This blog has been written for Market Dojo by Procurement Insights’ Jon Hansen, ahead of our upcoming webinar The real obstacle to digital transformation: Finding an alternative to spreadsheets and email. As the Editor and lead writer for the Procurement Insights Blog, Jon Hansen has written nearly 3,000 articles and papers; as well as five books on subjects as diverse as supply chain practice, public sector policy, emerging business trends and social media. In addition to being a much sought-after speaker and moderator internationally, Jon is also the host of the highly acclaimed PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio, which has aired more than 800 episodes.
I know, what I am about to say is tantamount to heresy and that I should probably not be surprised to find an angry mob with torches and pitchforks outside of my door. Of course, regarding the angry mob thing, it wouldn’t be the first time.
So here goes; the use of spreadsheets will, in the digital age, be the undoing of the procurement profession.
In an upcoming webinar on November 13th, I will be moderating a guest panel discussion which will provide what some industry pundits suggest are the five reasons why procurement – and business, in general, has to move away from the heavy reliance on spreadsheets if we hope to be taken seriously in a digital world driven by chatbots and AI.
Those Were the Days
Having been in the high-tech world only slightly longer than I have been in procurement, I have been around long enough to remember the introduction of the very first spreadsheet VisiCalc.
At the time, and with the paucity of applications you could run on a personal computer – I am talking about the Columbia and Charlie Chaplin-branded IBM PC with the DOS operating system here, VisiCalc was a notable breakthrough. Create formulas, plug in the numbers, and hit a key then sit back and watch the right calculations appear in a matter of seconds. Many of my accountant friends still get misty-eyed thinking of those early days.
In short, and like training wheels on a bicycle, novice computer users – and we were all pretty much novice users back then, could now do something more than turn on their PCs and watch the cursor blink on their screen. We could use PCs to accomplish important tasks without having to learn complex coding like our bespectacled techy counterparts.
The only problem is that using spreadsheets was too easy and way too comfortable. So much so that we could never imagine, from that moment on, doing anything any differently. And it is precisely at that moment that procurement began its decline.
“Watching” The Swiss
There are no shortages of stories regarding companies and industry leaders who became victims of their past successes. Unwilling to relinquish the belief that what had worked best in the past would work best for all time, they were unwilling to change.
For example, at one time, the words Swiss and watches were synonymous. Research shows that back in 1968, the Swiss had a 65% share of the global watch market. What you may not know is that the Swiss were also the inventors of the Quartz watch. However, because the Quartz watch did not align with their belief of how you should make a watch (i.e., with bearings and gears and springs), they turned their back on it.
Seiko and Texas Instruments did not have such reservations purchasing the Quartz technology in 1968. Ten short years later – in 1978, the Swiss market share of the global watch industry fell from 65% to a paltry 10%. They were done in by an erroneous adherence to a belief which had been “ingrained” for generations of what a watch should be rather than embracing new realities and possibilities.
Procurement at The Edge
“As digital moves beyond the cloud to the edge, procurement at the point of request is going to become more commonplace. What this means is that the procurement department will no longer handle non-complex, high-volume acquisitions.” – Jon Hansen
It is not often that I quote myself in an article I am writing – I think this may be the first time. But the reality is that computing on “the edge” has eliminated the need to rely on spreadsheets. In saying this, I am not suggesting that spreadsheets do not have a place in the global enterprise. What I am saying is that by continuing to rely on spreadsheets to the extent that we do hinders our ability to step into the more strategic and therefore more important and influential roles that we can play within our respective organizations.
With this in mind, and to learn more, I would like to invite you to use the following link to reserve your place for the November 13th webinar The real obstacle to digital transformation: Finding an alternative to spreadsheets and email.
I will be joined by Alun Rafique, CEO of Market Dojo and industry expert guest panelists, Iain McKenna of Sourcing Solved and Kelly Barner of Buyers Meeting Point.