Alice in Wonderland - The Procurement Technology Conundrum
Alice in Wonderland - The Procurement Technology Conundrum
<p style="text-align: justify;">Alice (my procurement protagonist) was bored. Sitting and daydreaming with her sister (stakeholders?) while business was chugging along….</p><p style="text-align: justify;">The processes to link business to the customer and/or the supplier while navigating the internal corporate maze seemed insurmountable. Data was not clean or consistent, new product developments were stressful, requirements changed regularly, suppliers couldn’t cope up while plan changes impacted the smooth flow of goods (and therefore the happiness of all connected to the flow). Not many things but much to ponder about with no solution in sight.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Enter the rabbit – Alice gets a distraction, maybe it’s the competition or a “trusted advisor” – there is hope… oops… down she goes into the rabbit hole. Welcome to the awesome world of digitization, where there will be a solution for all your problems. You already have a system? Worry not, this will sit on top of whatever you have and give you whatever you need. How come you missed this rabbit hole when it was just within reach?</p><p style="text-align: justify;">At first, this world is quite alien - you follow the rabbit into his home. With a gentle dose of presentations and trials, it starts to make sense. As you taste the cake of possibilities, the world shrinks to adapt to your needs - then again, when you need it the most, it gets big again and it frustrates you that the key solution is still missing, even though it is ever within reach of the next phase. Then you meet Mr Mushroom and Mr Caterpillar – only to be confused on whether you really want to grow or shrink. Mr Caterpillar pushes you to grow till you cannot identify yourself or your system which is stretching itself beyond its capability, until Mr Mushroom shows you another path and brings you back to size. “Prioritize” – you hear from somewhere above. </p><p style="text-align: justify;">Word is getting around about your experiences with the cutting edge of technology – there is an invitation to play croquet, and you would like to be there of course. Somewhere you see the Cheshire Cat grinning – there is always that guy who “told you so”. The baby pig (new processes in the organization – e-commerce, sustainability and more) is wailing – the flow is still broken. When you get to the croquet match and push yourself onto a table, there is utter chaos and confusion around. You now swear to get out of the way; this can’t be what you signed up for.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Just then, technology has taken a new twist. There are new solutions which fit on top of the new system: A magic tree door in a wonderful garden just opened up. “This is the panacea to my ills,” said Alice. A new version, complex technology and many new exciting features. Of course, you can play croquet now and make new yardsticks for success - no one will know. She is now loving the new game, since rules can be changed to your convenience. The Cheshire cat appears again smiling, but it disappears quickly while the grin lingers on.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">After many more discoveries of hedgehogs, flamingos, mock turtles, lobsters and many such distractions – version changes, upgrades, add-ons and the like, each door opened seems to reduce flexibility and visibility once she was inside it. There will soon be a trial at the end of the journey, and you are in danger of losing your head. The system cannot be blamed now, can it? It has successfully been integrated into the chaos.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Well done! The game is now over.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Alice wakes up, gets back to her normal size and the pack of cards falls on her. It’s time to start all over again!</p><p style="text-align: justify;">How familiar is this journey?</p><p style="text-align: justify;">My sincere advice to all fellow Supply Chain and Procurement colleagues: Don’t follow your advisors or the competition down the rabbit hole of digitization without a deep understanding of how they are linked to organizational priorities and what will work in your unique context.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Every organization has its unique strengths and culture which are somehow less represented in a technology decision. Is agility and turnaround more critical than accuracy? You probably need best-of-breed add on tools to connect seamlessly with processes that just about do the job, and rework is acceptable. Is process perfection critical for success? You probably need an end-to-end tool and strong project management tools – zero errors or rework allowed. Is money on the table a priority? Get the RFx piece right first and then build the rest of the digital highway. Do we need AI based market intelligence when my category plan is under construction? Maybe, but not yet. While I personally prefer the best-of-breed, fail fast, and evolve approach with a strong core of data, this may not work everywhere. A digital journey must also integrate with the DNA of the company, and not just the data. An internal connect to evangelize what the next level means is a critical step to leverage the buffet of digital options available today. A technology choice needs a deep understanding of “how things work here”, people capability, agility, appetite for change, etc. which are quite different in different companies even if they compete in the same space. Going down the rabbit hole without this level of deep thought is a sure recipe for a future disaster.</p><p style="text-align: justify;">Don’t let that pack of cards fall and may the grin of the Cheshire Cat never haunt your digital journey.</p><p style="text-align: justify;"> </p>
KR Expert - Kartik Shankar
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