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 “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates


The promise and the challenge of enterprise software, and increasingly cloud-based software-as-a-service solutions, is to improve the way large organizations do things, by transforming business processes.

I love this quote from Bill Gates because there is beautiful truth in its simplicity.

Nowhere is this more apparently true than in strategic sourcing. Whether it is legacy software, ERP modules, ERP cloud-based services, SaaS sourcing solutions, or full-blown 21st century procure-to-pay suites, people are still frustrated generally by the overall RFP process. It is no wonder that people are slow to transition systems, given the high costs of implementation and training. Better the devil you know.

It is a remarkable phase of the current technology environment that UX, to use the cool kids’ jargon for user experience, is seen as the universal salve. Perhaps this is because the iPhone and subsequently iPad transformed the usability of mobile devices with their easy-to-use interfaces.

It seems like there are a million startups and scale-ups who argue that their critical differentiation is a better user experience.

“By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.”

Admittedly, this statement was written by a “UX Design Principal” at 3M Health Care. He would say that, wouldn’t he?

But the notion that a good, functional, appealing, sexy-even user experience is a sufficient condition for product differentiation sounds hopelessly 1998.

“We can’t think of people like we think products; we cannot fix human behavior in a two-week sprint.”

And it is all starting to look the same.

“The issue is that companies are competing for those same search terms, creating formulaic solutions in exchange for a second of your attention. We trust them more than we should. After all, it’s hard to say no to a solution that’s free and easy to implement. While predefined methods can be a great starting point, they can’t be the end. For every article defending a method, there are three going against it. Which one will you believe? Can you apply the same method for every single project? Can you simply copy a competitor and call it a day?”

We are at the point (or close to it) where good UX is one of those features everyone expects. It doesn’t differentiate your offering. At all.

If you really want to improve the way people engage with business processes that were designed decades ago like the RFP cycle, you must change the Process Experience, or the PX. That’s what we do with EdgeworthBox’s network-based sourcing™ approach. You can’t change the underlying fundamental constraints. But you can make it more difficult for people to game the process by “wiring” the solicitation in order to blunt competitive bids. If you want to make sourcing strategic by getting procurement professionals a seat at the table, you need to bring key players from the C-Suite, from Finance, from IT, from product and marketing into the business process (and make them want to be there by giving them something of value). Give us a shout. Let’s talk about how to improve the RFP process.

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Chand Sooran

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