Wait Before You Send That Email


Google recently announced a new feature for Gmail that allows you a five-second delay after hitting "send" to stop an email command from being completely executed. If you hit the "undo" button in the time allotted, the email can then be re-edited or canceled. It is a useful function especially when you realize that you forgot an attachment, which I have done more than once.

That delay might have also come in handy for the internal procurement folks at the A$47 billion plus retailer Woolworths in Australia. As reported in The Australian, an email this past week mistakenly revealed the list of 21 vendors vying to provide services for one of Australia's biggest technology project tenders, Woolworths' multi-year, multi-million dollar Project Galaxy Partner Services effort.

According to the story, Woolworths will be the lead installer of a new system using "SAP technology to overhaul merchandising, point-of-sale and retail systems across all Woolworths brands," which include Big W, BWS, Countdown, Dan Murphy's, Foodtown, Freshchoice, Supervalue, Woolworths-Caltex, Woolworths and Woolworths Liquor. However, the company needs "a variety of players to perform services work" under the effort, hence the upcoming tender.

The email revelation of all the potential bidders has no doubt caused a lot of scrambling within each of the 21 vendor bid and proposal teams angling for a piece of the Project Galaxy services contract. A disclosure like this would stimulate much rethinking about existing pricing strategies and possibly the rewriting of what were once thought to be completed proposal submittals.

Having participated in more B & Ps than I care to remember, sometimes not knowing who are your competitors is better than knowing. It is very easy, especially if an unknown competitor surfaces late in the proposal process, to spend a lot of extra time and money out-analyzing and out-thinking yourself on how to neutralize the new competitor with very little overall benefit to show for it.

It is likely in this case that before the email faux pas no vendor actually knew more than half or maybe two-thirds of all the companies it was competing against.

I would be willing to bet too that the tired and stressed out members of more than one vendor's B & P team are wistfully wishing this week that Worthworths' procurement team had been using Gmail and had hit that "undo" button.


Risk Factor

IEEE Spectrum's risk analysis blog, featuring daily news, updates and analysis on computing and IT projects, software and systems failures, successes and innovations, security threats, and more.

Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City