Learnings from Day One of the ISM / Spend Matters Procurement Tech Summit

After a very full day at the ISM / Spend Matters Procurement Tech Summit, it's time to look back over what we have learnt, and then go to bed! (Writing this at 11pm Baltimore time, 3am in London). I know we're biased, but it looks like the event is a real success, with a large and engaged audience and a real feeling that we are talking about issues that define the future for the procurement profession, not just going over old ground again.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given it was an event all about technology, there was also more genuinely thought-provoking content than you would find in a more general-purpose procurement conference. Whether it was Jason Busch, Spend Matters founder, talking about Blockchain and how it might impact the supply chain world, or debates about just exactly what makes a "platform" different from a "network", there was plenty to make you brain hurt (in a good way) ... See Pierre Mitchell in the picture making us think!

So let's just pull out a few themes, with more detailed articles about some specific sessions to follow.

-  There is going to be a battle royal in the procurement software market, with mega-firms like IBM and SAP coming up against new entrants such as Amazon (and do we call Coupa an upstart or a 600 pound gorilla now?) as well as the familiar names like BravoSolution, Zycus, Determine, and small but innovative niche players such as Vroozi and Simfoni. However, the good news is that the overall market is growing rapidly so there is room for a reasonable range of providers to succeed.

-  Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are going to have a major impact - we'll come back to the IBM presentation which went over some areas we have seen and reported on previously, but touched on some new applications of the Watson AI engine which are very interesting. But technology is going to get smarter in terms of suggesting actions and predicting the future, not just analysing the past or managing transactions.

-  An underlying theme is the need for us to redefine the procurement role. Why? Simply because AI and other tech developments are going to take away the need for procurement to do much of the work it currently executes. Redefine or die, basically.

-  Collaboration with stakeholders and with suppliers was a key theme too, from the way Google are using CRM systems and principles to manage their internal stakeholders, to Coupa's new collaborative contract development tool, to new software firms such as Winndle that are focused on supporting deep supplier management related initiatives.

-  Technology is going to enable us to pull together internal and external data sources into a whole new sort of analytics that will provide far richer insights than we're used to from standard analysis and systems - risk management is a key application here.

-  We need to understand the difference between apps, networks and platforms. Sorry, but we really do!

So, more to come but plenty to think about. And every CPO and senior practitioner needs to make sure they are up to speed on where technology is going in our industry and profession - understanding this is now necessary, not just an option.

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