SAP Ariba – Procurement Evolution and Revolution at London Summit

Yesterday SAP Ariba held their London Procurement Summit on an absolutely gorgeous day by the Thames.

While not on the scale of the humongous Amsterdam extravaganza earlier this year, with its 2000 delegates, there were around 200 people assembled at the Glazier’s Hall, near London Bridge. The first short session saw Justin Sadler-Smith from the firm asking, “Procurement Evolution: Are you ready?”  

Now, as the pedantic husband to a microbiologist and father of a neuroscientist, I’m not sure technically that one can be ready for evolution, I think it just sort of happens, usually over millennia. But what Sadler-Smith meant was simply that things are changing, as in the drive for “procurement with purpose”, and we must evolve or die, like … well, lots of creatures that died.  Sadler-Smith had a “chatbot” that popped up on video every now and again – it was in fact James Marland from Ariba (pictured introducing the day) – he had one very good joke as well.

Pat McCarthy, an SAP Ariba SVP, also talked briefly about the Winds of Change – not only how external events are impacting us, but how procurement is about far more than savings these days. Then we had the first external speaker Guy Hubbal, ex CPO for BP and more, with his session titled Through the looking glass: What does the future hold for Procurement?”  Much of it covered the sort of topics we write about regularly in terms of where procurement is heading, but there were a couple of new points that made me really think – so we’ll certainly come back to his session.

We mentioned here a strong series of articles from Ariba and Deloitte on the topic of Brexit, and Paul Bray from Deloitte ran through some of the key arguments with Brexit: The good, the bad & the ugly – very interesting and we’ll have more on that to come too.

Graham Wright of IBM and our friend Andrew Daley of recruitment firm Edbury Daley told us to Step up or step out in their procurement leadership masterclass. I’ll get me coat, then … IBM is using AI to improve recruitment and staff development processes, in procurement (and elsewhere, I assume), which is interesting, although it raises some ethical questions which will need careful consideration.

Martine Booth from SAP Ariba, who was one of the speakers in our pub debate earlier this year on “procurement with purpose” picked up on that topic in her session  - Making purpose tangible -  with Timo Worrall, Johnson & Johnson and Colin Downie, WildHearts Group. Another good session, with Worrall particularly interesting in terms of why J&J are supporting social value – it is not a “marketing gimmick” he assured us, rather it supports the J&J “Credo” and motivates staff.

After coffee, the always impressive Dr Marcell Vollmer from Ariba explained "How Procurement Innovation Drives the Intelligent Enterprise". This ran through some of the well-known facts around the rapid growth of disruptive businesses but got interesting when he talked about how procurement is likely to change, driven by technology of course. We will probably come back to that as well in a future piece.

Finally, James Marland chaired a panel with Ian Galloway, CPO at Capita, Fabio Francalancia from Sky and Paul Jones of ExceleratedS2P. This took a while to warm up but towards the end, they got onto some really hot topics, including whether the procurement “function” will even exist in the future and whether fast-growing firms might decide they don’t need that, even as they get bigger. Galloway was very impressive – we have been somewhat critical of Capita in the past, tempered with acknowledgment that their situation is not an easy one. But if I were a shareholder I’d be confident that he can deliver the procurement changes that the firm talked about earlier this year.

Overall, it was a very good and content-packed morning, with more specific product demos in the afternoon. My only criticism is that there was no opportunity for any audience interaction. Everything was so tightly packed into the time available, we didn’t even have a minute or two for audience questions after any session, let alone anything more workshop or round-table style.  However, the content (and indeed the venue, food, general ambience and organisation) was good enough to forgive the firm – but we might suggest that next time they plan a little more slack in the schedule, so delegates have some chance to contribute, even if it is just the odd question.

We have a webinar too coming up with SAP Ariba on October 31st at 10 am UK time too. Titled Integrating Supplier Risk Management into Your Procurement Processes, Tony Harris from the firm and I will be talking about how you can (and should) look at supply chain risk throughout the whole procurement lifecycle. You can register here.

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