Platforms Take the Stage at the Global Procurement Tech Summit

Global Procurement Tech Summit

Just back from the ISM and Spend Matters Global Procurement Tech Summit in Baltimore, I find myself recollecting the session I conducted, “Supplier Networks or Much, Much More? Making Business Platforms Work for You,” with my fellow platform passionista Bob Solomon of Software Platform Consulting Inc.  The fact that a session on platforms occurred at a procurement conference certainly indicates that platform models have come of age and must be taken seriously by procurement practitioners planning their technology next steps.  

The stage for our breakout session had been well set with a keystone presentation, “Amazon Business:  This is the Future of Procurement” by Prentis Wilson, vice president of the Amazon Business marketplace platform. I wasn’t sure how well-attended our general platform breakout session would be. (Could the topic be too out there or esoteric?) But it turned out we filled the room with very interested (at least curious) procurement professionals who asked a lot of questions as we proceeded through our presentation (always very refreshing when that happens).  

Our presentation consisted of four parts:

  1. Clarify and define what we mean by a platform in a (tongue in cheek) “everything-as-a-platform” world, and seriously and more specifically, in the procurement and supply chain domain. (Note:  Everything is not a platform.)
  2. Explain how platforms have been emerging across procurement and supply chains, tracing the evolution from early, EDI-based supplier networks to the current period of emerging platforms with examples like Tradeshift, SAP Concur, Upwork (formerly Elance-oDesk) and others. A pithy observation by Bob Solomon: All platforms are networks, but all networks are not platforms.
  3. Do a deeper dive into the contingent workforce and services platform category, what Spend Matters refers to as work intermediation platforms (WIPs). The large and varied population of these platforms provides a great sandbox for really understanding what platforms can do in relation to supply chains and the management thereof.
  4. Review the specific benefits of platform models, suggest what changes lie ahead for procurement and offer some practical recommendations on how to approach and leverage platforms to do great things for your organization.

My experience with this session at the conference convinced me that practitioner interest in platform solutions in procurement and supply chain is material and growing. At the same time, it’s early in the game, and practitioners are just starting to understand it and learn the new rules. Indeed, there is plenty to learn — but the opportunity is there. I am sure the platform session will be back at the next Global Procurement Tech Summit, and in the interim, we will be working furiously to educate and advise.

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