Riding the Cutting Edge at ProcureCon Indirect

March 21, 2017 David Hannon

Artificial intelligence. Robotics. Predictive modeling. Blockchain.

No, that’s not the table of contents in the latest issue of the MIT Technology Review, they’re topics that were covered at the recent ProcureCon Indirect East conference in Orlando. Clearly, procurement professionals are moving fast along the technology  curve with the goal of using bleeding-edge tech to streamline and automate their processes whenever possible. And that trend was on full display in the sessions and Solutions Zone of ProcureCon Indirect East. Here are just a few of the insights that we caught during the event:

There is no “AI” in team: The keynote session from Marla Bradstock of Alliant Technologies set the tone by suggesting IBM Watson technology could replace the lower-level procurement work done by some analysts today.  While it was high shock value, the point was made that procurement professionals must continue to keep pace with technology and use it to free up time and manpower to do higher-level work within their organizations.

Change is happening more quickly: Following the keynote, a panel session dove into the topic of “Effectively Managing Technology’s Influence Across the Corporation.” CPOs and technology experts debated the topic and concluded that “long-term” is a lot shorter than it used to be thanks to both technological innovation as well as an increase in disruptive forces and risks and procurement teams need to be ready for change.

Tech requires talent: A second keynote later on Tuesday morning delivered by Jack Shaw of the American Blockchain Council looked at how the confluence of various emerging technologies are transforming procurement and supply chain. Of particular note, Shaw highlighted the need to find, place and retain the right talent on staff to manage all the technological changes effectively.

The disruptions in buying aren’t what you’d think: Two executives from CoreTrust addressed the topic of disruption in a session on myths and misconceptions of the Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) model. In short, GPOs don’t cause the disruption that many buyers may think. For starters, GPOs don’t disrupt the buyer-supplier relationship because they own the relationship with the suppliers. The buyer doesn’t have to run any RFPs and the contract terms should be more beneficial to the buyer than they could get directly (otherwise, what’s the point of a GPO?).

Tech doesn’t replace solid fundamentals: In the “CPO of Tomorrow” session, Denver Clark of real estate firm JLL laid out a 100-day plan for CPOs that focused less on technology and more on vision, leadership, and communication. His practical suggestions included:

  • Ask leadership how the procurement team is viewed today
  • Review historic metrics for the organization
  • Build a good relationship with HR for talent development
  • Develop or confirm you have quality spend analytics through either internal or external partners
  • Build a robust communication plan leveraging internal newsletters
  • Measure success
  • Take time to celebrate achievements

Tech isn’t the only changing tide procurement groups need to consider: The last panel of the event discussed the topic of Building a Successful Multigenerational Procurement Team and included Staples CPO Mike Jacobs as a panelist. “We discussed how to meet the varying needs of individuals within a multi-generations workforce, including mentoring and training programs, rewards and recognition, work life balance and career development,” says Jacobs. “There was also a lively discussion about whether generational differences actually exist or if the emphasis needs to be more on understanding individual motivations, irrespective of generation.”

It was good to be at the event and to meet up with new faces and old friends at the Staples Business Advantage booth in the Solutions Zone. But as both a supplier and a buyer, the most exciting thing about ProcureCon was to see the engagement, growth and change within the procurement field. We’re looking forward to taking all these insights (and more) and bottling up that energy to help us better partner with our customers as they continue to transform and grow.

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