Procurement through the microscope of a Microbiologist

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“I’ve spent more time than many will believe [making microscopic observations], but I’ve done them with joy, and I’ve taken no notice those who have said why take so much trouble and what good is it?” – Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

As a microbiologist by qualification, I was asked by a colleague of mine regarding my views on spend management and procurement technology from the perspective of a microbiologist. To be candid I did not have a convincing answer then, but after giving it a thought, this would have been my answer.

Leeuwenhoek is considered by many as the father of microscopy for his effort in discovering the microscope in the 17th century. It was his passion which unravelled a world within a world, the world of microorganisms that was invisible to mankind. The discovery of microorganisms was the starting point in identifying the importance of these tiny beings to mankind & to the environment on the whole.

3 centuries later history talks about one such individual, who through his efforts transformed not only the way procurement functioned but also the way it was being viewed by other functions within the organization. The credit goes to R. Gene Richter who many believe is the Father of spend management. Gene Richter has been credited for his endeavor in making opportunities visible to executives in their spend. Richter’s effort transformed the entire procurement function at IBM, influencing the whole spend management movement and the position of procurement professionals within the organization.

Just as microscopes have evolved from being simple microscope to electron microscope which empowered microbiologist to better understand microorganisms and thereby use them for the benefit of mankind, procurement technology tools too have made a rather quick evolution moving from providing visibility to spend data to building complex cost models to make better purchase decisions. This evolution has transformed the procurement professionals from being mere buyers to strategic decision makers in organizations.

So to close on the post, I would say that ‘visibility’ is something that has been crucial to both the microbiologists & the procurement professionals – who otherwise would not have been recognized for their marvelous contribution in their respective fields.


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