Catalogs vs. Search Engines; One Will Not Survive
Just like RFPs and contracts are integral to procurement, so are catalogs – they help one choose the right product or service to fulfil enterprise requirements. Everyone who has ever used a P2P system, at some point, has scrolled through catalogs. So, what is it that’s happening as you scroll through the catalog? Aren’t you running a search routine? You have an idea of what you are looking for and therefore trying to match what is available in the catalog to the criteria – brand, specification and price, etc.
The important question is, “Should one still be scrolling through catalogs?”
In the age of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies, one may simply have to “ask” a search engine – that easy! The mental work of comparing items on the catalog and their specifications with the key purchase criteria can be done by a search engine, if it knows your business rules, what you are permitted to purchase and what you are permitted to spend, plus a little bit more about your requirement.
When this becomes a reality, we’ll have to let go of the very familiar experience of flipping or scrolling through a catalog. But in most likelihood, no one will complain because newer is better. With these intelligent search engines, you may simply have to type, say for instance: how to fix a water leak? And you will not be shown a catalog where you must scroll through gas guns or welding rods. Rather, it will take you to the contract for plumbing services – something you actually need.
If anyone still wants to use catalogs for the “experience,” they could. Although, somebody has to ensure that the catalogs are up to date; at least until artificial intelligence does that as well.