Thursday, November 04, 2010

Does "Spend Matters" matter more than ever?

Of all of the procurement blogs that are still out there – many have come and gone quietly over the last five years – there is only one that I know of that has been active longer than the Purchasing Certification Blog. That blog is Spend Matters, which beat me to the procurement blogging punch by just a few months.

Once authored strictly by founder Jason Busch, Spend Matters has steadily tossed a few more voices into the mix. Busch still cranks out around three posts a day but, though his output has remained constant, his posts as a percentage of total posts are far from 100% as additional authors increasingly fill Spend Matters’ virtual pages with their insights and opinions. Beyond the content growth, Spend Matters also has two sister sites, leaving one to question whether Spend Matters can still be appropriately labeled a “blog.”

In an exclusive interview with the Purchasing Certification Blog earlier this week, Busch argued that Spend Matters is still “very much a blog - but also a number of other things as well!” Indeed, the company’s recent expansion activities are pushing the boundaries of the traditional definition of blog.

For example, last week, Spend Matters launched what I consider to be the most ambitious of its recent expansion plans by partnering with the UK-based Procurement Excellence blog to form Spend Matters UK/Europe. When discussing how he identified the need for a dedicated UK/European site, Busch saw something that Europe lacked and the US had an abundance of: well-researched opinions about procurement technologies and practices. “There’s not a strong source of opinion when it comes to what is working and what is not in the UK and Europe - it’s not informed by any type of practitioner perspective,” Busch says. “I think that practitioners are looking for guidance and opinion.”

Though the branding of both the US and UK/European sites will be uniform, don’t expect that Spend Matters UK/Europe will simply be regurgitating Spend Matters US’ content with European spellings (e.g., programme vs. program, organisation vs. organization, labour vs. labor, etc.). While many of the same high-level themes will be covered by both sites, Busch promises that the new UK/Europe site will focus on the characteristics of procurement, technology, and business unique to Europe. “We might have a write-up on, say, Emptoris, SAP, or Ariba but have a different take [in Europe] in terms of positioning products based on features, functions, capabilities which we think are more important to highlight for an audience there” versus the audience in the US, he says.

For such a grand joint venture, I was surprised to learn that Busch and Peter Smith, the founder of Procurement Excellence and the head of Spend Matters UK/Europe, met each other through the blogosphere. “We had lots of people in common but I started reading his site [and] he started reading mine,” Busch recalls. “We connected at various points and finally got connected face-to-face.” They hit it off so well that within a year had decided to partner with each other.

Another recent change that went into effect at the same time as the UK/Europe site launch was Spend Matters’ introduction of a new tag line: “For Your Business and Your Life.” While Busch would from time-to-time venture outside of corporate procurement topics in the past, this new tag line accompanied by authors who wrote about non-procurement issues had me curious whether readers would notice an increasing percentage of non-procurement topics on Spend Matters.

Busch cautions his audience not to worry that Spend Matters’ dedication to procurement will be diluted. “Our focus will absolutely stay on buying: There’s buying in our business, there’s buying in governments, and there’s buying in our lives,” Busch states, noting that he and his team want “to really get across that what we do in the workplace in procurement and supply chain often has a lot of transferable elements to our personal lives as well in terms of total cost [and] in terms of looking at the longevity of a decision in terms of was it the right one two or three years after the fact versus not.”

If you noticed that Spend Matters’ aggressive expansion had begun at the same time that Purchasing Magazine stopped publication, you may be wondering if that was a coincidence or if Busch wanted to fill the void left behind. “I did see a big opportunity at that point but it wasn’t at all to get into the trade publishing business in terms of print,” Busch reveals. “We think the world is going online, we think people value opinion over just reporting now, we think people are getting things in more digestible sound bites than before” which enabled Spend Matters to appeal to Purchasing Magazine’s audience without adopting the bleeding-to-death print model.

With the longevity of Spend Matters, one can sense that there is more expansion and innovation ahead. In closing the interview, I asked Busch what to expect in the future for Spend Matters that might be of particular significance to readers of the Purchasing Certification Blog. “We are big on getting the message out there on education and training and you’ll see continued coverage of that next year,” he promises. “We think there’s, in general, just a good opportunity to educate folks on their options for learning out there…We want to make sure we’re covering that sector as well.”

I personally am looking forward to what’s to come in the next few years from Spend Matters. As it evolves, I am betting that it will look less and less like its humble beginnings as a one-man blog but continue to be one of the most valuable, go-to resources for the procurement community.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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