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Tools without skills: Exploring the moderating effect of absorptive capacity on the relationship between e-purchasing tools and category performance

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Purpose ‐ The paper examines the moderating role of a purchasing function's absorptive capacity (AC) on the relationship between the use of electronic purchasing tools and category level purchasing performance. The authors argue that an e-purchasing tool may not in itself positively influence performance unless combined with AC as a human interface to maximise its information and transactional improvement potential. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Survey data collected from 297 procurement executives of large companies in ten countries are analysed using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and hierarchical moderated regression. Findings ‐ The results demonstrate few significant direct effects of e-purchasing tools on category performance. All performance measures studied are enhanced when dimensions of AC and their interactions with the e-purchasing tools are added. Specifically, buyer competence, manager competence and communications climate have performance-enhancing effects. In some cases, AC on its own appears to increase performance more than e-tools. Originality/value ‐ This paper is the first to study the moderating effects of AC on the relationship between e-purchasing tool usage and category performance. Its findings support the view that simply implementing technology does not lead to performance improvements, but that a human interface is required to maximise the information and transactional improvement potential of e-purchasing tools.
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Keywords: Absorptive capacity; E-purchasing tools; Purchase category performance

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 14, 2013

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