Expediting probably took up half of my time whilst acting as a buyer at a large tier one aerospace provider. Three bids and a buy took up the rest. Was I concerned? Unfortunately not. New to the job and having fallen into procurement, I had no better understanding of what I should or could do.
However, in the mid 90’s, strategic sourcing was coming to the forefront. Spend more time upstream thus less time downstream. Seemed like a great idea. The AT Kearney initiative with the seven steps was brought in with vigour: massive process re-design, a plethora of initiatives, and, of course, an ERP implementation from one of the large software vendors. A wonderfully massive and complex system. The managers liked the reporting, the auditability and the control.
But for the purchasing professionals, did it make our lives easier?
Well, we certainly had a process to follow, albeit different from before. We certainly had a system to use where you could put all the information, such as a million different delivery codes to every cost centre under the sun. We certainly had all the information at our finger tips…almost.
The issue was that even though this was this fantastic system to use, it was unwieldy. Yes, you could do anything, but to allow for this functionality and capability there was always a multitude of screens to go through. I was still doing three bids and a buy for the local tooling but my life had become more of an administrator. The time saved from less expediting was taken up with inputting information into more screens. Sure, the managers enjoyed the ability to interrogate the system to any level and run reports, but from the buyers’ side it did not make our lives easier and was certainly not more enjoyable.
Does this matter?
Of course it does. At Market Dojo, we take a view with our software to make it functional and easy to use. A lot of new software today requires no implementation and very little training. It is off the shelf, yet sufficiently customisable (without a raft of consultants) so you can adapt it to your processes, and not vice-versa. Most importantly, it actually makes the buyers’ lives easier whilst still providing the control and reporting to the management.
Why is this so important?
Myself and my colleagues are great believers that however good or bad the plan is, it will fail if the team is not behind it. Asking the organisation what their goal is and having many different replies is a sure sign there is no focus. All software implementations ultimately depend on uptake by the end user.
Systems should not be designed by ‘techies’ with a process to map, but designed in conjunction with the end users. Almost akin to applying Taylorism (theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows) to a system combined with improved ergonomics.
This should ultimately be at the forefront of any new system design; to bring the benefits to the end user and not just to management. The system will then sell itself, bringing a more rapid return on investment and creating a happier and more productive organisation.
The new breed of vendors are learning from the world around us and building applications which do just this. This makes the software accessible with fast uptake, just look at Facebook or LinkedIn. Would it not be great to have other users in your organisation say “Can I have that?”, rather than, “I hope they don’t roll that out here!”.