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After SIG’s Spring Executive Summit, I Think Procurement is Officially Cool Now

04/19/2019 By

One day you wake up and realize that you’re nearly 10 years into a procurement career (which you never expected, considering your English literature degree) and you’ve never been to a SIG conference. That changed this week as I headed down to Amelia Island, Florida, for the Spring Executive Summit.

SIG isn’t your typical procurement conference. The food is great (crab legs! Ice cream sundaes! Drink carts wheeled in to the last sessions of the day! Yes, please!). There are pashminas on loan if the air conditioning is too cold. Solution providers aren’t bound to booths. My welcome packet featured a hand-written note from President and CEO Dawn Tiura, thanking me for coming to my first SIG (so classy!).

Best of all, attendees to the Sourcing Industry Group event truly interacted with each other, made eye contact and joked around. I was part of several honest conversations both celebrating professional triumphs and asking for advice on missteps with practitioners and providers alike.

So what did I learn and what should Spend Matters readers know?

On a purely human level, procurement executives are seeking to continue to change the perception of the function internally to one that’s collaborative, forward-thinking, thoughtful, visionary and increasingly cutting-edge. And it’s working.

Most of the senior-level executives (CPOs, VPs and directors) I spoke to were deeply engaged with their own teams and internal stakeholders, also forging forth along clear-cut plans to help their supplier relationships thrive as well.

For the most part, they already had or were implementing core source-to-pay technology, exploring further optimization via RPA, machine learning, and starting to dabble in artificial intelligence and sourcing optimization.

They’re measured and thoughtful when it comes to talent, often looking outside the proverbial STEM and “business” boxes in hiring and developing increasingly tech-native employee bases.

Procurement isn’t rising in stature as a function because of specific tasks or tools. Sure, those are a catalyst for some truly amazing reporting and automation. But the key “what to do” in every session I attended came down to the simplest of human acts: open, honest communication.

Talk to your suppliers if they’re messing up, and more importantly, when they’re doing a great job for you. Regularly and proactively check in with internal stakeholders to ask how you can better serve them and how they can better serve you. Make your voice known to senior leadership and advocate using all the amazing data that’s available. Tell solution providers and consultants what you really want and expect, listen to what they have to say, and please don’t BS their incredibly talented and knowledgeable salespeople!

In my career at Spend Matters, I’ve always felt that I have a huge privilege in seeing an entire industry with a bird’s-eye view. I know where solution providers are succeeding and where they’re not. I hear about the coolest, most cutting-edge supply chains via our practitioner clients. I work alongside consulting practices as they navigate complicated tech implementations. And I’m able to follow the investment community as they seek “the next big thing.” All of these areas operate together to help goods and services flow around the world.

The sessions at SIG showed me that internal procurement organizations get the same view within their businesses: The spend flowing from each department makes everything come together as a cohesive whole. I think that in the throes of tedious contract negotiation and the panic of supplier risk events and chiding whatever department for going off the rails in spending or process that procurement sometimes forgets to do a solid session of navel gazing to realize how deeply important and incredible their jobs are.

Maybe it’s the two-day dose of Florida vitamin D hitting me after a freezing cold Chicago winter, but damn — what we do on a daily basis is deeply cool.

Thank you to Dawn, Geoff Talbot and the entire SIG team for facilitating an excellent event that brings together the procurement “tribe.” I can’t wait for the next one.