My trip to ISM last week unfortunately coincided with a medical diagnosis requiring that I hang out in my hotel room and rest most of the time (I'm getting better, so don't worry about me). But I did spend some time talking to a number of folks, even if I missed the sessions this time around (except my own, of course, which I was fortunately able to make). I also had the chance to spend some time in the vendor showcase area, talking to numerous providers about their impression of this year's event. In general, the consensus among practitioners, providers, track chairs and just about everyone else I spoke to was that this year had a much better vibe than Charlotte, owing in large part to the some 500 more attendees this time around in San Diego.
Moreover, a number of folks commented that the quality control on this year's presentations seemed a bit higher than the past (I can't say for myself, since I wasn't able to sit in the sessions). But I can say that from my brief time in the vendor showcase area, exhibitors said this year was significantly better than Charlotte, both from an overall volume standpoint -- more people combined with a greater concentration of folks at certain hours -- as well as a general interest in actually hearing what vendors had to offer. This combined with other anecdotal news from Q1 suggests to me that the overall software sales environment within procurement has completely thawed. Companies are back at the buying table once again.
One thing I was mildly surprised about was the extent to which many attendees were way behind the eight ball when it comes to enabling technology. In the presentation that I co-presented with Sherry Gordon on supply risk technology and solutions (including spend visibility, supplier information management, supplier performance management and pure-play supply risk solutions), only a few people in the audience raised their hands to suggest they had already purchased and leveraged technology in this area. I think ISM and other conference groups and organizers should spend more time considering the role of technology -- especially in areas like spend analysis and supply risk where it can transform an entire approach to procurement programs and management -- by featuring the subject more. Clearly, practitioners are hungry to learn about it. Someone will fill this void, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Last, let me issue a quick apology for those that I was planning to meet at ISM, but did not. It's nothing personal -- believe me. I know I've followed up with many of you in the past week, explaining the exact reason why. But for those that I have been remiss in reaching out to, please accept my apology for not being easier to connect with this year. I hope to be more social and engaging next year (if not in the coming weeks if you see me at the some half dozen events I'm planning on attending).
- Jason Busch