Event Review: Conference Board e-Procurement Conference

Yesterday, I attended the Conference Board's Electronic Procurement event in Chicago. Overall, the first day of the affair was great from a content perspective -- lots of new original material. The venue and professionalism of the Conference Board staff -- not to mention the intimate setting and size -- also enriched the overall experience.

Pierre Mitchell of The Hackett Group led off the day. His material was packed with Hackett facts and figures from recent procurement benchmarks, some of which are fascinating. For example, did you know that there's a direct correlation between procurement results and who a CPO (or procurement leader) reports to and their performance? And did you know that while 100% of best-in-class procurement organizations practices competitive sourcing and negotiations, only 60% of best-in-class organizations engage in supplier partnering / development (this numbers drops significantly for non-best-in-class organizations, however).

I've got to hand it to Pierre and Hackett -- fascinating benchmarks and numbers. I'll still say that Mr. Mitchell could benefit from slide writing 101 -- despite his consulting past, he's clearly not been trained in the McKinsey art of simplistic and elegant slide presentations -- but his content was extremely valuable, and knowledgeable. Not as easy on the eyes as it might be, but I'll forgive him for his brainiac PowerPoint creativity.

I also enjoyed Emptoris' presentation material. It struck a chord with me when they talked about how Spend Management initiatives can improve a company’s return on invested capital (ROIC), which is defined as earnings divided by capital invested in the business. This presentation also described how companies can improve working capital, asset utilization, and total costs associated with capital spending through Spend Management techniques. This is an interesting way to look at Spend Management from a finance-driven perspective, and one that will certainly appeal to C-level executives.

Other presentations throughout the day focused on success stories and advanced procurement technologies. Emptoris and SAP storm troopers were out in force hunting down leads. A number of other vendors circulated the audience chasing down prospects from what appeared to be an extremely well qualified list of attendees (except for your humble editor, who somehow managed to slip in under the radar).

Richard Waugh of Aberdeen Group is speaking later today. I've previewed the copy of his speech and the report it is based on. This material is also in the must-read category. I won't be able to make it to his speech today, but I have a copy of it and will talk about The CPO's Agenda in the coming week. Great stuff.

Here at Spend Matters, we applaud the efforts of Hackett and Aberdeen to provide statistically valid and significant Spend Management benchmarks. Both firms have a tremendous amount to offer and the benchmarking they're carrying out provides a foundation for companies to improve their Spend Management capabilities and justify investments in people, process, and technology. And kudos to the Conference Board for providing a venue to highlight both firms' research!

-Jason Busch

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