Author: Jonathan Webb - Categories: Supplier Relationship Management
My colleague Steve Hall recently blogged about younger executives, who, growing up with the internet, were more likely to integrate social media in their day job.
The question was whether their more mature procurement colleagues were coming with them.
Purchasing professionals are notoriously slow on the up-take on social media. Perhaps understandably for a function that is a risk advice back-office.
Buyers do not require the publicity that Twitter brings, and conducting confidential commercial discussions in the public arena is considered inappropriate at best.
The risk/reward equation for buyers simply does not add up. There are a few interesting new tools which provide more innovative supplier monitoring capabilities. Supplier data can be scraped from blogs, news feeds and Facebook etc to create more timely profiles. But this is not participation in the true spirit of ’web 2.0’. The passivity of exploiting social media tools as another source of information undermines the core of platforms which depend on user-created content.
Most likely, the reluctance to adopt will not change until either there is a change in procurement’s conservative nature or social media is no longer considered dangerous activity. It seems that the latter will occur before the former. Until then, as a PIU survey found last year, buyers’ involvement online will be limited to acting as wall flowers.
But the existence of social media may provide a deeper, unexpected impact on the profession. The culture of the function tends towards the clandestine. Information is hoarded, suppliers are contacted in private and negotiations are conducted in dark, distant chambers. The habit of secrecy is second nature, but is this necessary?
In game theory, often actions that are individually rational lead to collective irrationality. What would be wrong with buying and selling in a wholly transparent manner?
The power of individual buyers will be reduced, as the information that shapes their careers is exposed to the public arena, but the greater abundance of data should enrich the marketplace, increasing competitiveness and opportunity.
It would be fascinating to see negotiations or tenders conducting online. Perhaps the hashtag #thisismyfinaloffer may have more credence if the speaker is accountable to the general public.
This may seem like a facetious aside, but the arguments against transparency always seem to appeal to more basic concerns: loss of individual prestige or fear of the unknown. I have yet to see a serious argument posited against sourcing under the bright lights of publicity. As former US Supreme Court judge Louis D Brandeis once memorably said: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."
Perhaps the value of social media is not so much for the technological enhancements it offers to the function, but as a general assault as to how procurement conducts its business.
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