Embrace A Wireless Connected World.

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In his column for Issue 55 of Procurement Leaders Magazine, Flextronics CPO Tom Linton argues that procurement executives' ability to seize the opportunities of new technologies, including wireless applications, will be a key differentiator over the coming years. 

Much has been said and written about the Internet of Things, the intelligence of things and explosion of devices into wearables, vehicles, houses and cities. That is so yesterday.


Procurement in 2015 will be won by those who seize on the new reality of a wireless connected world.

My definition of a wireless connected world: where everyone, everywhere has mobile, live, real-time, access to the internet to perform both personal and business functions.

Wi-Fi, WiMax, GPS, LTE and multiple forms of wireless connectivity are changing who, how, where and when we do the work of procurement. This connectivity is exploding into all corners of the globe and is having a transformative effect on industries and business models. It is time we fully harnessed its potential into procurement.

It was only a little over a decade ago we started to actively use email on devices. This expanded massively into messaging and the rest, as they say, is history.

Mobility and connectivity is now expected. In 2015 we need to use that connected mobility to do the work of the function, which means expanding the number of mobile applications that we can use for work. I believe 2015 will be the tipping point for mobile devices to provide live, real-time, visibility into:

  • Risk in our supply base.

  • Inbound and outbound materials transportation networks.

  • Inventory in parts and finished goods.

  • Transactional execution of purchase orders, invoice status and approvals, which will be able to be viewed on our mobile devices.

  • In process status or monitoring of our materials and services in manufacturing.

  • Quality trackers.

  • Measurements and metrics.

One company that is working on this mobile visibility challenge is Elementum, a Silicon Valley-based start-up that Flextronics is developing to solve some strategic problems around supply chain mobility with state-of-the- art capabilities.

I have been working with Elementum to develop tools that my team can leverage across the supply spectrum. One I have found especially useful is an app called Exposure, which monitors my global supply base in real time. The app is like a security system, scanning for news, weather and interruptions of all kinds that might impact my supply chain.

It's currently on my handheld device and will notify me if one of my suppliers has a disruption of any kind, where they are located specifically, what products or customers are potentially impacted.

In this way those procurement chiefs who periodically have to explain a supply impact will be provided with focused, relevant and, importantly, real-time data to provide their business with the facts, potential scenarios and, even more importantly, solutions.

What do we need to do as procurement chiefs to lead this change?

  • Pressure our software and service providers to solve the security and operational challenges of doing business on mobile devices – easily.
  • Look for ways to consolidate business operations on mobile, wireless connective devices.

  • Shift funding from ‘old school' wired software to those offering innovative solutions.

  • Train our more seasoned professionals to adopt to new technologies.

I am excited about how revolutionary wireless technology will be to procurement professionals. Many of you are already leaders in using new tools to drive transformation. Let's continue to learn and share ways to leverage this opportunity and take procurement to a new level in 2015.

Find more predictions for 2015 in the January/February issue of Procurement Leaders Magazine

Tom Linton
Posted by Tom Linton

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