Jason and Peter’s Great Dutch Sourcing Awards Adventure

There’s a big advantage to living in a relatively small country. You can invite everyone who matters in procurement to show up for an awards event and book a relatively small conference venue rather than a huge arena – and still have some extra space left over. Earlier today, Peter Smith and I hopped on an early morning flight to Amsterdam to join our Spend Matters Netherlands partner, Gert van der Heijden, as he chairs the Dutch Sourcing Awards, which span both private and public sector procurement.

For such a small country, The Netherlands has a highly developed procurement community, including one of the better sets of academics and faculty in Europe researching the area. I was reminded of this years ago when I was invited to an IBX conference in Oxford to debate a Dutch academic, who taught me that it’s possible to defeat someone on a topic even in a second language – talk about humbling.

The Dutch procurement profession has its own set of priorities that makes it somewhat unique, including a material focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. They’re quick to embrace technology as well, and the current rate of interest in procurement tools (including e-sourcing, eProcurement and services procurement/VMS) is increasing at a faster and faster clip.

After we launched Spend Matters NL last year, I asked Gert to reflect on the state of procurement in his country. Links to the full interview are at the end of this post, but here are some of the highlights from the interview:

“Analytics is a top item for many [Dutch] companies. A lot of companies have not installed a basic spend analysis system yet, even though there is keen interest right now. I expect significant adoption in the near future, but one hurdle is that you need to train these AI-based systems for Dutch… Sustainability is a very large theme in business, and it’s not going away despite the EU economic challenges.”

“Even though The Netherlands is relatively small, it is a very open country to the European market, so we are not constrained by the size of the supply base for indirect. We can get creative (especially the larger companies) when it comes to creating the right competition in a broader supply base. For us, when it comes to improving indirect sourcing, the biggest problem is solving category management, a new topic for us (and something we are behind the US on).”

“If you look at risk, financial risk is not as major a concern here as perhaps it should be. Nor is Conflict Minerals, which is a US concern only. The EU has a different set of regulations. Also, our approach is different. Since we are consensus-driven, it is a much more difficult process than the US to get things done, such as recruiting new suppliers (which can help us avoid risky behavior in the first place).”

Peter and I will be reporting from our experience at the Dutch Sourcing Awards in the coming days. We’re presenting later today and will share some of the highlights (and audience response) from our talk, not to mention the awards dinner (and learnings) from the evening to come. Stay tuned!

But for now, dag!

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