eWorld London overview – not deserted as we almost expected

Yesterday we attended eWorld in London, although we had been wondering whether anyone would turn up for this global, procurement and supply industry event given current concerns about travelling and bans on large gatherings in some countries. But the venue was far from deserted, as it turned out, the troopers returned and The Grand Connaught Rooms near Covent Garden were once again (almost) full with procurement practitioners, solution providers, heads of supply chain, finance, academia and third sector organisations from many industries. While numbers were good there were maybe not so many from other countries as is usually the case, and attendees were probably down to 75% capacity - which was good under the circumstances.

It was another full-on day starting with the keynote, Cate Warman-Powell, Head of Procurement Consumer Technology & Supply Chain at BT, who was a 2019 winner of Procurement Leaders Future Leader Award, talking about how she achieved procurement transformation at BT, as she runs procurement for a major chunk of BT's business.

She spoke about “creating value beyond savings," but really focused on one interesting procurement initiative, related to buying Smart Hub broadband devices. BT was in a situation where only a handful of suppliers could meet their needs, which were technologically complex. BT also required the suppliers to take responsibility for both the software and the hardware elements of the product, which reduced the supply market further.

After looking at various options to improve how this supply chain worked, BT decided to insource the software element of this work. That then opened up the market in terms of the hardware; suddenly, there were 20 potential suppliers instead of only three of four. The move would also improve flexibility and speed to market. What impressed us here was that procurement led and drove a major strategic change for the organisation, one whose impact went well beyond the usual reach of the procurement function. That strategic influence is something all CPOs should aspire to.

We couldn't attend all of the sessions that followed but of the ones we did attend:

Procurement with Purpose  - our old friend and colleague Peter Smith, now author and co-founder (with Mark Perera formerly of Procurement Leaders) of the procurement with purpose "movement" ran a workshop titled Procurement with Purpose – Can We Use Our Spend to Save the World? He talked about the movement to consider a wide range of factors beyond short-term sales and profit, including climate change, modern slavery, plastics, diversity in the supply base, and many others. He discussed the drivers behind the increasing focus here, and suggested that there are three key factors to consider when you build a “procurement with purpose” strategy:

  • Which issues do your key stakeholders (including customers) really care about?
  • How much impact could you have in terms of each issue you are considering?
  • How easy or difficult would it be for us to make a difference for each issue?

Looking at those three questions can help to determine a practical strategy, one that should deliver wider benefits (and of course will help the organisation itself by satisfying the key stakeholders).

What Might the New Decade Have in Store for Procurement? was presented by Charlotte Carter, Solutions Specialist at Proactis. She talked about the newer challenges going forward of procuring in a complex and risk-filled business landscape drawing from the projects she has been working on. She gave four considerations that will impact all of us: Business partner approach; Digital and process automation; Data; Collaboration - all of which can lead to four outcomes: a voice on the Board, alignment with Finance, well managed suppliers and contracts, automation and self-service processes across source to pay. And we'll be writing more fully on each of those as she sees them in a forthcoming post.

As you would expect, the session on Coronavirus, Brexit - the Nightmare of Contagion in the Supply Chain from Nick Hood, Business Risk Analyst with Company Watch was standing room only. A financial and commercial risk analyst and advisor he talked about the procurement professional’s nightmare of the ripple effect of failure in the supply chain. He also gave his candid view on whether we can really mitigate anything. He drew on his extensive experience as a fixer of broken business and supply chain situations, and we'll be sharing those with you in another post soon.

We missed the session from Debbie Metcalfe, procurement consultant and trainer at Achilles, but heard from one delegate that she gave an excellent roundup of just how careful we must be when drawing up tenders and giving bidders exactly the right information to enable them to deliver - lack of attention to detail can result in harmful law suits.

Of course there were many other very good sessions but our day finished with Drew Povey, author and international speaker on leadership and sustainable change. He presented on Leading in a New Landscape. He explored the concept of ‘leadership now’ within modern business and imparted stories, many from the sporting world, highlighting the best practice of leaders and teams who have successfully navigated a turbulent and changing landscape. The session was research-based and gave practical advice to help you create positive and sustainable change, whatever your job, role or position. Again - more on that to come.

The lovely thing about eWorld is the mix of people and the connections you can make. We met with The Classification  Guru - a fixer of dirty spend data before it enters your shiny new P2P platform - who explained to us the importance of investing in not only clean data, but its ongoing maintenance. We'll be hearing from her soon on Spend Matters. We also met a student of Strategic Procurement from Uxbridge College, with a psychology background, whose multiple language skills were a driver for her interest in the procurement profession - that was a first for us. She explained that the cross-functional working aspect of procurement attracted her to the role alongside her ability to help drive cultural change through her psychology skills - interesting and to be followed up on!

All in all another useful and interesting day at eWorld - we look forward to September.


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First Voice

  1. Jason Busch:

    Nancy, great write-up. Thanks for attending. Let’s hope other events are as well attended in the coming weeks … fingers-crossed for PL in North America.

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