Paper Chasing The Paper Clips

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It brought a small smile to my lips this week when Accenture and American Express published their new report declaring that companies aren't making enough use of eprocurement applications and purchasing cards.

I think I first wrote those words about four or five years ago now, when the favoured (for which read clichéd) examples that was trotted out ad nauseam, by vendors was the hoary old one about an 80 pence packet of paper clips that cost companies £80 to acquire using conventional corporate procurement.

Five years on and it seems that the lesson has not been learned - which is a genuine pity as eprocurement is one of those 'best thing since sliced bread' ideas that actually works in practice. But the big problem is that we've never really moved on from that damned packet of paper clips!

Powerful image though it was, the paper clips cemented eprocurement in the corporate mind set as a trivial issue, something to do with office supplies and making sure there were enough envelopes and pens and pencils to be had. It wasn't therefore raised up in the corporate consciousness to become the board-level-attention-demanding issue that it should always have been.

It's interesting to note that those companies that have seen significant benefits from eprocurement are those for whom the paper clip factor has been a side show. They're the ones that have gone to the trouble to make sure that eprocurement applications were integrated into their existing back office systems, most notably ensuring that eprocurement and supply chain management (SCM) were seamlessly joined.

Maybe one day corporates will finally get the message. Or maybe there's a wider problem. It's a harsh fact of life, but there are people who like chasing bits of paper around corporates. It's safe, it's certain and it's 'how we've always done it'.

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By admin
19th Mar 2003 20:44

Paper will forever be the reality in many corporations. I will never forget my first visit to an air traffic control tower. In spite of screens everywhere, the controllers had pieces of paper with the numbers and names of each flight in their sector right next to those screens. That's "rack 'em and stack 'em." "Just in case the systems go down, you know."

You've hit the nail squarely on the head, Stuart. The first requirement is seamless integration of systems, a rarity in ALL corporations. Deconstruct that and you will find the first element absolutely needed, on the IT side, is a complete enterprise architecture. Now walk into any IT department and ask to see that. Then ask to see a process flow and a work flow. And, gasp, then ask to see a framework, as complex as Zachman or as simple as Visio diagrams. I just came from a project in our largest insurance corporation in the US where none of this exists, but billions (truly, billions) are spent yearly on IT initiatives. Each initiative is supposedly the "turn-key" for the corporation, and this includes integration amongst ERP, supply chain, and CRM with web-based portals. It doesn't work, and no one at corporate knows why. Order more paper clips, please, and more 3 ring binders.

Keep in mind that CRM sales has touted for years that their products can be integrated to ANYTHING. Uh huh. Just plaster that puppy onto a system like a yellow sticky note...

Now, IF there is an enterprise architecture, IF there is a seamless integration of systems, IF there is an e-portal, you still have business executives who can barely retrieve emails let alone format and understand system generated reports. So, again, IT has done the job but business remains alergic to anything but paper. When I am mentoring young consultants, I tell them to silently observe the physical environment in executive offices during meetings. Lots of paper? Lots of binders? Plastic dust cover over the flat screen monitor and over the keyboard? Here's a tree killer who wants all info on paper.

We have a full generation to go before the realities of electronic reports is fully appreciated. Heck, I am still hearing from the C levels: typing is what secretaries do.

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avatar
By admin
19th Mar 2003 20:44

Paper will forever be the reality in many corporations. I will never forget my first visit to an air traffic control tower. In spite of screens everywhere, the controllers had pieces of paper with the numbers and names of each flight in their sector right next to those screens. That's "rack 'em and stack 'em." "Just in case the systems go down, you know."

You've hit the nail squarely on the head, Stuart. The first requirement is seamless integration of systems, a rarity in ALL corporations. Deconstruct that and you will find the first element absolutely needed, on the IT side, is a complete enterprise architecture. Now walk into any IT department and ask to see that. Then ask to see a process flow and a work flow. And, gasp, then ask to see a framework, as complex as Zachman or as simple as Visio diagrams. I just came from a project in our largest insurance corporation in the US where none of this exists, but billions (truly, billions) are spent yearly on IT initiatives. Each initiative is supposedly the "turn-key" for the corporation, and this includes integration amongst ERP, supply chain, and CRM with web-based portals. It doesn't work, and no one at corporate knows why. Order more paper clips, please, and more 3 ring binders.

Keep in mind that CRM sales has touted for years that their products can be integrated to ANYTHING. Uh huh. Just plaster that puppy onto a system like a yellow sticky note...

Now, IF there is an enterprise architecture, IF there is a seamless integration of systems, IF there is an e-portal, you still have business executives who can barely retrieve emails let alone format and understand system generated reports. So, again, IT has done the job but business remains alergic to anything but paper. When I am mentoring young consultants, I tell them to silently observe the physical environment in executive offices during meetings. Lots of paper? Lots of binders? Plastic dust cover over the flat screen monitor and over the keyboard? Here's a tree killer who wants all info on paper.

We have a full generation to go before the realities of electronic reports is fully appreciated. Heck, I am still hearing from the C levels: typing is what secretaries do.

Thanks (0)