Procurement Technology: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade?

At a recent industry procurement technology conference, I heard a presenter state, quite reasonably I thought, that risk doesn’t begin until you select a supplier.


As one of those suppliers, I’d naturally argue that the risk in selecting us is lower than our competitors but, still, it is a valid point. It is a given that staying at home less risky than travelling, but only for certain kinds of risk, of course. An outdoor, active lifestyle requires an inevitable degree of caution and hazard awareness, but then again so does sitting on the sofa watching TV.

Thus, while a procurement technology project cannot go wrong until you start, that is no case for lack of action. Doing nothing, can expose your organization to even greater risk in the long term.

So what should you be doing? What should be your approach? A challenge, surely, is when to put a stake in the sand and commit to a particular project in an environment where change and new product announcements are increasing year on year.

Time and again, one hears of companies locked into a legacy system that is too important to ditch and too costly to upgrade. How can that be right?

In the past couple of decades, we’ve seen a big shift in the types of technology solutions that are considered suitable for the workplace. At a time when most large business could only comprehend huge, cumbersome systems, integrated on a very large scale and at enormous cost, those who elected to search for best-of-breed solutions for each requirement, from a range of providers were looked upon as cutting-edge thinkers, almost the avant garde.

And yet, today, attempting to build a robust, transformed, next-decade-ready procurement practice on a mish-mash of different procurement software tools for sourcing, contracts, P2P and SRM is likely to be considered a very risky strategy indeed. More and more businesses are looking for a single procurement software solution to assist in that transformation process.

So, times have changed and seemingly come full circle, but have they really?

I’d say they haven’t. Today’s complete end-to-end procurement technology solutions are as far removed from the ERP systems of 20 years ago as your choice of personal computing device is from that which you were using during the same period.

The only common theme is the notion that you can do everything in one place. The difference is that now you can do so much more than was ever possible in the past.

What drove businesses at the leading edge to seek out best-of-breed solutions was the need for increased power, control and efficiency delivered by innovative technology, something they could definitely not find in the old, megalithic systems.

The advent of a whole new architecture underlying the modern world — with its cloud, wireless and mobile technologies — has made it possible to conceive of one single solution that is powerful and flexible enough to deliver what a global business needs in terms of control and management, but remains agile and responsive enough to keep the modern procurement practice on the leading edge.

We know this, because we’ve built such solutions. Having seen procurement professionals wrestle with the old, monolithic systems and then struggle to make sense of a patchwork of different tools, this really does feel like something quite new.

The most exciting thing of all is the speed at which we can now innovate and address new demands in the ever changing world of procurement. And gone are the days of the business not being able to afford an upgrade. The question today is: cannot you afford not to upgrade?