The last decade has seen a rapid increase in the number of people using social media platforms. Latest reports place the number at more than 1.5 billion. I firmly believe the time has come for procurement to embrace social media and, in so doing, can benefit in three areas: information management, risk mitigation & supplier management and collaboration. Let us look into each:
With so much economic uncertainty, collecting and managing external information is a crucial ‘to do’ for every organization. Getting timely information about events that affect procurement activities can go a long way in being proactive and developing contingency plans to avoid costly outcomes. A very good example is the political turmoil that some have termed the ‘Jasmine Revolution’, which took place in some African countries in 2011. At a time of information and media embargos Twitter and YouTube became channels of communication between affected countries and the external world. Tracking these channels helped procurement professionals to ]subjectively analyze and predict the impacts of social unrest on supply chains originating from these regions. Subscribing to the blog RSS feeds of thought leaders and industry influencers and analysts can provide valuable information on latest trends and industry directions. Internal, controlled social networks such as Salesforce Chatter can also be a great platform to promote cross functional collaboration and knowledge transfer within business organizations.
The year 2011 was marked by natural calamities, political turmoil and economic uncertainties — all of which affected supply chains. Obtaining credible information on which to act is paramount in such scenarios. Social media platforms become a fantastic source for financial information about suppliers and for capturing commodity trend information long before it shows up in official market statistics. Social media sites can also be an important evaluation tool when looking at prospective new suppliers. Procurement thought leaders are also contemplating the role of social media in supplier risk management because it can serve as an early indicator of developing market trends.
A quick search on LinkedIn for the word ‘Procurement’ under the groups section shortlists 1,782 results. These groups provide an excellent platform for procurement professionals to initiate discussions and receive and share insights on best practices among their peers. Procurement professionals can also use these platforms to collaborate and communicate with suppliers. Sites like LinkedIn also provide an important platform to connect with experts and influencers in the procurement and supply chain professions and to gain insights from the discussions in which they participate. In spite of such overarching benefits, procurement professionals — especially top level executives — seem reluctant to adopt social media avenues. One issue is a perceived lack of information security as many organizations do not wish their information to go public. But, with the emergence of Google+ and the concept of circles, such concerns may be put to rest. Companies can now send updates to selected target lists in their circles, preventing information from going public. There is also a perception among procurement professionals that social media sites have relevance only in the business-to-consumer (B2C) segment for brand building and marketing. But with experts from all domains using social media to air their views, and business organizations becoming increasingly active on these platforms, procurement should consider using them to gather information, communicate with internal and external stakeholders and collaborate with industry thought leaders and analysts.
You can connect with me on Twitter @Zycus.