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The role of e-procurement in purchasing management

By Alan Smart


This exposition summarises research published in several academic articles, in order to meet the requirements of PhD by publication. The focus of the work is on the role of electronic procurement in management of the purchasing function. From the late 1990s a number of independent e-procurement mechanisms were launched which offered potential benefits such as increased order accuracy, transaction efficiency and greater integration between trading partners. At the outset of this programme of research, e-procurement was therefore an emerging phenomenon with little academic research and presented an opportunity to investigate a largely unexplored area. Edmondson and McManus (2007) suggest that for nascent, as opposed to mature areas of research, where few formal constructs or measures exist, an exploratory, qualitative approach is required. This research followed such an approach through the use of case studies, involving observation, participation and interviews with key organisational actors. Each paper makes use of several cases in order to compare and contrast results from different organisations and to draw conclusions from multi-case analysis. The published articles focus on the impact of core applications within e-procurement, including online reverse auctions, electronic marketplaces, online catalogue sites, and buying systems covering the ‘requisition to pay’ cycle. The findings from the papers address a number of core themes in purchasing management. In considering buyer-supplier relationships, it was observed that such dyads are driven by traditional buyer negotiation factors such as segmentation, power and price and that use of eprocurement applications tended to enforce such traditional behaviours. In relation to the potential for integration, the study found that integration between firms was barely affected, as the concept of integration was neither an objective nor a business case driver for e-procurement adoption. This situation reflects the finding that procurement managers pursue functional targets rather than supply chain-level objectives. However, other significant effects from e-procurement adoption were noted such as the tendency by buyers to reduce supplier numbers and a move to re-engineer the procurement function in buying firms, through automating transactional processes. The research finds that e-procurement does not have a deterministic impact on purchasing management, and that it acts as an enabler to more effective management of the function though the way its different mechanisms are deployed. The exposition establishes that e-procurement is used in relation to supply conditions which are characterised by both ‘markets’ and ‘hierarchies’, but that it is the predefined purchasing strategy of the firm, rather than available technology solutions, which determines when markets and hierarchies are used. Additionally, an original model is introduced, focusing on developing an e-procurement policy which can support strategic purchasing goals. This model extrapolates findings from stages in the research, and marries together elements from various papers and frameworks therein, to produce some guidelines for adoption of this technology

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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