Enabling Procurement Innovation at BravoConnect 2014

Last week we attended BravoSolution’s global user conference BravoConnect at the lovely Savill Court Hotel in the beautiful surroundings of Englefield Green. For those of you who don’t know the surrounding area of Runnymede, it is famous for witnessing King John’s sealing of the Magna Carta – a very appropriate setting for an event that promotes innovation and stakeholder connections.

The morning session was geared around the concept of connecting. Nader Sabbaghian, BravoSolution Group CEO, gave a warm welcome to older customers, new customers, partners and speakers. The beauty of BravoConnect was that customers were getting a real opportunity to discuss themes, challenges and experiences with not just account managers and solution experts but the wider community of users, procurement practitioners and industry thought leaders who could relate to the same issues and share solutions. Nader talked about the importance of creating connections -- externally right across the supply chain through to customers and internally with all functions – and their role in the dynamics of the organisation.

“I like to think of it as a tree, we know it has deep roots, but you can’t see them. Procurement professionals are not always visible, but they are holding the whole ecosystem together, keeping the connections healthy.”

This tied in rather well with what guest speaker Marc Woods, multiple gold-winning paralympian and international swimming athlete, had to say about the importance of teamwork and connecting everyone together to improve outcomes. Marc talked about his own remarkable and inspiring story in a refreshingly interactive speech centred around pulling his squad together, talking through and combating  confidence issues, making the strategy fit the goal  and getting all stakeholders to feel and become involved to ultimately ‘win the race.’

“If you can get everyone in the supply chain working together and contributing to the same goal --  for me that was everyone from the pool attendant who makes sure the ropes and blocks are in place and secure, to the physios, to the coaches  -- and each one gives just 1% extra, then all those one percents add up to make a real difference to how you and your whole organisation perform.”

Three delicious, and what tasted like homemade, flapjacks later (sorry Bravo, they were so tasty!) we heard from Jim Wetekamp,SVP Solution Strategy, BravoSolution, on the ‘Cause and Effect of Procurement Transformation.’ Jim talked about the benefits of being more communicative and working better within your function and role. By that he meant being more agile, in order to innovate; more analytical, in order to leverage data to help make the right decisions; more strategic, to align yourself with top-level business strategy; more technological, to use technology effectively to achieve your outcomes.

Everyone in the room could identify with his description of how every procurement practitioner is under pressure to juggle all of these dynamics, and to boot, become a change manager that can handle customer-vendor relations and the processes that facilitate business over time. Through a series of five recommendations Jim outlined a path to procurement transformation.

“Neither technology nor people are static. Skills, resource and technology are shifting all the time. Your plans and how you adopt and use technology should be changing all the time too - to keep you ahead of your competition.”

David Smith, Former CIPS President & former Commercial Director for the Department for Work and Pensions, gave the last speech of the morning. He entertained us with a history of procurement, from its omnipresence through time to where it sits today and beyond in ‘The Evolution of the Procurement Professional.’ He began with the stereotypical view of the civil servant, bowler hats and London buses, low activity and in-triplicate order books, and took us right through the decades to what procurement means to us today. He looked at how entering the profession has now become a choice rather than a natural progression, and discussed the future implications of big data and real-time sourcing. He had this rallying parting note for fellow practitioners:

“Procurement now stands for effectiveness, collaboration, efficiency. The advent of e-enabled technologies like BravoSolution enables procurement to make a real contribution to business … we’re in the spotlight like never before; what you do is important; it’s our turn to make a difference.”

We talked to several of the delegates, all of whom said they found the morning sessions “inspiring” and were looking forward to the breakout sessions of the afternoon. If you’d like to hear more about key takeaways from afternoon sessions, we will be writing next week about spend analytics in the health service, Peter Smith’s breakout session “Sourcing a Complex Category” and a bit more about the event as a whole.


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