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For 'bread And Butter Spend – Things Like Stationery And Computers’

By Expert Author: Donald Nason

The title of this blog is taken from an article which appeared in ‘The Guardian’ earlier in the week. The article was about the importance of universities collaborating on procurement, and all very interesting and informative. But it was this phrase that particularly stood out for me.

‘Bread and butter spend’ … on yes, stationery, definitely – but, computers? Bread and butter, and computers? It’s the suggestion of basic and fundamental that the term ‘bread and butter’ has for me and which stopped me in my tracks.

Then of course, it became clear, when I thought about just how central technology has become to life in the 21st century.

On a personal level, who doesn’t use email, research on the Internet, or shop online? ‘The Times’ recently reported that Internet use by adults has doubled over the last eight years, and that the number of ‘silver surfers’ in the UK had actually quadrupled during the same period with more than a third of pensioners now online daily.

Plus there’s social media, eBooks and music to download, and with smartphones everything is now accessible even on the move.

And at work? Well, ‘bread and butter spend’ when referring to the purchase of computers is even more applicable when you consider that ‘The Penguin English Dictionary’ defines the phrase as applying to ‘one’s means of sustenance or livelihood’.

Would anyone going into a new job not sit at a desk without a computer and wonder exactly how they were supposed to do that job? Surely, they’d wonder what sort of Dickensian workplace they’d signed into – and that’s because it would be so unlikely in the 21st century.

What hasn’t changed since Dickens’ time, however, is the central nature of the document to many business processes: initiating the processing, contributing at different stages in support of, or created as the final stage of the process – an invoice instigating the Accounts Payable process, a reference received in support of a job application, a letter offering a hospital out-patient appointment following triage.

Increasingly these documents are received in electronic form – eForms, email attachments – and storing documents electronically and automating time-heavy manual procedures has streamlined the processing of departments in businesses and organisations across industries and markets.

But 73 percent of business correspondence is still received in paper format – hence perhaps the continuing need for stationery to be categorised as ‘bread and butter spend’. There is no need, however, with today’s technology to continue processing the document in paper format.

With scanning and OCR (optical character recognition) technology, paper documents can soon be converted to be available, and stored along with supporting documents, 24/7 to anyone who needs access.

I recently received a letter from our constituency MP. It was in response to a query which the MP is very kindly looking into. The letter is now scanned and sitting in my electronic ‘Research’ folder, along with all the other documents relating to that project – instantly available to anyone who needs to see it, no matter which office they’re in (although I have to admit in this case to having kept the original with its distinguished House of Commons letterhead…).

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