It's been an extremely busy conference week (and a lonely one for me, holding down the fort in the empty Chicago office) here at the Spend Matters office. Jason jetted off to Boston for Emptoris Empower, Bill was down in Texas for ProcureCon, and Lisa caught a cab to downtown Chicago to the Institute of Scrap Recycling, Inc. (ISRI) Commodities Roundtable Forum before driving the firm's new gas guzzling SUV (who needs to save the earth when you can get a Section 179 deduction) to speak at the Commodity Trends 2011 Outlook event in Michigan. Everybody wrote posts on the topics (Emptoris Empower Dispatch: Emptoris is Thriving -- But What's Behind the Numbers?, ProcureCon Dispatch: Managing Generational Diversity, and Tight Ferrous Scrap Supply Markets, Diminished Flows and Strong Exports -- Part One ), but we wanted to share some specific quotes about what we saw outside of the previous commentary, who we saw, what we were most impressed by, and what we found lacking.
Jason seemed most struck by the technology aspect at Emptoris Empower:
"What struck me most about Emptoris Empower is how unapologetic Emptoris appears to be about being a software company. The thought of putting R&D investments front and center from both a product enhancement and marketing perspective, taking time to listen to your customers as a central executive focus and charging what amounts to a price premium based on the underlying engineering of the solution seems so 1995. Yet perhaps it's a recipe that others who prioritize tech obfuscation in favor of shiny bright objects could take a lesson from. I'm not sure if the good old days of enterprise software existed before -- memory loss can help us conveniently forget about all the botched implementations of yesteryear -- but Emptoris is following a path that shows tomorrow ain't what it used to be."
Bill looked at skill sets and team management at Procurecon:
Negotiating Contracts -- While technical competency remains important, softer skill sets are being sought, such as a background in sales. Those possessing strong people skills are often the best lead negotiators, backed up by team members with greater technical expertise. General knowledge, perception and Six Sigma-like training are at least as important as hard skill sets. There also seems to be a general agreement that there are, in fact, very few "good" sales people -- making it essential for buyers to lead the meeting.
In terms of global team management, corporate risk and accountability necessitates local empowerment by having your own people on the ground in the regions from which you are sourcing. Strong familiarity and understanding of local cultural value systems has become key when letting contracts and overseeing production processes. Despite increasingly sophisticated communications such as group teleconferencing, global sourcing managers continue to place a very high value on face-to-face interaction.
Lisa had some very interesting takeaways as well:
"I learned during the nickel scrap session that the US is radio-phobic (meaning, we are over-sensitive to anything that contains radiation) -- we're going to do a post refuting widespread thinking on the subject." (Lisa and I had a great conversation with this in the office -- look for her forthcoming post in Afternoon Coffee).
In CSR terms, "Toyota Tsusho, in addition to running their own closed loop recycling facilities for steel and scrap for the purpose of 'sustainability and green' is looking at CLR (closed loop recycling) to minimize product liability issues perhaps more so than for green/sustainability issues (or to get at the underlying expensive metal in some cases)."
As far as primary themes go, these are lessons we can take away and apply to several other areas besides metals: "Volatility -- in commodities, exchange rates and the increased use of algorithmic trading, growth coming from emerging markets, risk management, risk management and risk management (across all metals/commodities)..."
And there's more to come. Jason flies out on Sunday to head to Oracle OpenWorld, so look for upcoming coverage on the blog, and you can follow his comments live on Twitter: @spendmatters.