Conferences Content

VMSA West — A Breath of Fresh Air for Contingent Workforce Conferences

This week, on Aug. 14 and 15, I had the opportunity to attend the VMSA West conference held right on the coast in beautiful Half Moon Bay, California. This was the first conference on the West Coast for VMSA, which wanted to create a contingent workforce event more accessible to businesses on this side of the country (the annual flagship conference VMSA Live is held annually in Florida). About 130 ecosystem professionals (a balanced mix of buy-side, MSP, supplier and other providers) met in an intimate setting to breathe, explore topics and learn from one another.

Procurement Leaders acquired by World 50: (Part 1: Company Overview and Questions Raised) [PRO]

Last week, Procurement Leaders announced it had been acquired by World 50, a somewhat “hush hush,” invite-only executive membership organization that does not do much if any PR (although we personally get a chuckle out of the “invitation only, private club” model in a commercial enterprise). From sources we have spoken with, we can best describe World 50 as a Fortune 500 version of YPO or Vistage, with member groups specific to certain functions (e.g., marketing/CMOs, HR, etc.) In contrast, Procurement Leaders is a conference business that leveraged its core success to add other membership-based subscription components.

The first installment of this two-part Spend Matters PRO and Nexus brief provides insight into Procurement Leaders and World 50, and the combination of two providers. The second installment provides analysis and recommendations for executives (in procurement) who are current Procurement Leaders members (or are contemplating membership) as well as Procurement Leaders sponsor (provider) analysis. Finally, we list alternative models/providers that organizations may want to consider.

This research brief is based on public information sources, primary research and interviews.

Procurement Leaders is acquired by World 50

Procurement Leaders — an organization known for its executive conferences, membership and research in the procurement sector — has announced its acquisition by World 50, an executive membership organization. Procurement Leaders CEO Nandini Basuthakur, announced the news Wednesday, saying: “We will continue to offer our unique suite of insights, applications and connections that accelerate global and cross functional transformation to our customers. This will now be further strengthened by the pairing of World 50’s powerful access across the broader C-suite.”

Procuring outcomes, without limits: 3 takeaways from Upwork’s 2019 Work Without Limits summit

Much like in other spend areas, the contingent workforce and services (CW/S) mega category is being shaped by disruptive forces from multiple angles. The oft-cited talent gap is a major motivator, as businesses look in vain for missing skills — everywhere from IT to operations and even more creative fields like marketing. But also influential are broader economic trends, including the rising importance of business partnering to tap collaborative innovation and the digital transformation of just about every major industry.

The result is a gradual but quickening shift in the CW/S world away from finding placeholders for siloed FTEs toward a workforce and talent strategy focused on outcomes — whether that be training a new set of algorithms for a key software platform, translation and localization for a business’ flagship product, or a set of social media-optimized advertising to bring a major brand in front of a different audience.

This shifting mindset was on prominent display last week at Upwork’s third annual Work Without Limits Executive Summit, held for the first time in Chicago. Here are three takeaways from the event.

ProcureCon Contingent Staffing Conference: An Analyst’s Takeaways

Spend Matters attended the ProcureCon Contingent Staffing Conference this week in a very peaceful Minneapolis. The two days were fully packed with presentations, panel discussions, roundtables, conversations with contingent workforce practitioners and solution providers. The conference scale was small enough to support substantial networking and conversations, but still a very robust conference. Based on the published attendee list, there were just shy of 100 buy-side practitioners in attendance from roughly 80 companies (most Fortune 1000 companies and/or well-known brands from a range of industry verticals).

In this article, I’m going to articulate my own key takeaways from the presentations and panels that I found informative and valuable. Once caveat: My analyst orientation/focus is around technology and innovation — and I’m also a bit of a “datavore,” so there’s some subjective filtering going on here. But hopefully my selective treatment will bring into focus some key areas of change that are in play for contingent workforce procurement practitioners at this time.

Upwork announces new ‘agency experience’ at its Work Without Limits summit

Upwork, the global freelancer marketplace and enterprise solution for sourcing and engaging online freelancers and small-scale service providers (SSPs), announced key enhancements to what it calls its “agency experience.” The announcement, made at the company’s third annual Work Without Limits Executive Summit, describes the new agency capabilities as addressing “the fragmented agency landscape as more companies move away from agency-of-record relationships.”

