The Procurement Summit – Chocolate, Models and Manchester


The Procurement Summit in Manchester on Tuesday was an enjoyable and successful event. There were around 300 registrations, and whilst the dropout rate is high as it is a free event, we estimate that getting on for 200 people turned up at some point. Certainly, the main room was packed for the morning, and even after the programme split into two streams, there were good numbers in all the sessions – our congratulations to Revolution Events.

One of the sponsors we talked to was delighted with the interest they had seen – at least half a dozen very interested leads – another praised the quality of delegates although would have liked more coming to see them!  (Mind you, some sponsors do just sort of stand there in the corner, they need to get out and mingle a bit more maybe …)

The Midland Hotel is a very good venue and one that is more conducive to networking perhaps than the QEII centre in London where the sister event eWorld takes place, so maybe that helps. As in London, Scanmarket won the best chocolates on offer award; come on, the rest of you, Quality Street just doesn’t cut it against Hotel Chocolat, you know!

Anyway, we will have a couple of further articles covering some of the key sessions, but today we’ll just give a general overview and summary.

To our relief, the two sessions we previewed here before the event and recommended turned out to be excellent, kicking off and rounding off the day very well. Both Remko van Hoek and Jo Watson of online clothing retailer Boohoo were both thought-provoking in very different ways and also gave some very practical advice. We suspect everyone took something useful from those sessions, and will come back to those in more detail later.

We particularly look forward to telling you more about Watson’s category strategy for the procurement of models (for the Boohoo website), which is an example of how procurement can successfully apply a bit of creative thinking to any spend area – even six-foot tall blondes!  (I did offer my services for when they launch their top-selling “short middle-aged man” range of outerwear) …

The presentations from sponsors stayed the right side of selling; Daniel Ball of Wax Digital talked about SRM, although really he covered a pretty broad picture from basic supplier information through to collaboration. Simon Dadswell of Proactis presented the results from the firm’s technology survey, which re-inforced two points. Firstly, not every organisation is as advanced in tech terms as we tend to think, and secondly, there is currently a strong outlook for procurement tech implementation, with a high proportion of firms looking to invest in the near-term.

That message was reinforced by a brief conversation I had with three ladies from a household name blue-chip firm – one which is setting up their first ever (indirect) procurement team in the UK operation. They have no technology at all; quite exciting for the new team, but we sometimes forget just how big the difference is between the “leaders” in our field and those who are just getting going on the procurement journey.

As well as the software firm presentations, there were practitioners like Watson plus some general “capability” sessions. We missed Christopher Barratt (the two parallel streams thing) but he is always good, and Christine Bell talking about change looked good from our brief visit to that room. And every conference needs a session like Paul Clayton’s – acerbic, cynical at times, but visionary too, he shook us out of any pre-lunch lethargy very quickly! He was a founder of ProcServe and now works with Basware so has a great perspective on many years of “eProcurement”, networks and software as a service. More on that to come too.

It was also an enjoyable chance as always to catch up with people; we enjoyed meeting the whole Edbury Daley recruitment team for the first time, and Jonathan Michael who was really responsible for my move into consultancy 16 years ago when I left NatWest. He hasn’t changed a bit since then – just like me …

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