Greetings From Copenhagen – Day One of ProcureCon Indirect

Greetings from wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen (our older readers will understand the reference …).  My first experience of the city was as a 20-year old student, being stranded overnight when our rucksacks disappeared from the train we’d taken as my friend and I tried to get to see the Northern Lights in Norway.

We ended up at the police HQ when we got ejected from the station, then we were directed by the police (who were very good) to a hostel for the homeless in an old prison building! We got some sleep there and then made our way home; it’s a long story but our rucksacks re-appeared months later …

Anyway, despite that introduction (and I do also remember how nice Amex were to us with regard to my travellers cheques), it is a wonderful place, one of my top half dozen favourite cities. So when ProcureCon decided to hold their ProcureCon Indirect event here, it was an easy decision to attend.

It’s hard to define why it is such as enjoyable place to visit; the architecture is impressive in places, it has the picturesque aspects that come from the water surrounding the city, but beyond that there is just an overriding impression of a place and a population that is very comfortable with itself. Not ostentatious, but very together, enjoying life without being too Mediterranean about it … alcohol is pretty pricey though.

And when my colleague Nancy said she had never visited the city, we decided we could justify twin-pronged Spend Matters coverage. And, personal enjoyment aside, these ProcureCon events use parallel work streams for much of the time, so there is plenty for us both to cover. We’ll have quite a few articles covering the highlights over the next week or two, but let’s start with an overview of yesterday, the first day of two.

The event is at the SAS Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel – very pleasant modern high-rise hotel, if a little way from the centre of the city action. (We’re staying somewhere much humbler, but more central.)

The morning kicked off with Jean Latty, Group Head of Indirect Procurement at Generali Group, the third-largest insurance company in the world (no, I didn’t know that either). He popped up with very sensible comments and ideas on panel discussions too. More on that to come …

Duncan Brock of CIPS talked about the Future of Procurement – CIPS launched a new study yesterday in conjunction with Aston and Liverpool Universities. We need to look at it in more detail, but from some of his comments such as the need for procurement to focus on “business partnering”, it looks like the CIPS “licence to practice” idea might be dead, we’re pleased to say.

We enjoyed the panel discussion on “talent” (actually a word at least one of the panellists didn’t like in the context of people) with some interesting thoughts on how to retain and motivate staff - training is fine but has to be taken very seriously if you want to make it a real differentiator when you’re recruiting, was one message.

Sue Williams, previously a Hostage Negotiator with the UK police and elsewhere gave us the non-procurement keynote, talking about negotiation strategies in her world, some of which certainly do have a read across to our world.

She was excellent, and we look forward to giving you a longer report on her session. (Here is the highly engaged audience during her session.)

Late in the afternoon I chaired a small panel, discussing outsourcing and automation as two routes to remove low-value tasks from the procurement function. That featured Jean Latty again and Gavin Long from Carnival, the cruise line – we’ll probably have more on that to come too, and will certainly feature Tow Lewers on supplier-enabled innovation – a real highlight.

There is a good line-up of sponsors too, so we’ve been catching up with old friends from Scanmarket to Wax Digital to Coupa amongst the familiar names, plus a couple of firms we haven’t come across that we’ll tell you about soon.

There were a lot of late agenda changes, which must have been very stressful for the organisers – are senior procurement people getting less reliable, as quite a few speakers seemed to have pulled out at the last minute? It wasn’t noticeable really in terms of a day of good content, but it is a problem for conference firms if their published agenda starts being somewhat unreliable. Anyway, onwards and upwards for day two …


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