19 October 2000 | David Arminas
Fear of failing when implementing an e-procurement system is not a luxury today's purchasing professionals can afford, delegates were told at the question time debate. There will be many failures as procurement strives to get to grips with systems that have little track record of business results.
"We should be cynical and realise that we will fail, and also ask just how long the e-procurement bubble will last," said Ian Taylor, head of procurement at the Halifax and one of the five professionals on the panel.
Gerry Walsh, vice-president of global procurement at American Express, agreed that mistakes would be made, especially by early adopters, and that the company must be prepared for them. There would never be a one-size-fits-all e-procurement solution, he said. "We don't know where the e-procurement market will be in two to three years."
Walsh added that Amex had selected Ariba's e-procurement software earlier this year and was now piloting it across six commodity areas, including office supplies, with a group of 50 requisitioners in what he described as a "very controlled environment".
The company plans to roll the system out to all 80,000 Amex staff worldwide, but this was likely to take at least two years, Walsh said.
The e-procurement project set up last year by Dutch electronics giant Philips had been more challenging and taken longer than expected, acknowledged Neil Deverill, its executive vice-president for purchasing.
Initially, the company had opted to customise its Ariba software, but, after a rethink decided to revert to a less complex "out-of-the-box" solution. "Keep it simple" was his advice to fellow practitioners.
What might not seem to be good choices today may be seen later in a different light, suggested Theo Theocharides, partner at strategic procurement consultancy Value Connect.
"The problem is how to quantify e-procurement being a precursor to more total e-business," he told delegates.