CIPS, ISM, Procurious and ProcureCon – the Procurement Conference Market Gets Even More Competitive

Global Procurement Tech Summit pisotskii/Adobe Stock

Unfortunately, the Spend Matters Europe team was not able to attend ProcureCon Indirect earlier this month for personal reasons. But we have two more ProcureCon events coming up soon - ProcureCon Marketing on June 14th - 16th, which we have enjoyed for the last couple of years, focusing on procurement of marketing services; and a new event, for buyers of HR related services, including contingent labour, ProcureCon HR and Extended Workforce in Amsterdam on 21st - 22nd June.

We will have more about both of these shortly, but it was reading about our US colleagues at the recent huge ISM (Institute of Supply Management) event that really provoked these thoughts.

ISM attracted some 2,500 delegates to Indianapolis - a great city, I'm sure, but maybe not a "draw" in itseld in the way Vegas or NY might be. There were also over 100 firms exhibiting and / or sponsoring the event. That's very impressive, and looking at the event, there were literally dozens of different sessions in parallel workstreams; almost essential I guess with so many people, but that certainly gives plenty of choice for those attending.

So, how does the CIPS annual conference compare? Not too well, it has to be said. Perhaps a tenth the number of people, and many of those are not full paying delegates, we believe. Now perhaps it is an unfair comparison. Whilst CIPS is bigger than ISM on most measures, ISM is more concentrated in that CIPS is now a very global organisation. And CIPS events have had good success in recent years in Africa, the Middle East and Australia, for instance.

But the "core" UK event has never really established an identity. Way back in my time of CIPS involvement, the event was seen very much as the "President's conference" and each holder of that  office could decide on the approach, format and aims of the conference. That led of course to considerable lack of clarity in the market in terms of what potential delegates might expect.

So in my Presidential year (2003), I got buy-in to a long-term strategy for the conference (I thought). That would mean CIPS could clearly position and market it in a coherent fashion to likely delegates and sponsors.  But then the President who took over from me decided he didn't like that strategy, and it changed again! And that trend continued for some time, which even today means the event lacks a real identity and reputation.

Is it a real "members" event with a focus on education? A CPO level conference with high-powered speakers from outside the profession? An innovation focused day aimed at all leaders and forward thinking professionals and maybe wider business folk? An event for CIPS students  (yes, even that was tried one year!)

Meanwhile, the competition has just got tougher and tougher. ProcureCon has expanded and specialised, as we mentioned above, Procurement Leaders aims to rule the blue-chip CPO space, Procurious has brought a new slant to things, all the big software firms run their own generally very good events, so CIPS really has to have a compelling proposition to succeed. I don't really understand why and how ISM has apparently managed that - in other areas, CIPS has outperformed ISM without a doubt in recent years - but this is one area where maybe there is something to learn from across the Atlantic.

So that is the task for Haymarket, the new media partners for CIPS, and Richard Masser, David Noble and co at CIPS.  Quite a challenge, and frankly, we don't have any easy answers.


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