Spend Management Event Round-Up: Where to Learn and Network in 2005

A have an old friend who now works at an analyst firm who once described herself as a “serial conference attendee”. She had the luxury of attending – and even helping shape – events because her role depended on business development and networking at such affairs. But few people have the luxury of attending Spend Management events on a regular basis – we must pick and choose a handful each year, often based around locations and schedules as much as content. In this blog, we’ll hope to make your event choices a bit easier this year by providing some background on which firms and organizations put on the most informative events (we’ll also discuss a number of the events themselves). Most important, we’ll offer our candid perspective on the content of Spend Management events to help our readers prioritize which ones to attend. To organize our segmentation and analysis effort, we’ll separate out events into four major buckets: Industry Events, Analyst Events, and Vendor Events. Industry Events Sourcing Interests Group (SIG) – SIG runs one of the “boutique” Spend Management conferences. It typically draws a senior crowd and above-average speakers. ProcureCon features a similar agenda and audience. Its focus on sourcing is useful, but don't expect an examination of the full range of Spend Management issues. ProcureCon – ProcureCon is another specialized purchasing and spend management conference series that occurs annually. Our sources tell us that the agenda is very influenced by sponsoring companies (which many conferences in fact are). But worth checking out, and possibly attending. ISM – ISM’s annual event is probably the largest purchasing conference out there. However, the event’s size limits its ability to stick to executive Spend Management issues, and draws a less senior audience overall than some of the other industry events. But if you can attend only one or two industry conferences a year, this should probably be one of them. Conference Board – The Conference Board holds a range of purchasing related events, including one specific conference that focuses entirely on Spend Management. My advice: it’s worth attending at least one Conference Board event per year, but more than that gets repetitive. Analyst Events AMR – AMR’sevents tend to be more broadly supply chain focused than Spend Management focused. This is our only knock on their relevance to our readers, as their knowledge of how Spend Management fits within the context of operations and manufacturing is unparalleled, and their events – both their large events and industry specific ones (e.g. retail) – are always informative, bridging the gap between technology and process. If you’re going to attend any analyst events this year to learn about technology, operations and supply chain issues specifically, AMR should be first on your list (ahead of Forrester, Gartner, etc.) We're still waiting on AMR to name their permanent replacement for Pierre Mitchell (the former analyst who covered the Spend Management sector), but we're sure they'll come up with a solid choice. Forrester – Forrester’s events are great to learn about high level technology trends, but rarely scratch the surface from a Spend Management perspective. It’s a shame that Forrester does not devote more time to covering Spend Management, as Andrew Bartel’s coverage has been informative and worth reading. But don't expect him to speak on Spend Management at any Forrester events. Gartner – Gartner’s events are great for technologists, but not for supply chain and Spend Management professionals. Their coverage of Spend Management at Symposium and other events is very limited, and does not warrant further investigation. Better to watch Andy Kyte -- a Gartner Research fellow who covers the space -- speak at Ariba Live and other events. Vendors Events Ariba (FreeMarkets) – In the past, Ariba Live was a traditional large enterprise apps vendor conference – a good show, with decent content. But with the addition of FreeMarkets, we’re expecting even more. WorldSource (FreeMarkets event) was known for pulling in CEOs and senior executives because of the quality of content and interaction the event provided. It was an intimate affair, but not one industry insiders missed. I've got high expectations for Ariba Live this year. You should too. SAP – Our sources say that SAP put on a good show at their SRM congress in Germany in November of 2004. We heard the content and networking was solid, and worth attending for existing SAP customers. Emptoris – Emptoris started their own annual conference / user group. Our sources told us it was a small affair – very software driven – but with decent content. Worth attending if you’re an Emptoris customer or partner in the Boston area. Procuri – Procuri, the “little sourcing vendor that could,” put on a Mini-Me version of WorldSource for its customers in 2004. Rumor has it from the analysts who attended that the event was surprisingly informative, given the narrow focus and small size of the vendor that put it on. While not a replacement for larger vendor events, it's worth considering if you're a Procuri customer. The list of events in today’s blog is not exhaustive. If you’ve got another event which you’ve attended or agree / disagree with our perspective, let us know by posting a comment. In the next few weeks, we’ll provide some tips for getting the most out of conferences. -Jason Busch

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