This is the first post in a monthly series titled HOTS, which stands for "Heard on the Street." In this series, we'll talk about what we're hearing from our customers as well as the broader enterprise purchasing and procurement community.
Email was the topic of conversation in one of our customer meetings this week. I had sent this customer a link to this amazing comic about e-mail misuse, and that ended up being the launching point for this conversation. The phrase "email hell" made its debut early and re-appeared often. From the heads nodding around the room, it was obvious that everyone shared the same concerns about e-mail.
This conversation happened at a Fortune 1000 company in a room full of purchasing analysts and managers. Most of the time they spend at their computers is spent managing "email hell". This is what they had to say:
1. Email is not good if you want a single source of truth.
There is a ton of data hidden within email inboxes. This is an especially big deal in purchasing, as organizations can save a lot of time and money by leveraging lessons learned from historical deals and events. The worst part is that there is a ton of information asymmetry, as no one person has the full history of any buyer-vendor interaction, because of all the CCs and FWDs and side conversations, leading to an array of sources of information. Significant value will be unlocked once everyone moves to a single source of truth in purchasing.
2. We waste a lot of time and energy going back and forth with vendors.
The purchasing department works every day at the leading edge of the enterprise, interfacing with every other internal department and acting as the lead liaison to external vendors. Unfortunately, this means answering a lot of the same questions over and over again. Even worse, this means having to bring in different stakeholders at various points on every single deal in order to get their input or approval. This takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, and causes significant delays when it comes to closing deals.
3. Email breaks down as soon as you bring in more than 2 people.
Everyone who's been part of an e-mail thread knows this is 100% true. Email is a decent tool for 1:1 communication but is quite awful once you bring in multiple people, especially when those people have different perspectives and incentives. It becomes incredibly hard to move a project close to the finish line when email is primary project management and collaboration tool. Purchasing departments desperately need better tools to handle this.
Bottom line - what I heard on the street today is that email is completely inadequate for most of the work that purchasing departments do, and yet it's the best tool they have right now. Our mission at ZenPurchase is to fix this, one company at a time.
Sunny Manivannan - CEO of ZenPurchase