The Toaster

Imagine this…

There’s a fire in your kitchen.  You burnt the Pop Tarts and threw the breaker on your electrical panel.  Your family demands that you purchase a new toaster, pronto, prior to tomorrow’s breakfast.  Cost is not a concern: The $15.00 funding is in the family budget. 

You log onto Amazon. As soon as you pass the login screen you are presented with a form, perhaps it is in Microsoft Exel or Word.  The purpose of the form is to justify your need for the toaster.  The form has 25 fields including your name, contact information, budget ($15.00) and a plethora of associated metadata.  You download, complete, save and upload the form to the system. Most of this data is, already, in your profile.  The need is so great that you want to waste time fixing a broken process: just follow the rules. The site, although intuitive, comes with a nifty FAQ in case you don’t understand any of the requested elements.  For example, the FAQ describes the difference between whether the funds have been “budgeted” and whether the funds are in the checking account available for use – two different accounting constructs. 

Once submitted, you receive a message saying that your request will be evaluated and you will be informed when and IF you are “authorized” to purchase the toaster.  Simultaneously, your spouse receives an email to review and approve the toaster justification.  Prior to doing so, she emails you to confirm that the funds for the toaster are in the checking account.  After several email messages, she authorizes the purchase.    

Back to Amazon.  A savvy shopper, you locate a unit with a special guarantee: This toaster is guaranteed to prevent overcooking Pop Tarts. The problem is, the price of the toaster is $15.99. You load the toaster into your shopping cart.  You are immediately presented with a notification. “YOUR SELECTION EXCEEDS YOUR BUDGETED AMOUNT.”  Your wife receives an email notifying her that you are non-adherent with her explicit instructions and that you must schedule a meeting to discuss, after dinner.  

Your dinner conversation was a success: She understands the reasoning for the additional $0.99 for the guaranteed-not-to-burn-Pop-Tart toaster.  Back to the Amazon shopping cart.  You are presented with a over-budget exemption request. You complete the information based on your previous dinner discussion. The form is routed to you wife for email approval.  Unfortunately, she is away from her desk and her administrative assistant denies the request based guidance she received from your wife prior to the post dinner exception meeting.  Two days and three calls later, your wife approves. 

Back to Amazon with all approvals in order.  Surprise! The guaranteed-not-to-burn-Pop-Tart toaster is on sale for $14.99.  Before taking the risk of losing a great deal, you select “Buy” and are presented with the following notification from the system administrator: “Your order cannot be processed. Since your purchase is below the budget, the administrator is charged with removing the $0.01 from your checking account prior to tendering the buy. You will be notified when you can proceed.” All stakeholders receive notifications of this activity via email. 

Three days later, you receive a cryptic email informing you that your guaranteed-not-to-burn-Pop-Tart toaster has been shipped and that you are non-adherent to the process because shipping and handling fees caused you to exceed your budget. 

To your surprise, it arrives in time for breakfast. Unfortunately, in the time it took to procure the guaranteed-not-to-burn-Pop-Tart toaster your children have grown up and gone vegan with no interest in Pop Tarts.  The toaster is obsolete. 

Humor me….Use “find & replace” functionality on this story: Replace “Amazon” with “Ariba”,  “Spouse” with “Supervisor” and “guaranteed-not-to-burn-Pop-Tart toaster” with “Laptop Computer”.  How does this process differ from your corporation’s current procurement process? If it doesn’t AND you have an appetite to do things differently, contact me. 

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