What I Learned About Coupa Contingent Workforce (CCW) at Coupa Inspire [PRO]

While at the corporate event Coupa Inspire recently, keeping a watchful eye on Coupa’s progress with Coupa Contingent Workforce (CCW) unification, I found myself thinking about something. It was just over two years ago that Coupa dipped its toe into the services procurement solution space with the limited release of Services Maestro. Among other things, that narrow solution component for sourcing and managing SOW projects of low-medium complexity and scale left few doubts that Coupa was serious about providing its customers with lifecycle source-to-pay capabilities for the procurement of contingent workforce/services (or CW/S, as Spend Matters abbreviates it).

I found it a bit amusing, in retrospect, that in a Spend Matters brief at the time (Coupa Unveils Services Maestro: Will the Student Become a Master of Services Procurement and Contingent Workforce Spend?) we somewhat playfully lectured Coupa about the complex nature of the space: “If Coupa decides to use the current iteration of Services Maestro as a jumping off point to enable procurement in this journey,” we sternly warned, “it will need to question, at the very core, how it opts to deploy its product development and product management resources to address the challenge.” And so it did, in September 2018, opting to buy (vs. make) a well-regarded VMS solution to “unify” into Coupa’s business spend management (BSM) platform.

So as I meandered in and out of the recent CCW sessions, demos, conversations with product development folks and, above all, clients and prospects, it became clear to me that Coupa was now looking like a maestro after all or, at least, certainly a very motivated and able fast learner. What my experience at Inspire brought home for me was that, in a period of just two years, not only had Coupa gone from nibbling on the edge of the CW/S solution space to actually being a major player in it. Coupa was also progressing steadily in realizing its vision of full contingent workforce and services capabilities woven into its unified BSM solution fabric.

This PRO brief will separate what I learned in terms of CCW progress and what I learned in terms of CCW challenges, and it will close with a brief analyst summary-commentary.

Zycus Analyst Day — 3 Quick Insights

Along with colleagues Pierre Mitchell, Xavier Olivera and Nick Heinzmann, I attended Zycus’ analyst day in Park City, Utah, on Friday. Analysts from Ardent, Gartner, Levvel (formerly Paystream) were also in attendance. While I’ll leave it to my esteemed colleagues to provide more insightful commentary on where Zycus stands today overall, let me share three quick insights that I walked away with.

What’s Your Story? Coupa Brings Color, Context, Influence and Emotion to Inspire19

In an increasingly STEM and data-driven world, boy do we need to keep the tradition of storytelling alive. What’s millions of rows of data without any context or color behind it? What’s a success story without some kind of emotional denouement? When I work with Spend Matters clients on the marketing and sales side of things, I’m floored by how often people think their software will “speak for itself, if only we can get the prospect on a demo.”

At Coupa Inspire19 this year, sure: I saw some screenshots and product demos. I’d expect to, given the tech wonk crowd I run with. But what I absorbed and took home with me is the customer stories, from United Airlines to Lululemon to MGM to a thousand others.

What Puts the ‘U’ in Coupa? Look to the FAANG Playbook on Usability

Rare is the presentation where a Coupa employee fails to reference the acronymic meaning of the company’s name. We heard this numerous times at Coupa Inspire 2019 this week in Las Vegas, and while few these days would confuse the Palo Alto cafe with the unicorn software provider, I have to admit the repeated messaging on the name has clearly sunk in with customers.

Case in point, over multiple conversations at Inspire, customers have frequently referred to the “U” — usability — as a key reason why they either signed with Coupa or have remained a client.

Coupa Inspire: My Take on the Event, the Roadmap and My Next Move

In the coming days, you’ll be hearing quite a bit from the Spend Matters analysts who attended Coupa Inspire this week in Las Vegas. While I will officially resign my analyst duties from this ragtag crew of procurement experts, curmudgeons and technology geeks at Spend Matters on July 1 — stay tuned for some news on what I’ll be up to in a couple of weeks* — I could not hesitate to put down a few thoughts on the event: Inspire was big. Lots of prospective customers were here. AI now underpins the story but is not the narrative. Coupa team members are having fun. C is for Community.

Exploring Basware’s Recent Product Enhancements: Something for AP and Procurement (Part 2) [PRO]

At its recent Basware Connect 2019 customer event in Chicago, Basware brought together both finance and procurement organizations for two days of learning and in-depth product discussions. During the event last month, Basware spent numerous sessions sharing recent product enhancements, as well as highlighting its own product roadmap path forward.

This Spend Matters PRO brief, the second installment in a three-part series, explores Basware’s roadmap for the following products:

— Data, Analytics and Supplier Management
— Networked Sourcing and Procurement
— Networked Accounts Payable and Payments
— IT Integrations and E-Invoice Sending
— Dynamic Discounting and Financing


And our analysts’ give the key takeaways on each of these areas.