Procurement Leaders’ World Procurement Congress: Correspondence from the Big Event

It was Procurement Leader’s World Procurement Congress last week in London’s ever popular event venue, the Intercontinental Hotel at the O2. There must have been close to 1,000 attendees, senior in title from across the globe.

The set up was everything we’ve come to expect from this event: central round stage with media tech crowning it, giant screens on all 4 walls, mood lighting, loud music at the press of a button. The theme across the two days and all stages was procurement as a visionary, innovator and partner. The speaking slots I attended all engaged around that theme.

The partner exhibit hall had just the right amount of partner stands. It was great to catch up with GEP, Jaggaer, Coupa, Determine, Ivalua, amongst the tech vendors (no Ariba or Zycus, but they both have imminent events of their own to focus on). I enjoyed a great discussion with the guys on the Appzen stand. Appzen is the only tech I can think whose core offering is AI-based spend auditing -- pre-payment, a platform which has inbuilt integrations to almost all SaaS platforms out there. We all know it’s so much tougher and time-consuming to reclaim money once it’s out of your control, so conducting a payment audit prior to payment seems a no brainer.

The Consulting firms included Capita, IBM, Ayming and Bain. Barclaycard and American Express were there to talk about their payment solutions. A great alignment for Coupa given their partnership with Barclaycard on Coupa Pay. I spoke with Rajiv Ramachandran, VP of Product and Strategy at Coupa. True to their brand promise on user experience, Coupa have built Coupa Pay on a slick unified platform. The audit trail is truly seamless; when making a payment, the invoice can be clicked on directly, cutting out the element of ‘trust’ in making payments. There’s the virtual payment card which can be used for smaller transactions, pre-loaded with the required value and upfront payments at the time of PO. A really interesting discussion to see how Coupa is shifting the dial in the payments arena from B2B, to a B2C experience. I was surprised that the venue hadn’t placed Coupa closer to the Barclaycard central glass surround megastand given the partnership.

Back to the mainstage. Early key speakers included Robert Guest, Foreign Editor of The Economist; very engaging on the topic of global trade over the centuries, jeopardised largely by the geopolitical landscape. Interesting fact: despite sharing a common culture over hundreds of years, South Korea is almost 30 times ‘richer’ than North Korea, solely on the basis of the political regime.

Next up, David Ingram, CPO of Unilever talking on the topic of procurement as a business partner. Some great stats came out of David’s slot including how vast the procurement requirements of Unilever are. One slide stated that Unilever is the world’s largest buyer of palm oil. A few of us in the audience picked up that therein lies some heavy environmental concerns, along with the amount of plastic packaging requirements Unilever have. We’d been invited to submit questions via Slido and of course, questions were raised and liked around their palm oil and plastic environmental policy to get them to top slot. Disingenuous, I thought not to ask David Ingram any of those questions, which I’m sure he would have had reasonable responses to, but somewhat reassuring that many of the audience members liked or asked similar questions, emphasising environmentally aware, sustainable procurement is rising up the agenda.

Other presenters included Len DeCandia, CPO at Johnson & Johnson, an engaging and humble speaker given what he’s achieved in his role, and Samsudin Miskon, VP, Group Procurement at Petronas before the breakout sessions began, returning later for the interview-style centre stage session with David Rae of Procurement Leaders interviewing Christian Horner OBE, Team Principal at Red Bull Racing Formula 1.

The event gave way to the always greatly anticipated Awards Dinner on the evening of the final day. Congratulations to all the professionals and organisations nominated and recognised as winners in their categories. The winners list is here.

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