The Age of Mobile Procurement

For many, the use of mobile devices to enable procurement or purchasing of an item is something that has just been embraced over the pandemic, let’s face it after Covid, who wants to touch cash ever again! More so when you know it is a key carrier of not only viruses but protozoa, bacteria and even cocaine as a widely used study cites that 79% of one-dollar bills contain traces of this substance. I say again who wants to touch cash! However, the use of a mobile device to facilitate a “purchase” goes way back to 1997 when Coca-Cola innovatively trialled vending machines you could text from your device to pay and release a product from the machine, this was extremely flawed and laborious back then but remember that was over two decades ago. In the same year mobile banking was starting to be introduced, again by text messages to support account transfers. Both options were supporting text functionality, while in the same year Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology was being implemented, this was a chip with an antenna configuration That could be used  by any device that had them, mobiles or just phones for Gen X & Y, are just the most common device. Additional security maybe added for large or overly frequent purchases with the use of a Personal Identification Number (PIN), something that has been widely used in Europe for many years.

Since then, mobile procurement has evolved from RFID to Near Field Communication (NFC) which is a more encompassing technology still providing the much-needed levels of security as we venture away from our plastic payment cards to our mobile devices. NFC has evolved into a one-step payment method most of us are now all too familiar with. Having progressed from plastic card to mobile technology it was only a matter of time before software merged the process via a myriad of security protocols, so we now have payment methods integrated into our phones, virtual wallets and even browsers. Even the type of “money” we use has changed with interest free payment options on money that Is never ever seen. For the purposes of journey clarity any inclusion of Bitcoin has been omitted from this blog.

So, we can procure goods without handling any “green”, we use Amazon, eBay and a plethora of online stores are available to buy those things that are missing in our personal lives, but what about work and the companies we work for and their need for procurement! If we factor all of the above into Business to Consumer (B2C), then what is happening to support Business to Business (B2B)?

Procurement in B2B

As addressed above, the base technology has progressed being developed over many years and used every day within our own lives. But purchasing has and continues to change more so within the B2B areas as adoption of ERP/CRM applications are managing spend well. There is less focus on the physical technology aspect and more emphasis on the software methodology. Basically, the phone or device you use is just a window to online and the application managing procurement. Once you appreciate that the purchasing process is further removed from cash/payment cards, then this can be managed much more effectively within a software platform or more often than not a software payment gateway within a business encompassing platform. The requirements are boarder however as any application or website must be mobile responsive as recent figures state that 54% of internet usage is now via a mobile device.

Business procurement applications are extremely embracing of mobile access with the pressure being greater in the past few years when people are more able to work at their convenience from any device. Even the system that are not “mobile ready” are able to use suitable plug-ins such as Connect by Corvolo, in order to support complex products

For example Connect by Corvolo seamlessly plugs into any ERP/CRM application to support the procurement of complex products from Marcoms to critical stock and brief submissions. This means that any proprietary application such as SAP Ariba, Coupa, Jaggaer etc. can integrate extremely varied and complex products directly into any global supply chain. This directly addresses the ongoing complexities of tail spend management.

Essentially what mobile B2B procurement does is enable the full features and functionality of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application to be available anywhere/anytime to support the convenience of our everyday lives in this new age of hybrid working. Users within an Enterprise can give total access to any element of a supply chain while still being under the governance of Chief Purchasing Officer (CPO) role, let’s face it, what CPO does not want total transparency of his organisations outgoings and supply chain performance!

What evidence is there that mobile procurement is prevailing? Not only is more of the internet usage now on mobile (54% as above) but recent figures state that 53% of all emails are opened on a mobile device, a 45% increase over the past three years. Stakeholders working from home sometimes out of regular working hours now expect to be able to procure services and goods to support the Enterprises objectives when they need them

The essential action of the procurement process to not slowing the needs and demands of the business/employees is paramount. Users need to access relevant supply chains when they need them not waiting on form fill bureaucracy, legacy processes that may miss a production schedule or product release deadline

The advantages of mobile procurement are pretty obvious and promote total transparency of all goods procured by the Enterprise at the convenience of stakeholders and customers. The world has embraced Digital Transformation faster than predicted due to the pandemic and the speed of adoption has not slowed afterwards. Thirty years ago, in the very early days of mobile technology (yes there were mobile phones back then), one of the predictions was the increase adoption of “form factors”, these became the devices we now have that are so much more than just a phone and continue to develop into an increasing key part of our lives. The ability to procure goods from them is a good example of this and one that is set to continue in our everyday lives but also as an essential part of a much-needed business process.