My thoughts on the World Procurement Congress

Blog Pic Procurement Leader

The event is organised by Procurement Leaders and is perhaps the biggest collection of the professions senior managers. The delegates truly were a wide of range of genuine functional leaders from around the world with a significant percentage of them from Europe. It felt like a real leadership get together.

The sponsors and exhibitors were a broad mix with technology as the dominant theme rather than consulting. Given the large number of people carrying the CPO job title from big organisations it surprised me that non of the major consultancies, SAP Ariba or Coupa were exhibiting although SAP Ariba did sponsor some of the categories at the World Procurement Awards dinner on the Thursday evening.

This left a number of the other key players in the procurement technology market like Jaggaer, Barware, Determine, GEP and Ivalua to get themselves in the mind of the audience alongside some of the supply chain finance companies (C2FO, Taulia) and niche players like PRGX and Risk Methods. Here’s a full list of the partners.

There were some excellent presentations which presented what was probably a very positive view of the achievements of the speakers procurement functions, but it was clear to see why several of these people had been asked to speak. They offered a fascinating insight into what they had achieved and/or the initiatives that they are working on.

I particularly enjoyed listening to Walter Charles of Biogen talk about how his people are using AI on supplier discovery and analytics. His team is clearly at the forefront of really using technology to change the value the profession can bring to his organisation as is Tom Linton of Flex. His demonstration of how his team uses data science is the best example I have seen at the many events of this type that I attend. His team get access to what are effectively huge iPads of useful data offering meaningful insights that are shaping how they deliver value to the business.

Barry Parkin, Chief Procurement and Sustainability Officer at Mars was also hugely impressive and gave some great examples of how their investment deep into their supply chain is paying dividends for them. He talked about various initiatives with smallholding farmers including one with basmati rice growers in Pakistan.

Mars have taught the farmers to use less water in their process yet still increase their yield. When they used this as part of their marketing campaign to promote their Uncle Ben’s brand it resulted in an increase in sales of over 40% for the duration of the campaign. Barry described this as a Win Win Win and it’s hard to argue. Here’s some more info on that.

Thomas Udesen, Global Head of Procurement at pharma giant Bayer delivered a great presentation on the second morning. I’m sure many of the audience were envious of his position when he talked about being able to re-design his procurement function from scratch to suit the changing needs of the business.

He was able to quote his CEO stressing the importance of procurement to the entire business and could demonstrate the words are backed by action with the range of resources available to him. He talked about various initiatives that I’m sure many of the audience will seek to replicate when they get back to their own businesses. They included:

  • A dedicated team of AI specialists working in innovation projects
  • A Supplier Enabled Innovation programme
  • The “Procurement Kickbox” programme designed to encourage innovation from within his core team
  • A “Rapid Deployment” Team ready to commit to urgent, business critical projects – he mentioned this being a great talent incubator and that particularly got my attention.
  • The support of a team of dedicated professional mentors and coaches within Bayer who are challenging his people the think differently

I also enjoyed listening to Katrina Thorogood of Xylem who gave an interesting insight into driving cultural change in the team she inherited whilst Alpar Kamber, (founder of Denali and now part of WNS) offered some thoughts on future procurement operating models in his session.

I left the event with the impression that the leading CPO’s really are making an impact at board level in their organisations by delivering real value that goes way beyond savings. This is something we talked about in the skills section of our most recent report on the procurement job market.

It was also clear to me that these visionary leaders have really embraced the power of procurement technology solutions and that’s been a key factor in the momentum they have established in their teams. I’m sure many of the delegates will be keen to follow their lead.

From a personal perspective, the event offered lots of valuable networking opportunities to supplement what was another useful learning experience.

I chose not to attend the awards dinner that concluded the conference on the Thursday evening, but judging by the pictures on Twitter and Linked In it looked like a great night for all those that attended. Maybe next year.

Next up for me is The P2P Transformation Summit in London on the 5th June.

My Thoughts on SAP Ariba Live 2018

As I write this I am sitting in Schipol airport waiting for my flight back to Manchester. I am pretty exhausted after three busy days (and evenings) at SAP Ariba Live in Amsterdam.

