Uber Craze Meets IT Procurement? It Could Happen.

March 31, 2022

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There have been a zillion Uber comparisons over the years, but somehow the hype and emulation hasn’t really caught on in the world of IT procurement. NPI CEO Jon Winsett dove into this topic in a recent LinkedIn post:

Back in 2016, Wired published an article on the “Uber for X” craze. At the time, every new app and startup in the world was pitching an Uber comparison. And who could blame them? Uber was the gold standard. The Unicorn of Unicorns. But the hype eventually turned into a cliché. In the repetition and watering down, there was an overlooking of what made Uber so…Uber.
For those of us that can recall it, the pre-Uber existence almost feels like the Dark Ages. That’s because the company disrupted a whole lot more than how we got from point A to point B. It inspired us to remove longstanding barriers in our industries and daily lives. It connected us in ways we now take for granted.
Which got me thinking about IT procurement. We’ve yet to see an “Uber for IT procurement” launched or really even attempted. Why is that? I mean, think about how cool it would be to have an app assist you on a software purchase or a cloud renewal. You just open it up, punch in the vendor and product, and voila – all the pricing data, licensing/subscription options and negotiation intel are right there at your fingertips. 
Would it change our lives as IT buyers? What barriers would it break down? 
That isn’t to say that procurement hasn’t seen its share of technology and progress. It certainly has. The Ariba’s and the Coupa’s of the world have automated the core procure-to-pay processes. And if you are a procurement technology provider, you are either developing software or “X-as-a-Service” as I type. But we’ve seen no “Uber for procurement” yet, especially one that professes to move the needle at the point of purchase.
The thought leaders of the procurement technology space have been clear in their visions of the future: Monolithic procurement applications giving way to more extensible best-of-breed microservices that plug into their backbones. Coupa has shown great foresight into this new era by launching their Coupa App Marketplace that allows third-party apps to embed into their technology.
Dr. Elouise Epstein, in her book Trade Wars, Pandemics and Chaos, envisions a world where procurement apps are assembled on an iOS-like home screen. Perhaps this is where an “Uber for IT procurement” at the point of purchase could live. A digital experience where you get quick turnaround on deal benchmarks, on-demand licensing and negotiation expertise, and instant vendor intel – all delivered in a consumer-grade interface. 
The real measure of success, however, will be the degree to which it disrupts. As an industry, procurement is drowning in data. Making it actionable and immediate enough to disrupt how IT procurement practitioners do their jobs and deliver world-class outcomes that serve a higher organizational purpose is, well…uber.

Disruption in Unlikely Places

The IT procurement space is ripe for disruption, but of what kind? There is no shortage of new procurement-related tools in the marketplace, and the value they bring is admirable…but is it really disruptive? That’s debatable. Real disruption is something different. As noted above, Uber-like disruption happens when things like automation and intelligence break down barriers and cause seismic shifts in how things get done. In IT procurement, accomplishment of these dual goals is long overdue.