Basware Connect – Rock Stars, Risotto, Planets and Procurement Challenges

Yesterday's Basware Connect event in London's fashionable Clerkenwell attracted around 150 people from across finance and procurement. The Wallacespace location is one of the new wave of "cool" conference venues, which on balance I like - lots of informal spaces which seemed to be proving good for small networking meetings, and the pumpkin, chestnut and gorgonzola risotto at lunchtime (all the food is freshly made in an open kitchen in the main lobby area) was one of the best things I've eaten for some time.

Back to business; Esa Tihilä, Basware's CEO, did his keynote as an interview with journalist and tech expert David McClelland, which worked well. Amongst a range of topics, they touched on the business impact of recent events in Paris and Belgium - a topic that they handled sensitively. Having good information and visibility of your business data is obviously critical when there are unexpected events; that was the point here. Other topics were around the growth of mobile and how historical data is turning into real-time data and even predictive - he also mentioned the Procserve acquisition and the opportunities in the public sector. He is Chair of the European E-Invoicing Service Providers Association, which has helped to promote acceptance of electronic invoices at regulatory level.

Oh yes, and finance managers can become "rock stars" (!) by turning their cost centres into profit centres through supply chain finance. There was nothing particular about Basware's strategic direction though. We then had the ex CFO of Super Group which owns the Superdry clothing brand - Chas Howes - talking about "the role of finance in business growth". That was one for the finance folk in the audience really, although the somewhat chequered history of the firm was interesting.

The agenda then split into various streams but I decided to go for Pete Loughlin's session in the AP stream rather than the first procurement session. He is a friend but I've never heard him speak before and he was very good, talking about the past and future of eInvoicing. But his big exclusive was that he and Esa had both worked for ICL back in the '90s and were somewhat involved in very early work on the "Internet Fridge" idea! That is still a bit of a futuristic idea, but it's the concept that your fridge will automatically order food via the web when it gets low.

Anyway, back to reality, and Craig Lardner, CIPS President in 2014, then told us about "The 17 Planets of Value for Procurement". We will come back to that in a later article; basically, it was a very good categorisation of procurement value drivers, focused on showing that "cost" and price reduction is only one part of the procurement raison d'etre. Craig and I then did our "biggest challenges in procurement" double act workshop (see picture), which was of course an outstanding success ... joking aside, we may come back to that at a later date too. There certainly were some interesting and "challenging challenges" put to us!

From the attendance at the various sessions, it seemed that finance professionals might have somewhat outnumbered procurement; but the mood seemed positive and lively, and surprisingly informal (in a good way) given the usual view of the Finnish business mentality! But this was run of course very much by the UK team, both Procserve veterans and newer hires - and I'm sure they will be pleased by both the turnout and the general feel of the event.

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