But You Can’t Say That, or Why Do I Write What I Write?

Posted on January 15, 2016


Someone recently asked me why I write what I write?

My initial response was to say something reminiscent of the sentiments expressed by George Leigh Mallory regarding why he climbed Mount Everest . . . because it is there. In short, I write because I love to write.

However – and this is just my viewpoint, being blessed with an ability to earn a living doing something about which you are passionate, is as much an obligation and responsibility, as it is a joy.  This means that I have to be equally passionate regarding the subject matter about which I write. To do otherwise would be disrespecting both the privilege of the craft, and the responsibility I have to you my readers.

It is from this starting point, and within this context, that I write today’s post.

Now I want to stress that I do not envision myself as being “the” lone voice of reason in the wilderness. Although a small movement at this point in time, there are a growing number of people covering our industry who believe what I believe, and are also willing to go into the dark corners to tackle controversial subjects that have the greatest impact on our profession and livelihoods.

In fact, on the back cover of the new book that Kelly Barner and I wrote titled Procurement At A Crossroads, our publisher actually highlighted that we provide “research and analysis of events, individuals, and institutions in procurement that other media have been reticent to address.” Remind me to one day share with you the ins and outs of the writer – publisher relationship, including the design and wording of book covers.

All this being said, what prompted today’s post is a ReTweet that crossed my virtual desk referencing an article about getting marketing spend under management in 2016.

Marketing spend management . . . what problem could I possibly have with that subject?

Good question.

It is not the subject, but the venue and manner through which it is being presented that got my attention.

Everybody of course has the right to write about anything they want, and far be it from me to criticize how someone covers a particular topic. However, today’s procurement pros are entering the marketplace from a much stronger position in terms of industry education and understanding. In other words, there are an increasing number of universities that offer supply chain/procurement-centric courses, as well as many fine certification programs with various organizations such as Next Level Purchasing and ISM. By the way, both offer a new and exciting curriculum – although there remains an ongoing controversy relating to claims that one poached the content idea from the other. Regardless, I am certain that spend management is a notable part of these offerings.

For a tech savvy generation of professionals, even Google provides an abundance of insights on the subject. If you type in the words marketing spend in the search engine, there is literally a sea of information through publications that do not talk about “unprecedented spend detail that a good procurement platform can capture,” or what a “good analytics and business intelligence platform will provide.”

You will note the highlighting of the word platform.

Such references do raise potential questions pertaining to who has influenced this post or, towards whom or who’s solution might the writer be directing the reader? Even if there is no underlying or minimal influence, it nonetheless raises red flags. Especially when you have to pay a fee to access said information.

As outlined in my January 12th post Musings For A New Year: Do vendors have to make it in the U.S. to be successful?, getting marketing spend under management doesn’t start with choosing the right platform or technology. Technology, as Kelly so aptly put it in the post, is by and large “all the same.”

Cant Say That2

Are you being pointed in the wrong direction?

Rather than focusing on platforms, greater emphasis needs to be placed on the actual practice and fundamentals of managing marketing spend – or for that matter any spend – outside of the framework of a technological solution. The reason is fairly simple . . . technology is secondary to knowledge and expertise.

Think of it in terms of a spreadsheet – and yes, spend management solutions are becoming as ubiquitous as an electronic spreadsheet, in that the differences between one vendor’s solution and another is nominal at best. A spreadsheet application does little good, if the numbers being entered are inaccurate or irrelevant.

Now some may protest my assessment that there is little difference between one vendor and another, suggesting that I obviously do not understand the intricacies of complex technology. Some might even take offence. But the fact is that solutions are now designed to be up and operational within weeks if not days, and can usually be thoroughly “tested and assessed” without a major commitment of time and money.

Unless cloud-based vendors are selling us a bill of goods when they make the weeks and days claim, posts that focus on the technology instead of the fundamentals of the practice itself, are likely more of an advertisement for vendors than a valuable resource for procurement professionals.

Or to put it another way, if you really want to gain a better understanding of managing marketing spend, spend most of your time on learning the business and not the technology. When you are ready to look at a platform, don’t go to a blog . . . talk to other professionals and see what they use, and start your selection process there.

After all, and to once again quote my writing partner – did I mention we have a new book coming out, “The real differentiator . . . is in the service capabilities of the vendor, and the relationship they are able to build with their clients,” and not in their technology platform.


Posted in: Commentary