Innovation Summit – Tech Will Automate 90% of Our Procurement Decisions within 3 Years

I hadn’t realised that Denmark is internationally recognised as a leader in several aspects of innovation, including clean technology, biotech and IT. It’s no surprise then that Tradeshift chose to host their 2019 Innovation Summit in Copenhagen. Add to that the fact that Copenhagen is the ‘birthplace’ of Tradeshift and you have a good springboard for a two-day immersion with their customers, prospects, and team members from across the globe and functions.

The event, in a hotel at the heart of the city, had a different feel from some of the recent events I’ve attended, not least because of the very cool sofas and chairs we lounged on, rather than your standard event seating. To be fair, they’ve all had a slightly different edge from one to the other. First of all, Roy was back again! Roy Anderson, Digital Transformation Officer, was the presenter, the ring master of the event, feeding us a little story or fun fact between each session. He exudes positivity and energy and was a great asset to the event. The Innovation message flowed into discussions and workshops, with the colours pinned to the mast early doors by co-founder and CEO, Christian Lanng. Christian lives on the West Coast of North America where Tradeshift is now headquartered, but is proud of his Danish roots.

His morning address came back to a question many of us ask: why is it taking business software so long to catch up with what we have in our consumer lives? So the seed is planted for discussion around innovation and change. Looking at images of natural and politically based disaster, Brexit also still a hot topic, the conversation came home to how we’re living in a world of change, be it climate, politics, trade or technology and how these elements have such an impact on our supply chains. Christian (Tradeshift) is putting the focus on outcome-based design. Not one to hold back on opinion in his own colourful language, Christian stirs our thought processes with questions like “What if we started ‘not’ seeing any tail spend, any invoice approvals, etc again - that the software just does it? What if we moved to ‘no’ decisions needing to be made because the technology processes orders, invoices, payments without us even having to be involved?” That’s where technology is moving, and so Lanng predicts, 90% of the decisions we make today will be automated within the coming three years.

From such a statement, you can tell that this is all part and parcel of Tradeshift’s plans. Being a team member in an AI breakout session in the afternoon reinforced this to me. Led by the product heads, we took seriously the problem-solving challenge for which AI could be the answer. It was actually a really great way to see how AI can be developed. In fact, this customer, partner, procurement community-led thought process slotted in well to another intention Lanng spoke to us about; working as a community rather than in silos to develop the platform.

There were some more personal sessions in the event, one of which was a panel discussion of the three Tradeshift founders, Christian Lanng, Gert Sylvest, and Mikkel Hippe Brun, all still part of the business, a feat in itself, and opening up about how they started the business (in public sector with a vision to connect every business in the world) and what their objectives where and are today. They’re still well aligned; they want to solve problems that haven’t been solved before. They want to do that much more in collaboration with customers and partners.

The first question Christian was asked directly demonstrated that this wasn’t a ‘fluffy’ Q&A session. “So, Christian, what keeps you awake at night?” Even he seemed quite surprised at the question but responded genuinely. “Customer issues keep me awake.” He meant it. He picked a face out of the crowd, one of his customers, apologised in advance for reciting and talked about a recent issue which had obviously played on his mind. I heard later that even the customer was surprised that the CEO felt the pain of this one customer issue.

So what of products: Tradeshift Buy, Tradeshift Pay and Tradeshift Go? I spent time with the Product team to see the journey (both on the buyer and supplier side), and I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow, along with some theories on innovation …

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