Taking the Spend Management Conversation to a New Level

I was planning to head for the West Coast this week to work on a project, but I learned Friday night that the trip has been postponed. "How opportune," I immediately thought to myself. Purchasing's Smart Sourcing Summit is taking place out by O'Hare (Chicago burbs) during the exact same time I was scheduled to be away. I had been eyeing the agenda for weeks, and it's noticeably different than most procurement events which seem to recycle the same topics over and over. This time around, Purchasing is bringing in a number of experts -- from economists to category specialists -- to offer their views in a keynote-only style on where the market is headed. I'm now planning to attend the event and will hopefully pick up a great deal from it.

Yes, supply risk management, that topic we're all talking about these days, is on the agenda, but so are overall economic and commodity market forecasts which, judging from the agenda, appear aimed to create a much higher level conversation and dialogue than we're used to engaging in around these things. In my view, it's precisely this level of thinking that is missing in so many Spend Management discussions today. Here, take a quick challenge -- how many procurement and supply chain executives reading this know the difference between M1, M2 and M3 let alone how these can impact currency values and inflation (potentially commodity inflation as well)? I'm sure the answer is low. But it does not have to be. And I suspect the more well versed we become in monetary and economic thinking and policy -- not to mention commodity forecasts grounded in more than just reactive reporting -- the better we'll perform as procurement and supply chain professionals. And the better we'll be at advising business stakeholders and earning the respect of our CFOs.

But what we need to do our jobs more effectively is more than just an intro to economics, trade and policy. I used to always jest at the end of presentations I gave that if you want to know where the procurement market is headed, don't read Spend Matters. Don't read Purchasing. Heck, don't read any blogs or trade publications in the sector and ignore the industry analysts. Rather, read The Economist. The problem with all the news and opinion we get in this sector is that it's spoon fed to us. We're not taught to think about the next bounce of the ball, to extrapolate current circumstances to forecast the next. Rather, we're taught to consume knowledge versus taking a critical eye to it, developing our own hypotheses and points of view. We don't know how to tell stories around data anymore than we know how to put a stake in the ground and defend it with numbers and language that can earn the respect of shareholders, CEOs and CFOs alike. But I do hold out hope. It's conference agendas like this which represent a step in the right direction.

Jason Busch

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