Dispatch One: Tracking the News and Happenings From IACCM Americas 2009

This morning I'd like to welcome Ashif Mawji from Upside Software Inc. Ashif, who is founder and CEO of Upside, offered to guest blog from IACCM. Please join me in welcoming Ashif to Spend Matters.

The annual IACCM (International Association of Contract and Commercial Management) Americas 2009 conference kicked off yesterday in sunny Orlando at the scenic Omni ChampionsGate resort. The outside temperature was a balmy 85 degrees, but the action and interest in the conference was even hotter. To my surprise (being Canadian in the US and especially Florida, hockey was mentioned in the opening keynote), IACCM Chairman Tim McCarthy opened up the conference with a reference to the current NHL playoffs and the strive for The Stanley Cup holy grail. He went through the challenges the players and the teams go through to have their names inscribed on this eternal cup and correlated that to what businesses and practitioners need to do in today's turbulent climate. The central theme of the conference "Managing Commitments in Turbulent Times" couldn't be timelier, with presenters centering around risk mitigation and management while focusing on the long term.

It's no surprise that the attendance level has dropped from last year's conference, but it is a lot higher than I expected. More importantly, the attendees are definitely of the right caliber and are very eager to learn from the speakers and the other attendees about what's working in the various organizations in terms of contract management and governance in this climate. The number of exhibitors seems higher than last year, which demonstrates the value and brand recognition IACCM has built and strengthened over the past few years. The usual suspects in the enterprise contract management software spectrum were present, including Ariba, Emptoris, I-Many, Selectica and Upside Software. In addition, consulting companies including EMC Consulting, Huron and TPI were also present along with providers in various related segments.

The morning started with Bob Endres of Synaptic Decisions challenging the audience on the notion "are our contracts keeping up with the times". Bob raised several good points to consider, including:

- Allowing for variations in risk within contracts and associating a price point for various risk levels (e.g. you probably don't want the same insurance requirements for your janitorial provider as you do for your largest part supplier). It's important to instill transparency in illustrating risk levels within the various elements of a contract and indicating the price variations for each risk threshold.

- Knowing that your strategic suppliers are at risk of going into bankruptcy, it's important to ensure you are working with them in a collaborative manner to ensure reasonable payment terms and risk mitigation so the supplier remains a going concern. Then once we come out of this recession, you will have strengthened your relationship and it will help you accelerate growth at a much more rapid pace

- Know that you are both a buyer and a seller in any transaction, even if you are the buyer of goods/services -- you are buying the goods/services but are selling your risk thresholds and governance controls

Well, I already had my ROI for the conference just from Tim McCarthy's opening remarks and Bob's keynote presentation and it was only 9:15am. I could tell that this was going to be a remarkable conference. Next was a powerful panel led by Pierre Mitchell of the Hackett Group accompanied by Mark McDaniel Chief Procurement Officer for Conoco Phillips, Doug Turner General Manager and Chief Procurement Officer of the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Carolyn Lindsey Director of Member Services with TRACE International and Stacy Goff President of ProjectExperts. The panelists articulated how their companies and organizations have brought their stakeholders together in balancing risk and ensuring a "Design-for-risk (reduction)" approach. Mark talked about how Conoco Phillips has brought together the contracting, procurement and risk management groups under one umbrella and the benefits realized. The diversity among the panel with Mark's group managing projects that can be over $20B each, to Doug's organization assisting much smaller deals, was very valuable for the equally diverse audience.

The day only got better with a morning break that allowed us to get rejuvenated with fresh Starbucks coffee and other beverages and head right into the various tracks on risk mitigation. I can honestly say that the speakers at the conference have a refreshing passion for this field and their presentations demonstrate their enthusiasm and knowledge. I was torn as to which tracks to attend and wish I could have split myself and attended them all -- now while I may have multiple personalities, they all needed to agree on just one track.

Lunch was great and the upside was it was outdoors, allowing us to enjoy the sun and warmth. This was also the downside -- nothing like perspiring in a suit while being next door to a pool and not being able to jump right in. It was back to the action packed afternoon agenda and I sat in on the panel discussion led by David Chameli Associate General Counsel for Sears Holding Management Corporation on Globalization 2.0. David quizzed the audience on "Is Globalization Alive and Well"? Well, controversy was in the air... With the Obama administration focused on using domestic resources, outsourcing and off-shoring has been an interesting discussion in some industries and as such, globalization is taking a back seat. Opponents pointed out that diversification is the strategy their companies were using to instill resilience and were thereby capturing new untapped international markets. Needless to say, it was another interesting discussion with valuable lessons and the one key thing I got out of it was to not re-trench, but rather get even more aggressive in capturing new markets while being smart about it (i.e. doing the right research before attempting to take on a market just for the sake of growth).

Next came the tracks on, yes you guessed it, Globalization. Again, with the variety of top-notch speakers to choose from, I knew that whichever track I picked was going to be great -- and it was.

We wrapped up the evening with a wonderful meal hosted by the title sponsor and we were surrounded by a gorgeous Florida sunset shining on the beautiful ChampionsGate Golf Course. Being outdoors, I would never miss the opportunity to enjoy some fine cigars and beverages with good friends, colleagues and dear customers -- so I did just that (and shared too). At midnight, I decided it was time to head back to the room and write this blog as well as complete my day's worth of work in 1.5 hours. I have become more efficient thanks to today's learning and this is my first blog (and it shows). One more to come, if I am permitted to post ...

- Ashif Mawji

Spend Matters would like to thank Ashif Mawji from Upside Software for sharing his experience at IACCM Americas 2009. We look forward to his next post.

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