ProcureCon West Indirect — Senior Analyst Thomas Kase Shares His Experience

I could describe myself as a long-time listener, first time visitor in regards to ProcureCon -- I made plans over the years to visit one of their events on several occasions, but I've never quite made it. But this time around I did, and have now had the pleasure of participating in their first-ever ProcureCon West Indirect conference held at the Monte Carlo resort in Las Vegas.

For those used to the annual ISM conference, this is quite a different event. It was a magnitude smaller, and far more selective. Participants were predominantly senior and mid-level supply chain management; there were numerous CPOs and Directors from the Global 2000. No junior staff, very few vendors, no undergrad students roaming about. To mention a few participants, I had the pleasure of personally meeting with senior procurement members from HP, Warner Brothers, BP, American Cancer Society, Xerox, DHL, MGM Resorts, MeadWestvaco, Key Bank, Volvo, Microsoft, and many more.

As this was ProcureCon's first indirect spend-focused event on the West Coast, the number of participants has been between 80 and 120 each day -- this is in contrast to the 250 to 300 daily participants at ProcureCon's East Coast events. The event's focus and the quality of the participants made the number of attendees a non-issue.

So what was the event like? My closest approximation would be that of a small software vendor's annual user conference -- creating a friendly, tight-knit atmosphere where the line between attendee and presenter blurs and people can relax and share their experiences. Not only did presenters sit down to participate after showcasing their particular challenge or success story around indirect procurement, there were also several roundtable discussions around more narrow topics that encouraged all to chip in with their own examples.

Topics went from lofty ones like global indirect sourcing, change management, to practical advice around developing stakeholder buy-in, how to attack specific categories like MRO, labor, facilities management, and, quite interestingly, also a workable way to handle marketing & ad agency spends. Regardless of category, I think most if not all participants walked away with at least a few new proven approaches to add to their tool box.

One drawback with the event's format is that the participation became a little too extemporaneous at times -- tighter moderation might have helped -- then again, moderation might have stifled the creativity, so it is not an easy issue to address. Another issue is that for those of us who like to dig into details, me included, many presentations were a little too high-altitude to slake my data thirst. Having said that, I now have a long list of contacts willing to share more details with me after the event, so the format ultimately proved effective. All it all, it was a great information sharing and networking event that could boost your number of peer contacts in short time. As we all know, procurement is a small space, and I feel like I've not only made new friends, but expanded my proverbial Rolodex by a decent number.

I'll get back to you with details around the many other discussions that came up during these days. It was a creative exchange that provided many insights into how indirect spend challenges are being addressed, and with a bit more digging into the details, I plan to share some of them. That being said, I'm already looking forward to the main ProcureCon event in Atlanta in September!

- Thomas Kase

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