In 1965, the computers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ran a program called "MAILBOX", widely dubbed as an early version of email. The program allowed people to leave messages on computers for other users to see when they logged in. Although still limiting (to say the least), for the first time colleagues could now communicate via computer.
In 1971, MIT graduate Ray Tomlinson was hired by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to help develop an experimental computer network ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet. Upon joining, Tomlinson examined the network’s processes and realised that there was room for improvement. In a 2012 interview with The Verge, Tomlinson explained that at the time, email had already been around for years (in the form of models such as “MAILBOX”). But in working on ARPANET, he saw "an opportunity to extend that to people on other computers", and using the "@" sign to target users on specific machines, Tomlinson, with the use of one, previously-overlooked computer key, created the basis of digital communication.
Over the years, and to the disappointment of fax machine enthusiasts, email then became a vital part of everyday business. McKinsey reports that the average professional today spends 28% of the workday reading and answering email, equating to 2.6 hours and 120 messages per day. But while many industries have come to adopt quicker and more efficient alternatives for their daily communication - a development that has only been accelerated in the last two years of Covid disruption and remote working - emails are still used for practically all communication in my sector: procurement.
Fortunately, all this wasted time could be a thing of the past … and we can’t wait to show you how. Join us on 17 February 2022 as we hear from our CEO, Jack Macfarlane and Matt Plummer, Founder and CEO of Zarvana discuss the way out.
But What’s Wrong With Email?
While email was revolutionary for its time, its usefulness for procurement professionals in 2022 is waning. Long email chains often mean vital details go missing, and locating information is both difficult and time-consuming. Procurement officers drown in a mire of emails as their teams send out multiple tenders to as many potential suppliers as possible (sometimes thousands) throughout the day.
This applies to all forms of procurement-specific communication: Request For Proposal (RFP), Request For Quotation (RFQ) or Request For Information (RFI), not to mention the all-encompassing RFx, a catch all term to describe any type of ‘Request For’. The ‘x’ in RFx deliberately stands for Request For anything - in this case anything that you might need for your procurement processes and strategic sourcing.
Procurement professionals often end up spending valuable time extracting important information from ‘Re:Re:Re:Re’ email threads, turning the process into an administrative nightmare. At DeepStream, we have identified three compelling reasons why emails should not be used as the primary method of communication in procurement. They are:
We've all been there, sifting through threads of emails to try and figure out what's going on, trawling through our inboxes to find that one particular message containing a crucial nugget of information. Having to worry that you've forgotten to send something, not being able to remember what was sent to whom, not being able to find a particular attachment or response that your manager is looking for. We also know that this disorganisation and lack of process is totally unnecessary. Many businesses now use platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams to streamline their processes. Looking specifically at the procurement industry and its characteristic needs, our team at DeepStream asked ourselves why a software solution couldn’t be found, one that was tailored seamlessly to our specific industry. The world has grown more agile, more adept at working online, and with the support of efficient and transparent procurement software, we can make complex and time-consuming methods of working like email as redundant as the fax machine.
The Ethical Trading Initiative recently put together a guide that highlights some crucial steps buyers can take to ensure they are buying responsibly. "Build visibility into your supply chain" and "develop two-way relationships are the first steps it suggests. However, the use of email for purchasing hinders this visibility, because when the buyer and seller communication is conducted via email, details such as specifications, delivery details, prices, contract terms, and approvals are buried within an employee's email account. There is no central, auditable record of correspondence, negotiations, implied terms, or agreements, and this makes it difficult to ensure that supply chains are transparent. By making sure that all communication around the procurement process takes place in the same space, we eradicate this opacity once and for all.
Throughout the supply chain, sustainability is an important factor. From identifying and prioritising ethical suppliers, to minimising overproduction and waste through efficient supply and demand management, impact on the environment should be monitored at every stage in order to pave the way for a green future. Messy email chains can undermine the sustainability of the supply chains by burying important information about sustainability and ESG practices into email accounts and limiting companies’ ability to maintain transparent workflows and supply chain processes. This means it’s harder to make smart decisions and give sustainability the priority it deserves in evaluation processes.
Join us on 17 February 2022 to learn more about how saving time checking emails could increase your company's transparency and sustainability objectives.
Re: Imagining RFx
In other industries, the phasing out of email as the main method of communication has initiated more creative reimaginings of systems and processes, increasing efficiency and simplifying workflows. There’s no reason that this shouldn’t apply to the RFx (‘Request For anything’ (RFP/RFI/RFQs etc.) process too, because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to spend less time on monotonous, admin-intensive work digging through emails when there is an automated, AI-integrated solution to hand?!
Using a platform, such as DeepStream, in place of email allows supplier responses, attachments, and clarifications to be organised in one place, helping businesses work in the most efficient manner possible.
Unlike email, such platforms are designed to ensure that whatever the RFx is for, all activities can be found and tracked in one place. Audit trails, including logs of submission evaluations and decision-making, ensure accountability in the tender process. And, as well as this, buyers and suppliers can still communicate seamlessly and effortlessly in a fully integrated system, resulting in increased transparency and fewer compliance risks.
The end of email should be seen as part of an evolutionary process for RFx. By clearing up overflowing inboxes and streamlining Re:Re:Re:Re thread nightmares, we should see the demise of email as a chance to embrace the ability to communicate effortlessly with internal users and suppliers instantly, without friction, avoidable complications or extra costs. The key to harnessing the power of technology is to deploy its new efficiencies with an intention to improve the human condition, just as Ray Tomlinson did with email in 1971. While emails have played an important part in the development of the procurement process, there are now more sophisticated ways of communicating - which are ultimately better suited for the exciting future of RFx.
If you’re not already streamlining this process, we're here to tell you you need to. Right now. Discover how it’s possible on 17 February 2022 in our latest webinar RE: RE: RE: imagining RFx How the end of email will save procurement.