As 2014 comes to an end, we find ourselves reflecting on our long-term vision. It's ambitious, optimistic, and a little scary. We've shared it with our early customers and investors, and now we're ready to share it with the world. Without further ado, this is what we envision for Procurement by the year 2020.
1. Enterprise purchasing is as easy and intuitive as consumer purchasing.
Consumer purchasing is so easy today, isn't it? The Internet lets buyers access several eCommerce marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, and individual company websites). On top of that, buyers have unlimited access to vendor ratings, product reviews, and other must-have information needed to complete a purchase.
Today, even buying complex, high-value goods like Tesla's electric cars, is easy and frictionless, with hundreds of data points available regarding the quality of the product and the vendor. It's not difficult to imagine a day where consumers can buy anything in seconds with just a credit card and access to the Internet.
Enterprise purchasing is the exact opposite. One reason is that buyers have limited data on the quality of the products (and the vendors) they're buying. In addition, they have a hard time collaborating with other members of the decision-making unit. This means that buyers need to 'kick the tires' and consider the purchasing decision over a longer period. This adds a lot of time and friction to the process. There is one more issue - which is a severe lack of access to data about vendor quality, which brings us to our next point.
2. Every company in the world has access to comprehensive vendor reviews.
Many enterprise vendors try to hide data that may portray them in a poor light. As a result, many shudder at the thought of letting prospective customers take a look at all of their old customers' feedback.
For Procurement, the best-case scenario today is that the vendor provides a few customer references, but this "data" is highly subjective as these references have their own hidden incentives (such as preferential pricing and terms). Today's enterprise buyers crave more data, and without it, they want to weigh the pros and cons for as long as possible before committing to a purchase. This causes delays and frustration on both sides. If a vendor were to provide a comprehensive view of their history with former customers, this would change the conversation and help the buyers trust that vendor more, leading to faster deals.
3. Software helps Procurement learn from the past and predict the future.
The current generation of Procurement software helps users answer two important questions on a regular basis:
(a) What happened? (Descriptive)
(b) Why did it happen? (Diagnostic)
However, there are two other questions that are rising in importance today:
(c) What will happen? (Predictive)
(d) How can we make it happen? (Prescriptive)
No good solutions exist today to answer (c) and (d). However, technology is advancing at a rapid rate in the areas of machine learning, data science, and predictive analytics. We believe that it's only a matter of time before software will reliably answer all four questions above. The implications for Procurement are massive - imagine having insights at your fingertips that will help you predict demand, or when schedules will slip, and which vendors will reliably deliver goods and services under what situations. At the highest level, this enables Procurement to make better decisions faster with increased confidence.
At ZenPurchase, we believe that our 2020 vision is an exciting one for Procurement, and every day, we are making progress toward this vision. The Procurement landscape is shifting in front of our eyes, and the next generation of technology-enabled enterprise procurement and purchasing is sure to be an exciting one for everyone involved.