ProcureCon Europe in Berlin – Day One Highlights

ProcureCon returned to a freezing (overnight) but blue-skied Berlin yesterday, with over 200 people registered for the three-day event at the Berlin Palace Hotel, with a high proportion of senior people. The hotel is nothing special from the outside but has one of the most pleasant and practical conference facilities we've experienced.

We commented in one of our event previews that we didn't think Christian Langg of Tradeshift was perhaps a natural Chair and so it proved - he delegated that task to one of his senior team, Sarika Garg. But he did open the event with a short and well-judged speech, thought-provoking but not too controversial by his standards!

He did highlight some challenges though - businesses are thinking about technology 'all wrong,' looking for small incremental savings when it is disruption that is the game now. Systems were set up for low transactional costs but are too inflexible - and "tools and a narrow focus on value in silos have fragmented our supplier relationships".

His theme around value was echoed through the day really. There is no doubt that we're seeing a real re-focusing of procurement (cynics might say "what, again?"). But one speaker after another emphasised value - from relationships, from internal and external collaboration, from sustainability (in both senses of the word), from supplier innovation.

We'll dig into that more in future articles but for a flavour of the day, here are just a selection of the quotes from various speakers.

- "We need leadership and a business mindset to take procurement to new highs".

- "Transformation to an innovative business focus requires a differentiated procurement approach"

- "We need to build excitement and capability to develop a successful SRM programme".

- "We have to be pilots, not passengers. We have to anticipate trends and insights to influence strategic direction".

- "Three of our nine procurement KPIs are about responsible procurement".

- "We should experiment more in procurement, use proof of concepts, move quickly".

- "Procurement strategy based on Kraljic focuses on improving the status quo of the company not driving renewal".

Actually, Kraljic took a bit of a hammering generally at different times in the day! But if we are moving away from a cost-focused function (not that Kraljic particularly caused that, we should say), there are major implications for the people, tools and processes that organisations need to execute that new approach.

procurecon berlin 15We'll have more on this in coming articles, including more detailed reports on the sessions from Professor Arjan van Weele and a couple of other stand-out speakers. I managed to have a quick five minutes with the Professor, who has been a hero of mine since I first heard him speak years ago, so that was another personal highlight of the day.

It is also good to see Mars contributing to events like this, something the organisation was dead against when I worked there many years ago. The firm has plenty to contribute, and the speech from their senior procurement executive was very good. I hope their people feel it is helpful too, so that they keep coming back!

There were a few frustrations - we still wonder why we're talking about Indirect spend when it is a meaningless term, and we were disappointed that we didn't get to hear more from the excellent Andy Windsor of Kimberly Clark in the panel discussion on that topic ("indirects"). But it was a very good first day in general, and we even had some genuinely funny comments from Gordon Crichton to send us off into the social evening events in a good mood ... And more to come of course from us on the event shortly.

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