Geek’s v’s Process Heads

I found this article in the UK November issue of Management Today called “Why suits don’t get IT”. The article immediately grabbed me as I have long held the belief that 2 areas of a business that can so often be held in contempt are Purchasing and IT. For this reason both disciplines have much in common but rarely do they meet!

I have personally seen the Purchasing Managers look of horror when discussing the possibility of tackling the desktop equipment spend. I have also witnessed the IT departments’ contempt when dealing with procurement managers.

The article points out that much of the contempt held by “The Geeks” lies in the fact that management (you could say procurement) have little understanding of IT. In terms of Procurement, they could be seen to be dealing with last years events (spend) whilst technology moves on at a constant rate. They are sometimes in danger of being perceived as too process lead and having to comply to rigid purchasing procedures which further fuels this perception.

On the other hand management’s attitude towards IT departments’ is based on acceptance rather than trust. They are only interested in technology when it is finished and working.

With these kinds of attitudes it is difficult to see how both could work together.

However the article offers some hope as it suggests that managers are becoming more comfortable with technology and now will “get” IT to some extent. I so often see this when procurement departments implement an eSourcing suite. The transparent nature of eSourcing naturally assists collaboration as it demonstrates to IT that Procurement has a high level of commercial understanding and also a confidence with new technology.

One contributor to the article suggests that when software companies understand the value of their IP you generally will get alignment between functions. I would like to stretch the term IP further and say that where companies understand their inherent value or purpose you will generally get alignment across all functions.

It is likely that where organisations do not express this “IP” or Value clearly enough then functions will be misaligned. It is also highly likely that eSourcing will not be part of the procurement strategy and therefore opportunities to engage with the rest of the organisation will be missed.

So I think the poor relationship between the Geeks and Suits is very much down to the strategic direction of the business. From a procurement perspective eSourcing plays a key role in this relationship as it will often act as a great vehicle to send out a positive message to all stakeholders.

4 Responses to Geek’s v’s Process Heads

  1. IT people are usually very thoughtful and detail-oriented, which is a mentality that is key to doing their job well. However, that means that they like to hear explanations that make sense to them. This can sometimes be irritating; but it is worth taking the time to explain, because once the IT people understand your objective, they can be fantastic allies. The mistake that many “suits” make is not taking the time to explain to the “geeks” what they’re trying to accomplish.

    As with most business issues, good communication solves many problems!

  2. Eric thanks for your comments. You are right good communication does solve many problems.

    It is interesting that you point out that IT people are detailed-orientated which is another similar trait common in procurement managers.

    However being detail orientated may not naturally enable you to be a good communicator. It may be something that requires more work and thats the point. ESourcing may help both.

  3. Great posting Sean and a subject close to my heart. From what I’ve seen of both procurement and IT, I’d say the similarities far outweigh the differences. Both can be seen as administrative back-office functions, both can be seen as strategic deliverers of improved future profitability. Depends on who staffs them and who leads them!

    And both departments have a lot to offer each other, if only they would engage with each other openly early on in the projects that they undertake.

    All the best

    Alan

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