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Are your Buying Processes designed for the Future Generation?

The other day my 4-year-old came up to me and this is how the conversation went

My Son: “Mom I want to eat spinach and cottage cheese today”,

(Surprise, surprise my 4 year old loves eating Spinach!)

Me: Sorry, we don’t have spinach at home, will get it when I go to the market next time

My Son: “Mom just order it online, and use express delivery it will be here in 2 Minutes”  (His concept of time does not extend beyond 2 minutes!)

Me: (bemused by the logic and impressed enough to agree) I Place the order on the online app

My Son: (After 2 minutes) “Mom check on the app how far is the delivery man!”

This got me wondering on the generational shift we are seeing. This child and his entire generation are growing in an age of digital technology on steroids. For them their baseline of how purchase decisions are made is not about going to multiple physical stores, comparing prices and then paying in cash, but about availability at the click of a button; you want something, you search for it, compare it, put it in a cart, get live notification on goods movement and magic, it appears at home!. If the item they want is not available, they switch on a notification and the system prompts them when the item is available again. Easy right!

In this entire process he or she never went and physically checked out an item (the virtual display was enough), never saw exchange of physical cash or cheque, didn’t have to go to the shop multiple times if the item was not available or even have an argument to return the item, if suddenly the item was not required.

Is it any wonder that by the time this generation enters the workforce they would never have seen a cheque and they might not even see wads of currency notes, formerly known as cash? For them wealth would be in the form of a card, chip or money stored in those gigabytes of bitcoins.

The real question that needs to be answered is whether businesses and more so P2P organizations are ready for this workforce! Around 2 decades ago, the B2B world was more technologically advanced than the B2C world. The workforce came in from their traditional and complex personal buying environment, to an environment where things could be ordered on a system. They might not have been ‘pretty’ but were more advanced than manual paper trails at the time, at least. Cut to the present, and you observe a tectonic shift, B2C has leaped ahead in transforming the buying experience with digital, whereas a large number of B2B businesses are still stuck in the old-world economy.


IDC research calls this the Digital Deadlock “
IDC research reveals that digital transformation (DX) is at the top of the agenda for organizations across the world. Business leaders are making massive investments in digital projects with the aspiration of becoming an Intelligent Enterprise. Despite these efforts, our surveys show that 71% of companies remain in the three lowest maturity levels, an indication that their digital efforts are insufficient to achieve their ultimate objective-— to generate a business model transformation leveraging the power of technology”

Since I started this story with my child, let me take another analogy from there. I read a book to my son once “Where the Wild Things Are”- by Maurice Sendak, and for me the moral of the story was that “we are limited by our own imagination”

We are stuck in our own artificially created barriers of how complex and unique our business is. These self-imposed limits and complexities make us either averse to trying something different or alternatively putting together programs which are short term, lacking vision, disintegrated or dysfunctional.

So, if you want the brightest minds in our future generation to come work for you and stay with your organisation, stop asking the traditional procurement questions about cost savings, supplier lists, process efficiencies. Stop trying to put in quick fixes or fighting the change with responses such as; “I can call my supplier to get status, or I can do a quick fix supplier managed inventory process by giving a supplier SPOC system access; irrespective of how clunky and time consuming the process might become. Start asking the relevant questions:

  • As the next generation joins the workforce, what is the user experience they would like to have?
  • What will be the tectonic shift in the buying experience for my organization?
  • What does Intelligent Spend look like & what would this mean for my organization?
  • How will this help fastrack our journey to a BIC intelligent enterprise?
  • What impact will this transformation have on my Suppliers? And how will I manage a connected Supplier Relationship program? What hidden value will it bring to my suppliers?
  • Will it help me drive a more agile, transparent and purpose driven supply chain?

These are all complex issues, aren’t they? Not according to my son, its ‘simple’.

So, while a move to Intelligent system and process is time-consuming journey, ridden with complexities, change management issues & lack of clear quantifiable short-term benefits, in the long term it will yield rich rewards in planning for the future. The choice is simple, it’s between your organization staying relevant for the future generations or becoming irrelevant one day at a time, starting from now. Which would you prefer?

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