Procurement Technology and Procurement Software – Are they Any Different?

Often used interchangeably by enterprise clients and vendors alike, are the two concepts really the same?

It’s all in the perception and the word. Technology is more current, more relevant, and encompasses the full landscape of neat innovations that are offered to us in increasing numbers.

Software, well, it’s a bit old-fashioned really. It’s more flabby-old-floppy-disk than app-store-chic.

Consider the growing range of tiny little devices that extend the range of things we can do with our smart phones. Little buttons, tags, sensors and switches are reinventing and redefining the way we use our phones. There are buttons that you can program to push and play music, push to order takeout food, and so on.

But however much they devices are pushed to the forefront — with a focus on tablets and wearable devices, and the potential impact they will have on our daily lives — the truth is that these gadgets are just the means of access to the software.

These gadgets are appealing and exciting, and the prospect of having everything at the push of a button is irresistible. But look under the covers and the reality is somewhat different.

Because, in fact, you won’t be programming the buttons at all. The button is just a switch that says, “I’ve been activated”. It is the app on your smart device that translates that activation into a result.   Although, of course, it isn’t even that simple. App, we all know, is an abbreviation of application. In other words, a way of using the underlying power of another system. Software applications, in essence, are devices for instructing an operating system to do something clever.

We think the cute little buttons are smart, but they are just a veneer of glamour over the real miracle, which is the vast repository of information and decision support that is available to all of us.

This is where the power lies in procurement technology, not in the fact that you can approve a purchase order on your wristwatch, but the fact that you can do it wherever your wristwatch happens to be. The distinction is that it is the underlying software that enables the gadgetry, mobility and flexibility to work the way you need to.

And it is the software that needs to be crafted cleverly to deliver the business results you need. Code that is written to do clever things based on requests and demands. The software needs to work the way you do, and the developers need to understand the business requirements you have.

As a leading global developer of procurement software, we at GEP recognize that procurement technology is a big deal. Mobility, usability, accessibility and all the other abilities determine how you can work. But it is the underlying understanding of the business needs, encapsulated in the software that drives the tech that determines what you can do.

Procurement technology is rapidly growing and evolving, but at its heart, it is driven by good old-fashioned software.

Whether procurement professionals need gadgets to make working practices more automated is not yet clear, but what they will always need is results.

So there it is, procurement technology and procurement software — two distinct things that are interdependent on each other for success.

Paul Blake leads the technology product marketing team at GEP, a leading global provider of procurement technology solutions that help enterprises boost procurement savings and performance. Read Paul’s first blog here.