A Day Out at eWorld …

… that’s how we heard it described by one delegate as we were (snooping) accidentally listening. 'I’m sure I could be doing other things, he said, but I can’t think what they might be.' Which we took to be that he’d had a good day.

eWorld Procurement and Supply yesterday was probably busier than we’ve ever seen it – the new venue of the Connaught Rooms at the DeVere on Great Queen Street was more intimate than the QEII but worked very well - plenty of opportunity to assemble in the exhibition hall without being far from the main action, and plenty of places to sit and work too – which makes a change at these events.

If you didn’t manage to get there, here’s a quick roundup of what we heard and we’ll cover more in detail next week. The keynote was delivered by Michelle Baker of KPN, we interviewed her recently and you can read what she told us here. As we expected she delivered a well thought-out and interesting speech, it was standing room only and went down very well. She talked a bit more about what we covered in the interview but with added emphasis on collaboration and motivation. She talked about the journey she has travelled from analogue to digital in her career, and the challenges she’s seen when trying to get people to perform in the face of language and culture barriers.

She observed many changes in expectations. Fluidity has become the norm in terms of working expectations; we have 24 hours and we decide how we want to divide them in terms of work and home. Next-day delivery has set expectations for the consumer and this is trickling into our workplace too. Basically, the pace of change has accelerated more in the past three years than ever before owing to emerging technologies, social media, analytics, and mobile tech. And we are working more and more with people who have never known anything different.

So for Procurement, our world is more complex. We are expected to deliver all the usual metrics, run and manage contracts, mitigate risk with less and less legal support, and now we have to have a handle on CSR too. Procurement is expected to deliver more, not only to be the ‘bridge builders,’ but, as the ones who see everything, we are expected to be the integrators too, that means bringing innovation in from the outside.

Sourcing is expected to be more strategic – and predictive. Innovation is happening by fewer and fewer amounts of people, often originating way down the supply chain, so the tail is getting longer and longer. The upshot is we need to think more deeply about relationships and technology. Where once procurement sat in the corner buying, we now have to understand so many new technologies in order to buy anything. Adidas is 3D printing its shoes for example, but do we understand the tech that is doing that and how it affects our category?

One thing we can all do now, is stay focused on our own development. We all say we haven’t the time to do that, but if we put down the mobile phone, have fewer distractions, don’t look at email, quit social media, and zone in on what we’re doing for a while, we can apply that focus – and that is how we will thrive in the tech-led future.

This led nicely on to the sessions by Proactis – which talked about driving the business forward – more on that next week.

Later, Steve Carter, who is Service Architect and Integration Lead at the Crown Commercial Service, gave an interesting view of how it feels to be on the sales side of the procurement equation. He worked for solution providers for some years before moving over to “our” side of the table, so he has that perspective. Remember that the sales people tend to be very driven by quarterly targets, he said, but they will walk away if they really don’t think they have a good chance of winning your work. Also, if you give them the chance, they will look to persuade you that what you need is (surprise, surprise) exactly what their product does!  So as the buyer, you really need to have a thorough understanding of what you are looking for. That means lots of early market engagement, but that needs to be intelligent and wide-ranging to make sure you don’t just get fed what a particular supplier wants you to know. He also pointed out that you can’t totally outsource risk – as the buyer, it will always come back to you if a supplier fails to deliver (very true). So CCS has been looking to understand risk better, and where appropriate look to spread risk across suppliers and themselves rather than just “dumping” it on a supplier.

Becca Brighty brought a very different topic to the event - her title was Adopting New Procurement Systems: The Neuroscience of Change. She is an occupational psychologist by training, works a lot with start-ups and smaller firms, and she talked about how our brains always look to avoid or minimise threats and seek rewards – but the threat response is stronger. That is evolutionary and goes back thousands of years to when we had to avoid sabre-toothed tigers and snakes! But today, it means that “change” is often seen as a threat, and the response means that people then react as if they are in personal jeopardy. Colleagues become “enemies” who might do us out of a job, and the new system becomes something to fear because it might threaten our comfort zones. So managers and those leading change need to recognise that, and behave in a way that reduces the “threat” of change that is perceived by staff. There was some great change management advice in her session – consider “people, not strategy”, demonstrate fairness and equality (we respond very badly to perceived unfairness), and use the word “together” as much as possible. All in all, a very interesting session.

One of the nice things about eWorld is the opportunity to find out about new vendors and new tech that we may not otherwise have come across. Three of those opportunities came our way yesterday:

Sourceit – We met a fairly new start-up from Australia who have come to market in the UK and Europe with a new invention they’ve developed. It’s a free-to-use SaaS-based tool that simplifies your creation and management of RFQs. We’ll get into that more deeply next week – sounds quite an exciting find.

4C Associates - not new to us, but they’re about to launch something quite unique … we’ll have to wait for the official launch next week to write about that too.

LIGHTest – a toolkit launched by the EC under the Horizon 2020 programme to make the supply chain and eProcurement a safer place to do business in, is another interesting development – more on that next week too.

We also met a (new to us) team of Expense Reduction Analysts - they are a network of independent Cost Management & Professional Procurement Services people who offer advice and help on all areas of spend. We'll be hearing from them in the coming weeks.

And not to be missed of course was A Paradigm Shift in How We Source Solutions – delivered rather brilliantly by our own Peter Smith. We’ll also have a rundown of that presentation next week.

Lots of other presenters too of course – but we couldn’t get round them all, unfortunately! So a huge thank you to Peter Smith for giving us feedback on the presentations he attended, which we couldn't.

All in all a highly productive day.

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