eWorld Procurement and Supply – First Impressions

eWorld was back again yesterday at the QEII Centre in Westminster, with a full cast of exhibiting solution providers, a strong conference programme and around 200 delegates from a wide range of public and private sector organisations. Whilst we thought the numbers were slightly down on the last event, the quality / seniority seemed to have gone up from previous days, which was good news for the sponsors of course. Those we spoke to at the end of the day were generally content anyway.

chocsJason Busch, founder of SpendMatters US, was over for the event, and we took the chance to see many of our friends from Scanmarket, Odesma, Market Dojo, State of Flux, Wax Digital, Future Purchasing and others.  And Scanmarket won the coveted "best chocolates of the event" award with their lovely Hotel du Chocolat selection - eat your heart out, you vendors with your Roses and Love Hearts!

The keynote came from Giles Breault of the Beyond Group who talked about "Procurement at a crossroads".  if you want to be cynical, you might suggest that procurement is at a perpetual crossroads, maybe stalled and trying to get the car back into gear. But in any case, Breault, who was CPO (and more) for Novartis until 2013 gave a very thought-provoking speech, the only negative being that he tried to pack in so much content that it got a bit frantic at times. Really, there was a wealth of interesting analysis and thinking in his 30 minutes, about three hours' worth we reckoned! So a little more time to explore some of the very important points he made would have been good; he has such challenging and well-thought-out arguments about where procurement is heading.

Other highlights included Todd Bradley-Cole, Procurement CSR Manager at the John Lewis partnership, who led a thought-provoking session on social responsibility in John Lewis. That sits at the heart of the John Lewis history and strategy of course, and he tackled some contentious issues including modern slavery, zero hours contracts and the circular economy. It was modern slavery where he went into more detail and challenged everybody to look closely at their own organisation and their supply chain - modern slavery is going on where you might not expect it, including in the UK.

Nick Ralphs, Former Head of Purchasing Strategy and Performance at RBS talked about setting up independent procurement functions for Direct Line and Williams & Glyn as they were spun out of RBS. One good tip was to have a clear "elevator pitch" to describe what you're doing in any change programme. So keep the headlines simple; he used 5 short sharp statements to explain what the programme was all about. He went through the structured approach and the key procurement principles that were embedded in the "new" organisations, and it was interesting for me to see how much more compliance-focused financial services procurement has become in the 20 years since I joined NatWest (and the 17 since I left when RBS bought the firm). In a sense that has helped procurement by stressing the importance of supplier due diligence, risk and contract management.

So, a good and enjoyable day; and I was personally involved in two sessions. They were a panel discussion on the implications of the UK leaving the EU, and a workshop titled "making a difference". We'll have more on both of those shortly.

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