The lack of standards in e-procurement is proving a major bottleneck, of rapidly mounting concern to corporations as they implement global B2B e-business strategies.
Building consistent comparative analyses of purchasing transactions, so essential for competitive advantage, is being held up by the lack of common definitions and contents tagging conventions. Take XML: it will undoubtedly underpin e-business but early e-procurement implementers are worrying about the lack of consensus surrounding XML.
Although XML is a global standard agreed by the World-Wide Web Consortium, there is no common way of expressing and transferring data using XML. There are no standard schemas for formatting accounting records or how address records are codified.
Various vertical sectors are looking at ways of defining local schemas but this is too limited, e-business is horizontal and global.
Boards want to introduce e-procurement to make huge cost savings. Short-term savings will certainly be made, by ordering direct from approved suppliers, by putting e-catalogues onto the intranet, or via electronic exchanges. However, true competitive advantage lies in consistent comparative analysis enabled by content tagging standards. And that transparency is still some way off.