Amazon Business Exchange Conference Overview – It’s All About Innovation

What looked like about 500 people turned out yesterday for the first ever Amazon Business conference (Amazon Business Exchange – ABX) held in London. It was a packed day and from what we witnessed, a huge success. What made it a success? It was well attended; the event ran smoothly; all sessions and breakouts were relevant, interesting and provoked lots of Q&A; there was a good vibe and plenty of networking opportunity, and there was a good mix, not just of customers eager to hear about new developments and plans, but of ‘prospects’ immersed in topics covering exactly what Amazon Business does, and learning from user experiences. In fact, we talked with a number of delegates who had come along, from all over Europe (and beyond), to find out just what Amazon Business could do for them, and all of those we spoke to said that following what they had heard, they would definitely consider opening a business account to streamline and consolidate ad-hoc spending.

Partners such as Accenture, Barclaycard, Coupa, SAP Ariba and YPO were also on hand to explain how they work with Amazon Business – more on that to come - and AWS marketplace, Amazon Digital and Amazon Shipping (did you know Amazon offer a shipping service?) were also there to explain their offerings. Amazon Shipping, we learnt, is a fairly new venture which, a bit like DHL and Parcelforce, deliver business-to-customer parcels (not just Amazon’s) 24/7 with all the benefits you’d expect from Amazon, and a free introductory offer coming up in November for Amazon Business Prime customers.

Back to the themes: the opening keynote came from Todd Heimes, Director of Amazon Business Europe. He talked about why these are exciting times for Procurement, with all the tech and data available today that can really help procurement become a faster, more efficient business that gives its stakeholders what they want and need, and keep up with their expectations.

The results of a WBR Insights survey found that 89% of procurement leaders believe that 50% of their processes can be automated within 12 months, with just 27% saying they have already ‘digitised.’ Given that CEOs are looking for a 40% increase in savings in that timeframe, Procurement still has some work to do. All time and money saving avenues need to be explored. Results also show that by 2030 75% of the workforce will be made up of Generation Y, who expect everything to be ‘mobile-friendly’ and instant. We have to be there, he says, with the right talent and the right tools if procurement is to add value, and by that he means participating in and helping to drive the business.

But it’s not just a case of rolling out the technology, we have to make sure that our people are using it, and leveraging all the opportunities that data can give us. To that end Amazon Business are providing more and more functionality to their users, equipping them with faster delivery times, spot day deliveries, more choice, more value and analytics from the dashboard to help them make sense of it all in terms of visibility and spend analysis. Helping to automate more back-end tasks means more time can be concentrated on strategic suppliers, because that is where procurement can find innovative partnerships. 94% of heads of procurement have implemented a third-party marketplace, affording them huge opportunities to speed up processes, save time and money, and concentrate on delivering value.

This set the stage for the rest of the day’s topics:

  • Eric Bouret, CPO, Bouygues Construction, Dietmar Harteveld, Head of SCM, EMEA, Siemens and Keelie Leahy, Director of Innovation, Busy Bees Nurseries, gave their experiences of managing organisational change and driving innovation while implementing Amazon Business and the rewards that has delivered.
  • Tye Brady, Chief Technologist, Amazon Robotics, then went on to explain how robotics fused with humankind will shape the future of our workplaces, creating more jobs and more value. And outlined how that works within Amazon’s supply chain – ever wondered how all those items get picked, packaged and delivered so fast? It was fascinating - more to come!
  • We then had a choice of sessions: ‘Leveraging a marketplace in a public procurement context’ from Declan McAlister, Head of Procurement, Tate Gallery and ‘Stop chasing your tail: strategies for controlled self-service’ from Paul Harlington, Group Procurement Director, TUI.

The afternoon focused on cloud procurement from Lisa Lewison, Head of Procurement Strategy, AWS Marketplace; applying Amazon innovation best practices to procurement, from Mike Bainbridge, Digital Transformation BDM, AWS; how to implement a marketplace in 30 days or less, from Sangeetha Sankaran, Head of Professional Services, Amazon Business UK; and delivering and measuring value with business partnership and KPIs, from Klaids Lafon de Ribeyrolles, Director, Procurement Ops EU, Amazon.

We’ll have more detail on all of the sessions we attended over the next few days, but in the meantime, suffice to say the event certainly sparked lots of questions from the audience (using Slido), plenty of sharing from discussion groups on how they work and the challenges they face, and we also had a ‘speed dating’ chat with some of the presenters. From those we discovered that there would appear to be very little you can’t buy from Amazon Business for your ad-hoc spend, as Dietmar Harteveld from Siemens told us, he even sourced a one-off Elvis Presley suit for a company event.

What was quite refreshing, was that Amazon Business staff came across as genuinely enthusiastic about making customers’ lives easier and helping to fulfil their needs. When asked about functionality or capabilities or service that they don’t offer, they were happy to put their hands up and say quite honestly, no, we don’t do that yet, but we’re working on it.

The end of the day saw the announcement of the ABX Award winners for User Empowerment, Agile Procurement and Vision. We won’t spoil the surprise, you can read all about them in the forthcoming press release.

And finally a quick nod to the Victoria House Basement in Bloomsbury Square for lovely food and helpful friendly staff, and to the super-efficient digital cloakroom service – new to us and saved a lot of time!

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