ISM Accelerates Into Indianapolis — Examining Content Tracks at the 2016 Annual Event and the Brewing Knowledge Battle

ISM 2016 pixelparable/Adobe Stock

Over the past two days, five members of the Spend Matters team descended on Indianapolis for the 2016 ISM Annual Conference. We (Jason Busch and Pierre Mitchell) are presenting in various sessions throughout the 3-day event and our team is catching the general vibe of the largest procurement event (roughly 2,500 people this year) in North America.

We’ve been impressed with the track design and much of the content in the sessions we’ve sat in on this year. It’s a material improvement from the many ISM shows we’ve been to in the past (and lots of other events as well).

The track designs include a number of pragmatic themes:

  • “Do/don’t” —  these tracks included lots of content on transformation lessons and best practices
  • “Indirect” — which is good to see broken out at ISM2016 rather than just the separate ISM services event
  • “Direct” — this is ISM’s historic strength with manufacturers and its formal foray into broader supply chain (even though nearly exclusively supply-side for now)
  • “People” — a huge mega issue as we see it. ISM is trying hard to address the issue of talent through its new eISM online learning program and its focus on attracting and retaining future supply chain stars through recognition efforts such as the “30 under 30” initiative.
  • “Tools” — technology is at the core of the future of procurement and a big topic at the event this year (stay tuned for more information on the upcoming Spend Matters/ISM Global Procurement Tech Summit in 2017)
  • “Risk” — risk is super hot and is increasingly working its way into core ISM content. Finally, we are seeing supply chain risk management (SCRM) tools getting really implemented — although there is still work to go! Providers like Rapid Ratings, riskmethods and Resilinc are all getting a lot of attention
  • “Rewards” — including how to drive metrics, build business cases and demonstrate value

We found the conference to be similar in size compared to previous events, but difference is apparent in not just the content but also even on the exhibitor floor. There are far fewer physical supply chain suppliers (e.g., suppliers of MRO/facilities goods, promotional items, etc.) and much more technology and content/knowledge types of offerings.  

ISM had to execute well this year given the importance of the annual event to the membership, but also because the profession is fundamentally changing and adapting  — and so must ISM.  No longer is ISM just facing certification and membership competition from just NLP, APICS, CIPS and others, but increasingly from providers like SIG, Procurious, Procurement Leaders, IACCM, Hackett and others.

All of these membership, networking, conference and related providers are getting into platform-based engagement, training, certification and are also moving to knowledge-based platforms. ISM must do the same. The early fight for practitioner (and provider) mindshare and attention is becoming more nuanced and complex than the past. And it’s evolving quickly.

Finally, we keep hearing from attendees how ISM’s local affiliates are also trying to figure out where they stand relative to the mothership — either with it or in certain cases, as an alternative or substitute.  And some of the training and consulting firms have voiced some concerns about ISM doing too much of its own quickly-developed services rather than using more of a true platform approach that develops robust and role-based skills and competency models that are deployed and licensed through multiple channel partners.

Stay tuned for further analysis from ISM 2016 later this week and next. It’s been a busy and insightful few days for us.

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