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Purchasing's New Frontier

By William Christensen, C.P.M., Editor
Email: chriswj@okstate.edu
William Christensen is a PhD candidate at Oklahoma State University, and manages The Purchasing Station

Use of the internet in corporate and government purchasing activities will, in my opinion, become the biggest aid and most important tool that the purchasing profession has ever encountered. The internet is already changing the ways we obtain and communicate information, the way we conduct transactions, and the way we create and manage relationships. The pace of change will only accellerate.

All of the information currently found in most purchasing department libraries -- Thomas Registers, phone books, and financial portfolios -- can be quickly and easily accessed via the net. In addition, information found on the internet is likely to be broader, deeper, and more current than many hard-copy documents (and probably more likely to be used!).

Any pertinent data base -- things like schedule requirements, shipping status, and supplier inventory levels -- can be made internet accessible. Financial transactions and other EDI communications can be easily and securely accomplished via the net from virtually anywhere on the planet.

The possibilities are endless and mind-boggling. Basically, anything currently on your computer(s), including everything from mainframes to laptops, anything on video or pictoral, and any sound, can be transmitted and communicated via the internet. Combine this with global, remote, instant access and you have no more excuses when it comes to the collection and dissemination of important information.

Besides data, the internet is also opening up new ways to create and manage buyer/seller relationships. Everything from email (faster, cheaper, and more versatile than even fax communications) to desktop video conferencing is now available, and not just from the office but also from-and-to home-based computers. Because the size of a firm and its geographic location are largely irrelevant on the net, the ways buyers find new suppliers, and vice versa, is being revolutionized. Firms that use the net effectively can have a significant competitive advantage over firms that stick with traditional purchasing structures.

The Journal of Internet Purchasing has been established to provide a forum for interaction between purchasing professionals, and as a source of valuable leading edge information regarding this explosive topic.

The Journal of Internet Purchasing is your journal and will become what you make of it. I hope we'll all take the chance to use this valuable resource to help ourselves by helping each other. When it comes to the internet, I can't help but feel that we're all novices. There is a lot of hype surrounding the internet (including some of my own comments), but it is clear we are standing on the edge of a new frontier.

Stories come back from those who have ventured into this unknown territory; tales we can hardly believe. Yet who can deny the reality of this great unknown and who, with the spirit of adventure and innovation, can resist exploring the opportunities the internet is opening to us.

This inaugural issue is filled with exactly the kinds of information that you should find interesting. Alan Cohen, Managing Director of IBM's Electronic Commerce division, and a benchmark practitioner and insider, shares his thoughts on business-to-business eCommerce. Michael Asner, well-known purchasing consultant and author, contributes his perspective of where we're headed, and Dr. Arie Segev, UC Berkeley, provides us with a sneek preview of some of the latest research regarding the internet's impact on purchasing operations. What a GREAT way to start. Thanks to each of them for their valuable contributions to our first issue.