BravoConnect: The Power of Procurement Community and Innovation


I’ve been attending this year’s BravoConnect event in the UK and have found it to be a true practitioner’s conference. (I am also having a blast.) A few years ago, this conference drew in just a handful of people, but now has more than 200 attendees and is chock-full of great content and offers a community vibe. The theme of the conference focused on unlocking the power of procurement and the broader impact it can have on the organization. A few big surprises have come out of the event as well.

Here’s what I have learned at BravoConnect so far:

  • BravoSolution’s new platform is very real. I attended a few sessions and talked to some customers who are using it. They are looking forward to moving off the old applications, and their requirements can be extremely complex. For example, one early adopter has 95% of more than $7 billion of addressable spend (over 50 countries, 60 ERPs, and 600K local suppliers) on the tool with 700 spend categories modeled.
  • Bravo is also doing very well. It’s experiencing its greatest growth in the last 3 years and has more than 100 customers looking to expand their relationships with the firm – the new Bravo platform is certainly at the core of that. Although these types of conferences can somewhat “self-select” the customers who are very happy, the practitioners I have talked to felt that Bravo was a like-minded practitioner of the “art and science” of procurement and was a true business partner that is trying to help them with their company transformations.
  • Gary Noesner, the retired chief of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit who helped negotiate the 85-day standoff with the Montana Freemen, shared his expert advice on the topic of negotiations (which is not just with your counter-parties, but also with your bosses!). The net-net of the talk was simple, but so often overlooked, which is that those who you want to influence a negotiation want to be heard and respected. It is a 4-step process of listening, empathy, rapport and influence. As Gary said eloquently:
    • The prognosis for a positive outcome…is unlikely in a highly emotional confrontation
    • The first goal is to de-escalate any confrontation and create an atmosphere conducive to cooperation
    • Creating a positive relationship is the most likely path leading to cooperation
    • If you can’t control your own anger, you’ll find it difficult to influence someone else
  • Mickey North Rizza, who previously worked my old job at AMR Research (now Gartner), is really back in her practitioner comfort zone and working at Bravo with clients who are lucky to have her. She gave a great speech on the 10 “keys” to unlocking the power of procurement. I’m a bit of an alignment freak, and I liked her data points on the fact that although 85% of firms have a strategy, less than 15% really understand it and less than 10% feel they execute well against it. So, this creates both a challenge and an opportunity for procurement to align with stakeholders and to make sure that the “business of procurement” itself has a clear multi-year strategy while also helping the enterprise define and execute its mission.
  • Speaking of strategy, one large Bravo client actually had procurement reporting into the business strategy group (and the head of procurement was an ex-strategy consultant) and it was focused heavily on not just executing a center-led strategy, but also heavily focused on a procurement CoEapproach to enabling the business.
  • Since innovation and growth are generally the CEO objectives, we’re looking forward to today’s session from McDonald’s on its “Experience of the Future” strategy that seeks to migrate its supply chain to a more digital and configure-to-order basis. For example, a pilot program in Australia and Singapore allows consumers to do what Domino’s Pizza does in terms of configuring your meal online (including mobile) and then picking it up. This has an impact on the supply chain from everything from IT to raw materials to logistics (and the mega relationships that McDonald’s has with suppliers like HAVI Global Solutions and others). Stay tuned for more on this.
  • My colleague Peter Smith was clearly in his element here and perhaps unsurprisingly seemed to know everyone who was either associated with public sector or with CIPS. I found a tight-knit community with some very interested people. One of the CIPS ex-presidents (like Peter was) actually played in a band with a few guys who left to form a full-time band which came to be known as Iron Maiden – maybe you have heard of them? He also led the band at the Bravo event! Very cool. I’d like to see more US CPOs mixing it up with the general procurement community in less cloistered ways.
  • The amount of waste in federal government and healthcare supply chains is just as huge an opportunity in the UK as in the US. I’ll be doing a series of follow up posts on this.

After the first day of the conference, my general impression is that Bravo first obviously needs to get its platform rolled out and get customers rolled over, which is clearly going to take time given the complexity of the customer operating environments. The other big opportunity I see with Bravo is its potential to add integrated content and knowledge-based services into the platform. Analytics need external data to create outside-in intelligence, and it also needs smart humans to figure out how to embody that IP into the applications, whether it’s in supplier information management, regulatory compliance, category intelligence (e.g., commodity price forecasts/tracking tied to multi-tier cost models) and other numerous areas. Empty apps are dying, and platforms that loosely couple the applications, but tightly integrate the data across those applications and to/from the cloud, are the future.

Bravo is positioned well – now if it could only add the downstream P2P capabilities to its solution stack. But, ahem, more on this to follow tonight!

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *