Procurement and Social Media: the Long Awaited Love Affair yet to Bloom
This is no brainer that times and lives have changed and so have the ways of doing things. The iPhone/android generation of today has shifted towards a smarter, quicker and much faster way of making things happen enabled by cutting edge technology and mobile communication.
The social media permeates every aspect of our lives, more so with the advent of smart mobile technology and apps which allow round the clock access to a plethora of online information, updated by the minute.
No more is the technology associated with the techno geeks, but with those who are smart and informed and rightly so, from ordering your tickets and buying fashion wear online to getting RSS feeds on topics that interest you, reading restaurant and product reviews and talking to your leaders on the latest socio/political issues to best deals, the world has definitely shrunk to a palm size of convenience.
We are living in an alternate realm of a virtual life where we share, connect and form opinions through tweets, status updates, share feedbacks about our moment of truth with numerous products, customer services folks of companies, all facilitated through shared social, technology enabled networks.
Many social media analytic sites like Adobe® Social Analytics and Klout have evolved that measure your online impact and influence and are also being engaged by various companies worldwide to monitor and analyze the pulse of their products and services. All these turnarounds have made the social media not just dynamic but actionable for businesses.
Social media has unquestionably become a very powerful platform which the businesses can no longer afford to ignore. Companies have extensively indulged in the love affair called social media to market products and services, inform about new products being launched and obtain customer feedbacks. But it seems that the marriage with more complex functions like procurement is still not consummate.
The Social media and the CPO of today have so far been on the tangent, their most common excuse being "Social media is for selling and we are buying, we don't need social media", my prior experience of working with a public procurement body speaks that by accessing social media networks, a company or an organization can get access to information related to products and services and get connected to emerging markets, new vendors and alternative products. It can be leveraged as a very powerful tool for obtaining more cost and time effective and efficient market intelligence and supplier risk data.
The forecasts in terms of shifting Socio-economic-political scenarios across the world can be early warning indicators to help CPO sail over the crisis situations like supply chain disruptions and delays by helping a CPO to visualize early on potential threats and devise mitigation strategies. The same applies for gaining visibility of the emerging markets and improving your visibility across these markets as a strong buyer.
The procurement fraternity has always been marred with allegations of ambiguity under the garb of confidentiality. Many procurement anomalies being hot topics for discussion by various groups on LinkedIn and sites like Spend Matters. Companies and public Procurements bodies have mandates from EU, FCPA and other regulatory bodies across various geographies to build strong evidences of transparency in any buying activity. Is there a better way of addressing this, than running e-Sourcing completions on tools like Ariba Sourcing and integrating it with social media platforms to convey in the right markets, the ongoing RFXs/competitions and getting a wider expanse of suppliers to be aware of it. Supplier's and service providers can subscribe to a company's RFX tweets, RSS Feeds and apply online. This enables greater transparency, faster collaboration and two-way visibility for both the buyer and the supplier and also weeds out any accusations of a preferential and biased treatment from vendors/government agencies etc.
On a different note, social media could be deployed in terms of engagement with peers. Various blogging sites like Ariba Exchange or intranet boarded closed group platforms, next level purchasing have a great following of middle to senior level professionals sharing knowledge, best practices and even run commodity councils on them. Professional networking sites likes LinkedIn connect professional across the supply chain and can also help tap the right resources across the Sourcing and procurement domain. Many of the techno social tools have already entered the mainstream, eProcurement/eSourcing are leading the pack of procurement transformation initiatives.
Social Media can therefore be the prospective partner; a CPO can depend on to achieve dual benefit of getting access to the market and also making the market aware of his company's requirement and upcoming sourcing projects.
The time is ripe for this alliance to be arranged. Will await your comments in case you feel otherwise or have experienced any benefit/have used social networks innovatively to your advantage.
In my next blog we will explore specific social media tools and sites and run a feasibility test on them from a procurement professional's perspective.