Newspaper Purchasing Managers Eyeing The Net p. 28

By: Editorial Staff At their recent gathering in Las Vegas, purchasing managers confronted the variety of ways the Internet my impact their daily tasks and personal lives

THE MANAGERS WHO purchase the equipment supplies and services that keep newspaper companies running each day have found the Internet-or at least they think they have.
At their recent meeting in Las Vegas, members of the Newspaper Purchasing Managers Association seemed to be operating on equal parts of uncertinty and enthusiasm about the way cyberspace may soon affect their jobs.
Addressing a conference session on Internet use at the NPMA's 41st gathering, technology consultant Charles Belisle had just asked how many attendees at work (many) and home (some), as well as e-mail (almost everyone).
Great! Projecting a refresher list of Internet basics onto the wall, Belisle said, ""I'll just zoom through this.""
"Don't zoom!"" one voice interrupted.
"Just because we have the Internet at home,"" called another, ""doesn't mean we know our way through it.""
That would seem to typify the state of the Internet in newspaper purchasing-it's a nifty tool, but of limited use so far. For his part, Belisle is bullish on it. In this eyes, no longer is the Internet solely a tool for research and time-wasting by the kids up in editorial. Now the more mundane precincts of newspapering can benefit from electronic commerce a smooth, paperless hum of online transactions, electronically transferred funds, onscreen documents handled simultaneously by buyer and seller. Think of the time saved, the middlement avoided, the automated phone systems not bothered with!
"This is not rocket science,"" Belisle told the crowd. ""This is here today."" ""Indeed, one of his wall projections announced. ""The Internet and the World Wide Web are the hottest tools purchasing managers can have in their tool kits.""
Theoretically, anyway. However, on the evidence of the seminar-""The World Wide Web: The implications for Purchasing"" -the Net has yet to fulfill that potential. Belisle was rarely able to move beyond sunny generalities about ""combining core competencies"" and the like, as the audience kept redirecting the talk toward more basid stuff: How do you find news groups again?
According to Belisle's figures, 21% of Internet Business is Conducted by salemen, 15% by engineers, 10% bt R&D types, 8% by managementcorporate purchasing didn't even register.
Lee Clark, facilities coordinate for the Orange County Register, said he handles perhaps 5% of his work online, most of its research. ""I use it (to find) any supplies I don't already have a source for,"" he said. An exmaple: locating additional rain bags for bad-weather delivery:"" With El Nino, we've bought a lot of polybags.""
Furthermore, he said, the Register is set up so secretaries can use their desktop Internet connections to order office supplies directly from the source, without routing through purchasing.
"Let's say I wanted to do some research on copiers,"" said Ken Williams, purchasing manager for the Birmingham (Ala) News, a few days after the conference. Forget sales reps and their catalogs. ""I just go to the manufacturer's home page and have the information at my fingerprints immediately.""
But would he actually purchse one over the Internet? Probably not. ""The next natural progression will be in the ordering process, actually closing the loop,"" he speculated. But the future isn't now. ""For us at this point, it's not practical to do much purchasing online.""
The technology is still to new to rapidly changing, too incomprehensible to be comfortably trusted.
"What if you're in charge of purchasing an important part?"" Williams posited. ""You've placed your order your screen says, 'order confirmed' Are you really going to take that as concrete fact""
Particularly if a slip-up could stop your preses? Will your boss really accept 'But the screen said order confirmed' as an explanation? You're going to follow up eiyh s phonr vsll snyesy,"" Williams said. No time saved, no middleman avoided.
Williams says he's also awaiting the advent of standardized accounting procedures for online transactions. Electronic documetns completed online sounds great,"" but auditors are going to want to see a paper trail,"" Williams said.
Nonotheless, Williams and Clark agree with Belisle that improvements in online capabilities Not all, of course. This is, after all, a business built on the personal touch. Said Williams, ""It's going to be hard to replace those relationships, to supplant them with technology.""

?(Editor & Publisher Web Site: [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher June 20, 1998) [Caption]


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here