a monthly fixture and we hope that you continue to enjoy reading all our procurement news and gossip as much as we enjoy throwing our opinions at you.

In the world of “other” procurement publications, it was also in this month that CIPS’ industry magazine Supply Management went monthly. Unfortunately, the mag was swiftly subjected to a barrage of criticisms from our readers, who cited a lack of noticeably different content compared to the previous fortnightly editions as well as highlighting a number of unpopular design features. One of our readers even went so far as to remark that:-

For me, the high quality (not-so-eco-friendly) glossy finish has now made it (almost) impossible to cut into squares for use in the en-suite to the guest bedroom. I say ‘almost’ because some of our guests are Scottish…

Not that we at SM would never be so insufferably smug as to condone that kind of vulgar sentiment...

In the end however, March of this year and all these trivial issues were overshadowed by the tragic events of the Japanese tsunami. As well as the obvious human cost, the after effects of the tsunami and earthquake had a number of economic implications. Auto plants, oil refineries and factories suffered closures across large parts of the country, leaving the world to brace itself for the seemingly inevitable risks to the supply chain.

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