ISM 2017: Technology Crosses the Curiosity Chasm

Sergey Nivens/Adobe Stock

Aside from the provider/solutions expo, technology has always been something of an afterthought for attendees at ISM’s annual conference, at least as I’ve seen it. While a handful of sessions have addressed technology, it’s safe to say that for many of the delegates and ISM members over the years, it has been on the lower end of the priority spectrum, at least from what they plan to get out of the show.

But this year something changed. Not only were more procurement organizations having meaningful discussions to learn from those in the expo room — based on what I heard and overheard — but the interest in underlying technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), bots/robotics (and automation generally), cloud, blockchain, networks, mobile and “touchless” interfaces bubbled up to the surface in many conversations I had.

I spoke on a panel at the Exec-In event/track that was a case in point. Numerous questions from the audience zeroed-in on “how to get started” and practical use cases in such areas as AI, robotics, benchmarking/peer-to-peer sharing and blockchain. Some of the executives wanted to know “who was doing what” and were keen to dig into practical case studies to understand how both underlying building blocks and solutions could apply to their organization.

ISM 2017 proved to me that procurement is becoming about technology. And even old school purchasing managers and CPO types are becoming curious about what it can bring. Granted, while basic “application” functionality might be somewhat fungible in many cases when looking at solutions in established areas such as e-procurement, the impact technology can have on both procurement and the business as well as how solutions are rapidly changing from an atomic level is capturing people’s attention at a level that is new to the profession.

That’s a spark that we’ll find difficult to extinguish once the fire starts to spread within companies — from within.

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