ProcureCon Indirect Day Two – Entrepreneurial Banks, Robots and Airports

Day two at ProcureCon Indirect was chaired by Richard Beaumont – both he and Cath Hill of CIPS yesterday were excellent in that role, despite the terrifying picture here of Richard on his introductory slide!

The morning started very well with Bo Dungal, Head of Procurement Innovation at Danske Bank, who talked about the change in procurement at the bank which has turned it into an operation that directly supports efforts to win new customers for the organisation. We’ll have more on that next week, but while it is not a model that every organisation can mimic, it does provide an example of procurement taking an innovative approach to supporting top-line growth.

The discussion on AI and RPA (robotic process automation) with Jean Latty from Generali and Zsolt Szeker from Nokia got into some detail on how and where leading firms are implementing those tools. This has clearly gone beyond blue sky ideas and is becoming the norm in certain areas for many leading firms. I struggle somewhat to get excited about RPA but it needs to be on procurement leaders’ agenda without a doubt.

We then had what was billed as an “Oxford style debate”. This was a version of our famous procurement pub debates, and the subject was pretty much the same as the debate last summer we held with SAP Ariba. The “motion” was “Robots will take the place of procurement teams” and while we’re biased, the session wasn’t as good as ours – although Richard Goldstein from River Island was very good, thoughtful and amusing (we’ll ask him to speak at one of our debates).

But Jeroen Wennink from Capgemini didn’t really speak in support of the motion, starting by saying that he didn’t actually believe robots would replace the whole procurement function. He wasn’t very convincing to be honest so we don’t quite understand how the vote swung to the “for” the motion after the debate! Technical error in the voting maybe …

Another panel discussion on agility and speed in procurement roamed over quite a wide range of issues. What is meant by “agile” was the starting point – and it can mean different things, from supporting agile IT methodologies in that spend category, to an “attitude of mind” around how procurement operates generally.

Copenhagen Airport are going through a major procurement transformation with GEP software chosen as a source-to-order integrated platform – a great “reference customer” for that firm, clearly! Mette Villebro Sievers, the CPO from the airport, explained her approach to getting stakeholders and suppliers on board with their programme.

We then had seven round table discussions going on in parallel. I gate-crashed one on professional services, led by Marie-Louise Christiansen, VP Professional Services at Danske Bank.

It was surprisingly interesting for an informal session, a very good discussion ranging through issues around scarce talent, how to differentiate between “consultants” and “interims “ (and not pay for what you don’t need), the role of VMSs, MSPs and other intermediaries, legislation around temporary staff … it was very lively and made me wonder if perhaps some of these topics might have been discussed in more depth during the two days, although some will no doubt come up at the ProcureCon HR event in September.

We had to leave a little before the close, so the last session we experienced was Graham Cranshaw of CASME talking about stakeholder engagement; some sensible thinking from him, and we’ll come back to that session again soon as well.

Finally, a note on diversity. We reckoned the audience was around 25-30% female  – a sign that at senior levels in the profession, there is still a bit of a gap. Similarly, there were some – but not many - female presenters, although as we said yesterday, there were late drop outs amongst presenters so we don’t know if that influenced matters.  But looking round the room, perhaps it was even more noticeable how “white” it was (see our previous comments on this issue).

So, all in all, a good event, 150 or so delegates and very strong levels of engagement and networking we thought as well as sessions that ranged from pretty good to excellent. No real “stinkers”, we’re pleased to say, and a couple of outstanding highlights with content which any procurement professional would appreciate. Congratulations to the WBR organising team, who coped well with the speaker drop-out issue (which does however need some further thought), and to the excellent chair-people.  And, we should say, to Easyjet for two very full but comfortable and ahead-of-schedule flights!

Voices (3)

  1. Stephen Wills:

    Why do you struggle to get excited by RPA?

    1. Peter Smith:

      I read so much science fiction as a teenager, and Asimov (I Robot etc) was a favourite, so I guess I always thought robots would be a bit more “interesting” than basically algorithms that worked out whether Jenny in accounts was allowed to buy a particular sort of laptop from the on-line eProcurement catalogue… !!

      1. Dan:

        That’s just how they start. Next thing you know, ProcureBot 3000 will be trying to kill John Connor…

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