E-procurement software vs. Purchase Order Software: what’s old is new again

A dear friend recently gave my 7-year-old daughter an Etch A Sketch.  Yup, 50 years later, in this day of handheld video games, they’re still selling those things.

As I held it in my hand and tried to show her how to draw a flower (with a big line through it…I got stuck in a corner), it occurred to me that our old favorite has much in common with today’s handheld video games; compact, portable, small controls requiring dexterity, eye-hand coordination, progression, reward for time invested, etc.

Of course, it got me thinking about how e-procurement software technology has changed over the years.

20 years ago:

  • someone needs something to do their job
  • they request it
  • someone approves it
  • a purchase order is placed with the supplier
  • the product or service is received
  • the supplier sends an invoice
  • the invoice is approved
  • pay the supplier
  • accounting entry (post to GL, etc).

Today:

  • Ditto

You know, it wasn’t always called “e-procurement software”. Back in the day, it was just “Purchase Order Software”.  As the market matured and the generic functionality expanded beyond simple Purchase Order automation, we all started calling it “Purchasing Software’, then “Purchasing Management Software”.

With the proliferation of the Internet and web-based systems, everyone started sticking an “e” in front of everything, so it became “e-procurement”, and finally with the recession of 2008 and corporate America’s increased focus on cost containment, many e-procurement software vendors (SpendMap included) switched to “Spend Management Software”.

But at the core, it’s still very much the same.  Sure, you can run it in a web browser so you don’t have to install software on a zillion machines and now you can transmit orders electronically instead of stuffing envelopes or standing by the fax machine, but the underlying procurement processes and steps that need automating are not all that different today than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

People need stuff, other people need to approve it, someone has to place an order with the vendor, you need to keep track of what has been received and what’s late, invoices need to be matched to orders to make sure you’re not getting ripped off, and sometimes you need to keep track of inventory on the shelf and when it’s time to reorder.

Mind you, back in the day, we didn’t have vendor portals or real-time dashboards or barcode scanning.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll get her that xBox for Christmas after all (ok, fine, it’s for me).

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