“Unfortunately, many organizations have and still do attempt to bridge (and bypass) this gap through technological implementation versus skill development. While we are in the midst of what one could call a new era in terms of intuitive technologies based on the non-consultancy SaaS model that can on a more cost efficient basis assist with the collaborative exercise, these absent skills sets still need to be acquired and incorporated into the procurement process first internally, and then extended to include external relationships with suppliers.”
The above is an excerpt from a commentary exchange based on an article that raised the question about generational learning and collaboration within the global procurement practice.
While a recent interview with expert author Bill McAneny, who’s current research is centered on assessing the real impact of this multi-generational phenomenon in which it is not uncommon for 4 different generations of workers to be simultaneously employed within the same company, provided some interesting and controversial perspectives the real question is simply this . . . what role does technology play in this emerging techno-centric workforce paradigm shift in terms of communication and skill set acquisition re learning?
It is a good question, especially within the context of an article I wrote back in 2004 titled “Technology’s Diminishing Role In An Emerging Process-Driven World,” in which I contended that far too often end-user organizations abdicate both responsibility and control of the collaborative processes that are essential to successful initiatives involving technology. Note my reference to the word “involving.”
Long viewed as the domain of either the IT or Finance departments (or both), purchasing professionals rarely if at all, were ever invited to the table in any meaningful way relative to the critical early stages of a company’s formation of its automation strategy. In essence they were by and large reduced to the role of spectators in selecting the very technology that was purportedly being implemented to make their jobs easier. As a result, it has come as no surprise to many that the rate of initiative failures has consistently hovered around the 85% plus mark and higher.
The message this delivers in no uncertain terms is that automation does not eliminate the need for establishing a truly collaborative dialogue involving all stakeholders within an enterprise’s diverse operations . . . including procurement.
This also means that while technology is without a doubt a critical adjunct to an overall sound eProcurement strategy, it is just that . . . an adjunct that cannot be used to circumvent the communication process.
In conjunction with the dissolution of the somewhat artificially established functional silos of departmental self-interest being replaced by a more holistic and collective view of an enterprise (can you say one for all, and all for one), the introduction of a tech-savvy workforce especially within the purchasing ranks, means that the much needed realignment of priorities that begins with establishing effective collaborative channels is more likely to take place.
Think of it as removing the mystery of the magic in that technology enlightenment, which similar to those who spoke Latin during the middle ages, was limited to a select few. Like putting on a pair of comfortable slippers at the end of a long day, the familiar ease that marks Generation Ys and Zs use of technology has changed the game on multiple levels.
The transition from the vendor/consultancy models that usually ensured that a project would take years to implement, costing end-user clients millions and in some cases tens of millions of dollars in a quest to grab the illusionary brass ring of what turned out to be – well let’s say it – fictitious savings (I am still convinced that savings targets were largely a by-product of shaking a magic 8 ball), is one of the key and most significant areas of change.
With the Oz-like curtain pulled back, and the levers not only exposed but plain-fully understood, the introduction of the non-consultancy service offerings in which implementation time-lines are reduced from a connected string of never ending years, to a seemingly ephemeral matter of months if not weeks, revenue models that were more reflective of an annuity payout versus a fee for service are a thing of the past. In short, Oz is now an unemployed wizard with a broken wand.
Of course commensurate with this new found technological understanding was also the emergence of Software-as-a-Service “SaaS” solutions that intuitively reflected and extended the expertise of practical experience to the actual users.
Specifically, these new age systems shed the shackles of the constrictive equation-based assumptions of traditional software that rarely aligned with how the procurement process worked in the real-world. In its place emerged an interactive agent-based platform that is continuously learning and adapting to the reality of the buying situation and corresponding skill level of the user. Some might suggest that this is artificial intelligence, but having exhausted both energy and great sums of money researching this new standard in the late nineties, I can say that there is nothing artificial about it.
One example of this new procurement medium in action came through in a conversation I had not that long ago with RFPBlaster’s Andy Akrouche. Akrouche, who has 20 years experience in the information technology field, has an outstanding track record in forming and managing strategic relationships between clients and major IT vendors.
In fact, Andy pioneered the first evolution of the Strategic Relationship Model in 1994, and worked with clients and large outsourcing corporations to bring about a new framework for client/vendor relationships that is based on strategic fit, flexibility and sustained mutual benefit. Having held senior positions with major IT providers such as IBM, Digital Equipment Corporation and Electronic Data Systems (EDS), it probably comes as no surprise that he has an in-depth knowledge and a thorough understanding of IT Vendors Sourcing Models, Service Delivery capabilities, and contract management policies.
The real challenge was to find a way to create a truly interactive platform that incorporated this vast pool of experience, without falling into the over simplification trap of a pick and choose legal term functional menu associated with most contracting applications of the day. In essence what I am talking about is bridging experience and collaboration at the point where and when it matters the most – at the stakeholder level, regardless of where these individuals are in terms of their own understanding and experiences. This is the juxtaposition of generational learning and meaningful communication.
It is also, at least from the software side of the equation, the important starting point for the new SaaS vendor solutions that have forever changed the game from one of a costly and complicated mystery, to one of streamlined implementations with attainable results. Now this is automation . . . if only I could finally learn how to program my VCR.