ProcureCon Indirect – good conference, a booming sector

The ProcureCon conference organisation seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment in terms of their events. They're not the only ones - we reported the recent CPO Event positively, Procurement Leaders goes from strength to strength, and even the good old CIPS Conference is getting bigger attendances these days than it has for years.

Why is that? Has the appetite for sharing good procurement practice and networking increased? Are procurement leaders less defensive or secretive than they used to be? Is the improving global economy leading to people being more willing to travel for events?

Certainly, at least a third of the delegates at last week's ProcureCon Indirect conference came from outside the UK.  I was only able to attend for half a day of what was a three day event, with two days of main conference plus a first ‘drill down’ day with two different workstrands. The attendance was impressive, with close to 200 registrations according to ProcureCon, and when I was there, at least 120 delegates in the main conference room for the sessions. The level of seniority is good - presenters tended to be CPOs or Directors of Indirect Procurement, and most delegates I met were heads of indirect procurement in their organisations, or perhaps top level category managers from the larger organisations (e.g. ‘Head of IT Purchasing’).

Part of my reason for being there was that our latest briefing paper was launched at the event. And the theme of that paper, (sponsored by Comensura), around organising procurement and the centralising / decentralising debate, was one of the key issues addressed generally in the conference. Other central topics included around working with and influencing stakeholders, the merits of having a mandate or working through persuasion, supplier development and innovation, data and measurement.

The first session on the morning I was there we saw four senior people presenting. Those initial presentations were scheduled for just 20 minutes each though, which meant there wasn’t really time for questioning the speakers as they all used at least their scheduled time, which was a shame.

But that was followed by parallel ‘round table’ discussions with around 10 different topics running at once, led by the speakers and other senior practitioners. I like the format, and certainly at the table I chose we had an interesting debate and I think participants went away feeling they’d got something out of the exchange of views.

Was there anything truly new and different we learnt?  Perhaps not in the short time I was there, but what struck me was the way procurement of indirects seems to go through a common lifecycle in most organisations, first gaining some initial traction, then often getting a strong centralising mandate, then eventually devolving back some control to users once some fundamental spend management control has been established. We’ll come back to that life-cycle and explore further at some point.

The other overall observation is simply that not only is ProcureCon on a roll; we might say the same about ‘indirect procurement’.  There’s no doubt that organisations are quite rightly taking the whole area more seriously, and the quality of procurement people in that sector is now very impressive.  And we’re looking forward to an even more specialist event, the ProcureCon Marketing conference, running from the 3rd to the 5th of June in London.  Last year’s was their first to focus on that sector and was enjoyable and interesting, so it’s well worth considering for organisations for whom marketing services is a significant spend category.

And here's the lovely view from just outside the Tower Guamon hotel in London where the event was held - a good conference venue in terms of facilities and food.Tower bridge

But when I turned round 180 degrees, here (below) is the view of the hotel itself. What fine architecture for a world heritage site!

Tower hotel

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