Tag Archives: the cloud

The Internet of Things Driving Procurement Change

In the business world, organisations are waking up to the possibilities afforded to them by the Internet of Things, connectivity and Big Data.

Internet of Things

The 2015 Gartner CEO and senior business executive survey found that technology-related change was viewed as the primary tool to achieve growth in 2015 and 2016.

37 per cent of respondents to the survey highlighted customer engagement management as a key technology priority, with 32 per cent highlighting digital marketing. Cloud-based business also had high recognition, as CEOs came to realise that the Cloud is where new disruptive industry platforms (think companies like Coupa) get created.

However, on the other side of this were concerns about potentially increasing levels of risk that are seen in line with increased connectivity. 77 per cent of survey respondents agreed that the digital world was creating new risks for businesses. However, 65 per cent also felt that investment in risk management practices was not keeping up with new and higher levels of risk.

Cloud Security – Or a Lack of It

This is a key area for procurement to consider when using Cloud-based technology and Big Data. You’ll all have seen reports and stories in the press about hacking and cyber security problems. This is frequently raised as one of the key issues with moving from traditional systems, to Cloud-based software.

It’s estimated by HP that around 70 million ‘smart’ devices have serious vulnerabilities, including privacy concerns, lack of encryption, inadequate software protection and insecure web interfaces. Worse still is that individuals and organisations either aren’t aware, or don’t have the capability to secure their systems.

The current state of Internet of Things security seems to take all the vulnerabilities from existing spaces, e.g. network security, application security, mobile security, and Internet-connected devices, and combine them into a new (even more insecure) space, which is troubling. 

Internet of Things Driving Change

A number of senior procurement leaders we have spoken to over the past few months have highlighted the potential issues of developing and managing suppliers as we move to operating in an era of the Internet of Things.

The growth of new technology and digitisation of processes mean that traditional procurement methods for managing suppliers need to be changed and updated. While in some cases, long term contracts of 3 years or more may be applicable, but there are certain areas where this cannot be the case.

More than ever, we are actually buying technology more so than the actual product or service. Think about driverless mining trucks – we’re really buying the technology to manage and maintain these vehicles, more so than the trucks themselves.

As technology increasingly becomes the product, we need to keep our options open in order to take advantage of the frenetic pace of change. Our tenders and contracts will need to more broadly define the functionality and utility we require of a product or service, rather than the exacting specifications we know today.

We will also need to ensure we keep our minds, doors and sourcing processes open to engage new suppliers with break-through technologies. Where contracts are 3-5 years long, CPOs will need to build optionality into their contracts to ensure they have the agility and can be opportunistic in adapting and adopting new technologies.

Changing Supplier Engagement

The alternative is to use different supplier engagement processes, potentially dynamic purchasing systems, or supplier panels, or ensuring that you are working closely with the suppliers in order to build innovation into your contracts.

New technologies aren’t necessarily going to be 100 per cent applicable to you, but your suppliers should be able to help with new product development and innovation.

But they will want security in this to know that they are not going to outlay a vast sum of money for development, only for the contract to be taken elsewhere under 3-year procurement processes (where they exist). In this way, Supplier Relationship Management will become even more critical.

Cloud Computing – Don’t Get Stranded with Sharks

If you think that cloud computing is not for you, you may be left stranded…with sharks.

The Cloud - Sharks

You can download the latest GEP white paper on the impact of cyber security, and the benefits of a cloud-based procurement technology solution here.

“If you think you’ve seen this movie before, you are right.” So said David Linthicum, author of ‘Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise‘.

He went on to say, “Cloud computing is based on the time-sharing model we leveraged years ago before we could afford our own computers. The idea is to share computing power among many companies and people, thereby reducing the cost of that computing power to those who leverage it. The value of time share and the core value of cloud computing are pretty much the same, only the resources these days are much better and more cost effective.”

In biological science there is a concept called convergent evolution, which essentially describes how different organisms have independently evolved the same solution to a particular problem.  The similarity in body plan between sharks and dolphins is a perfect example. Despite one arising from a fish and the other from a land mammal, the particular circumstances of life in the pelagic ocean have resulted in the gradual adaptation through survival of both groups into superficially similar morphologies.

New Era Solutions

The cloud computing model of this era is indeed offering a similar solution to a similar problem that the shared computer access model used to. Indeed I recall having to book computer time in my university days, and that on a machine with a fraction of the computing power of my wristwatch!

In that case it was simply a matter of limited availability of the machines themselves and sharing the cost between groups was the only model that made sense. Today the equation is a different one.  Raw computing power and data storage are dirt cheap…

As an aside, a quick sketch calculation confirms that data storage twenty five years ago cost around seventy thousand times the equivalent cost today. (To check my working: I installed a 100MB hard drive in a business system in 1990. It weighed 120Kg and cost about £1100 Sterling. Last week, I put a 1TB card in my camera for just under £140.)

…but it isn’t the cost of the machine resources any more that are the limiting factor. It’s the overhead. The cost of management and operation, the risk of failure and consequential loss, and the inertia lumped on the enterprise in times of radical and accelerating change.

Putting Software to Work

What is driving business systems into an effective shared computing model in the cloud is not the need for more resources at lower cost (although this is undoubtedly an unplanned upside). No, it is the need to decouple the business processes from the technology.

Yes, of course, the technology – and by that we mean software of course – is central to the business process. I mean, do we really need to say e-this and e-that anymore? But in the past our business processes were determined BY the software. Today cloud software can give us the flexibility to conduct business how we think best and the software can be put to work for us.

Perhaps that’s sounds a bit too rosy-tinted for some.  But the fact remains, the risk and cost of making the wrong decision in selecting a cloud software provider, is the merest fraction of what it was in the old, customised-behind-the-firewall days.

A recent conversation I had with a consultant suggested one client of theirs was looking to migrate their systems as-is to an SaaS platform over the next five to seven years. In that same time, a more decisive CIO could make the wrong decision about a cloud provider twice(!), and still be further advanced in ROI by the time that migration is over.

Overcoming Intertia

So, the imperative to move into the cloud is compelling but the skepticism around security can apply the brakes in many organisations.

Because cloud computing evolved from a different ancestor to the shared computer model – out of the chaotic, anarchic, everyman’s internet, run by nobody-knows-who, instead of out of the traditional, conservative club of private supercomputers run by accredited Systems Analysts –, and because of a slew of high-profile hacking cases, there remains a core of uncertainty in the procurement industry.

To that end we work closely with our customers to help them understand where the security risks today really lie, and the greatest of these is inertia.

As I think about the case of the company taking upwards of five years to take what they have today and put it online, I can’t get the image out of my head of a diver coming up from a leisurely reef excursion only to see the dive boat heading for the horizon.  Of course, if he can’t tell whether that fin belongs to a dolphin or a shark, you now know why.

It will take a company with very deep pockets and very great resilience in a rapidly changing world to be able to ride out the cost of being left that far behind.

There do remain reasonable questions around technical security that should be asked and answered in any selection process, and our two-part paper Securing Procurement in the Cloud of Tomorrow is designed to help that conversation.

Vivek Kundra, former federal CIO of the United States said, “Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because [cloud providers] can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.”

The question is not whether, or even when. It’s how.

Enterprises should be moving their procurement processes to the Cloud, say GEP. For more on this, download the latest white paper research.

For more help on avoiding the sharks in procurement software, visit the Smart by GEP website.