THE BLOG

Supply on Demand

14/01/2014 10:38 GMT | Updated 15/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Or how Software as a Transaction (SaaT) is set to push the growth of s-commerce (or services-commerce) and the way companies do business with suppliers.

A longstanding plateau of supply chain procurement and services buying innovation has left the global market in a state of stunted growth, with seemingly little room for manoeuvre. Philip Letts, CEO of blur Group reveals exactly how key players in the tech world are pushing to broaden the horizons of traditional commerce.

It's something of an irony that, in a world where the customer has a near-limitless choice of online acquisition, the businesses themselves providing those choices do not have similar freedoms. Business in general is often an isolating endeavour - as the pressures of time, budget and scrutiny close in, decision makers are squeezed down routes that give little room for change, adaption or rejuvenation. Astonishingly, while those buying happily through e-commerce are reaping the benefits of variety and competition, big business is all-too-regularly putting its eggs in one basket and crossing its fingers.

A recent industry survey of UK businesses by Exposure revealed some disappointing truths - 89 per cent of decision makers knew that better services suppliers were out there, but would nonetheless default to existing providers. 93 per cent wanted a fresh approach but found procurement too much of a hassle to be worth scouting around for something new. Putting it bluntly, business is strangling itself.

It's at moments like these that the encumbered and exhausted look hopefully towards a tech solution. Indeed, crowdsourcing has changed the landscape significantly and commendably over the last few years, but at the same time has still been something of a leap of faith for the discerning business. Quality control, assurances and transparency are generally lacking - businesses are at least talking now, but they're still not trusting.

It's fallen to a select few businesses attempting - and from early indications at least, succeeding - in essentially negotiating with the business world, gradually helping it to fully transition to a sustainable procurement model with as many benefits as e-commerce without the risks that sense of unease that change can typically bring.

Greasing the wheels

Bringing commerce across to cloud and crowd models is delicate for a reason - this bold new product is less an extension of existing process, more an outright demolition and rebuild from the ground up. But it's a necessary measure - to avoid regression and the insidious creep of traditionalism, full adoption of a new platform is the only way forward. No one is saying that the strategy behind services buying is fundamentally an issue, rather that businesses have insufficient tools to see strategy through efficiently.

When you consider that for most businesses, services-buying accounts for 50 per cent of spend, there's no excuse for a 'this'll do' approach. The services market is estimated at $2trn, yet somehow the world is operating with practically medieval ideas in comparison to consumer commerce. It's why it's so important that systems are available that can neatly drop into any business framework. Because at blur we're providing what we call Software as a Transaction (SaaT) - all the controlled supplier sourcing, project management tools and payment options factored into a customer's budget only as they confirm buying services through us. Businesses are effectively renting the platform and therefore never paying for more than they use, which - in a market increasingly pushing enterprise-level software licenses to an already-stretched economy - can make all the difference to decision makers.

Making meri(tocracy)

There's a happy side-effect of this change, too - the floodgates for innovative services suppliers worldwide are open, and where they might otherwise be passed over during the typical clamour of urgent sourcing, finally they can put themselves into the spotlight..

Baby steps

blur will not be the last company to make efforts of digital advancement in the services sector - a proven model will always be emulated. But the changes made to a system in serious need of reworking have already seen fearsome approval and uptake across the board. I'm confident that it's only a matter of time before the lion's share of global business has understood the need for change and crossed the line to a side brimming with possibility. We have so much further to go in bringing business-to-business up-to-date - both in the platforms offered and the nurturing and education of the understandably-cautious.

It's hard work, but it will lead to something incredible - truly networked businesses never worrying about supply chain flaws; suppliers with the right stuff pitching for the projects they deserve to win. And that's five years' work. Imagine what we can do when we really get going.