Is the Facebook generation the key to procurement's future?

20 October 2010
As the owner of a website, blog, LinkedIn group and a novice Twitter user, I am no stranger to social media, but certainly no expert. It is clear through listening across the blogosphere, however, that social media is coming to procurement – ready or not. As the profession’s old hands increasingly recruit from the “Facebook generation”, these bright young technology-minded individuals are going to have growing influence on the future of our profession and I believe smart organisations will start planning for the upside and downside of this transition of power. As social media begins to integrate into corporate life, procurement can play a key role observing and analysing all sides of the business. It is perfectly positioned between the customer side, internal stakeholders and the supply side to become a centre for spend intelligence. This increased visibility of data resulting from the management of social customer relationships, social internal stakeholders and social supplier relationships will provide procurement with information-rich data which will permit increased collaboration, agility and faster decision-making. Unlike their colleagues, this generation are increasingly likely to trust user-generated content from social sites, than the equivalent on a supplier’s website or from editorial articles. In this environment departmental silos lose control as messages from the wider world influence decision-making. These messages travel quickly from customer to customer, peer to peer and from supplier to supplier, forming a chain of connections that reveal true insight, perception, and perspective instead of those motivated by self interest. Truth will finally come to procurement decision-making. This new way of working will be very alien to those not used to tweeting, sounding off on blogs and listening for news through RSS feeds. Social media skills such as community building, trend-spotting, and sharing are very different to old-school skills of forming closed groups, collecting data to build a power base and communicating to spin the desired message. So how might the Facebook generation influence this change? •    Strategy Social media will certainly have an impact on brand identity and the way it is managed. •    People Recruitment via Linkedin, training via Second Life, podcasts and webcasts to educate staff and suppliers. •    Knowledge Management Capturing knowledge on podcasts and webcasts to build a database segmented into topic areas. •    Process RFxs via wikis, innovation, supplier relationship management via opening up to social media will provide more honest feedback on the health of the relationship. Social media can help procurement engage with suppliers, internal stakeholders and customers and should be a powerful tool for developing procurement strategies that best add value to the organisation. By its open nature it is likely to provide new challenges when used in a traditional corporate context. However by deciding the rules of engagement early and engaging your young Facebook graduates, current leaders can help ensure an altogether healthier corporate climate emerges for procurement while the old barriers to its continued advancement fall, to build a more agile and capable organisation. You can find more about the sort of technology you might need for this change in this article. Ed’s note: And if you are part of the Facebook generation (or even if you aren’t), you can like SM’s Facebook page by clicking here. You can also sign up to receive daily news, jobs and blogs here and view our Twitter updates here.
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