Keynote Address at Purchasing and Supply Conference
Published 14 June 2007
Dr Martin Spring of the Department of Management Science recently gave a keynote address at the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) in London, attended by over two hundred senior procurement managers and directors from the private and public sectors. The conference theme was ‘Risk and Reward in the Global Marketplace’ and Martin’s keynote examined the role of power and trust in buyer-supplier relationships in this context.
The address examined both the destructive and productive aspects of power, arguing that trust has been over-emphasised as the mechanism for ‘getting things done’ in buyer-supplier relationships when various forms of power relation are just as important, if not more so.
This is not to neglect trust: on the contrary, it was suggested that trust is often part of the interaction between organisations. But we do have to be rather sophisticated in distinguishing between forms of trust and to be able to understand when actions that appear to be based on trust are better understood as less obvious forms of power.
Turning to globalisation, Martin stressed that, from a purchasing perspective, this is much more than buying materials and components cheaply from ‘Chindia’. Globalisation has emergent effects – that is, it is more than the sum of its parts; it is very uneven in its causes and consequences, and often contradictory. It brings into play new aspects of power relations, while reducing the effectiveness of others, and makes trust more important and, at the same time, more complex. There are no easy answers, but this does mean that buyers must realise that globalisation is not a one-way ticket to a global market for everything, and must act accordingly.
The address drew on empirical work Martin has conducted in the procurement of complex information systems such as ERP, and in aspects of risk that result from the configuration of supply chains. Work in this aspect of supply chain management is part of the work conducted by the Supply Chain Management and Modelling Research Group in the Department of Management Science. This area of activity has grown in the Department in recent years, and a new MSc in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, of which Martin is Programme Leader, has just been launched. There is a vibrant doctoral research group in the Supply Chain area, and the group has strong links within the School, notably with colleagues in business marketing.