The event offered another demonstration of SAP’s huge investment in Ariba, its commitment to developing a market leading range of solutions across procurement and now supply chain. There was also evidence of their products geared towards both enterprise and what they are classifying as mid-market customers with the introduction of new tools like Snap.

Tania Seary of Procurious with Andrew Daley at Ariba Live

The event was significantly bigger in scale than last years equivalent in Prague. The venue itself, the RAI Exhibition Centre, was big enough to easily accommodate what some estimated to be nearly double the number of attendees compared to last year (SAP have since said delegate numbers were up 47% on last year at 2088). In addition to the SAP representatives from all the various business units from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa there were, of course, a huge number of current and potential clients. However what was the most noticeable change from last year was the increase in the number of partner/sponsor organisations who are part of the ever expanding Ariba ecosystem. It’s actually quite an interesting list and I’ve posted a link to it below along with a link to the videos of many of the presentations.

I felt the overall sales pitch was toned down from last year, with most sessions I attended being a bit more understated, particularly on the main stage. I don’t know if that is a style thing coming from Barry Padgett (who took over from Alex Atzberger at the start of the year) or a change in marketing approach. This year’s marketing push centred around “Procurement with Purpose” with a lot of talk about visibility across supply chains offering the ability to promote agendas like sustainability whilst eradicating problems including child labour and modern slavery.

Personally I think this is a clever play given the importance of these issues and the potential for procurement to be a positive influence in this area (we’ve covered it ourselves in our recent Insider report). It also nicely promotes the potential of their relatively new capability across the supply chain.

Last years “Let’s Make Procurement Awesome” theme supported the more salesy demonstration of the new solutions that Ariba had in the production pipeline at that time. It was also a clear message that the investment from SAP was going to raise the bar.

At this event we were able to see what these solutions can really do now that they are available or about to become so. For me the big game changer for Ariba could be their move into direct spend and supply chain, not least because so few of their competitors can offer much in competition in this area.

Perhaps my favourite presentation was “Procurement In A Digital World” from the charismatic Dr Martin Kotula of SAP Ariba’s Value Engineering team. He spoke about his future vision for procurement and made it feel almost inevitable. He talked about the increasing pace of change in the modern world and how that applies to procurement and supply chain. Here’s one of his slides


The Muziekgebouw was the venue for the celebration party on the Tuesday evening. In my opinion it was a better layout than last years in Prague and made for an excellent atmosphere. The food was good, the beer and wine flowed and as a consequence there was even the sight of some procurement people dancing! Other delegates chose to record the evidence of this on their phones.

Not everything ran as smoothly as the organisers would like. Certain Amsterdam coach drivers responsible for ferrying delegates to the evening events could benefit from using Google maps, and some of the sessions in smaller rooms were full meaning that some delegates missed out. I was disappointed to miss the first IBM presentation entitled “IBM’s Cognitive Procurement Journey with SAP Ariba” but these issues were rare exceptions to what was another excellent event.

I did make a second presentation by IBM about building a Cognitive Procurement Strategy and these photos of some of the slides will make for interesting reading for anyone working in this area.

blog-pic-ariba-live-slide1 blog-pic-ariba-live-slide


I’ve been to a lot of these events recently including several hosted by the other solution providers. They each have their strengths and weaknesses but all offer an insight into the company cultures and objectives which are fascinating for those of us who are interested in these things.

As I’ve said in previous articles if you get the chance to go to these events grab it with both hands. You’ll learn loads about the technology that’s shaping the future of procurement and meet some great people. You’ll also get some valuable insight into areas that could have a very positive influence on what you do for your company, and how you develop your own career.

If you want some guidance on the latter please get in touch directly, or watch out for me in the networking areas at any of these events – my next stop is Procurement Leaders in May. Hope to see you there.

Here’s that sponsor list –

Here are the videos of many of the presentations –

Coupa reports quarterly profit

Earlier this week Coupa beat expectations by reporting an adjusted fiscal fourth-quarter profit of 2 cents and forecast a smaller-than-expected loss for full-year fiscal 2019, sending shares up.

Coupa said revenue jumped 41% for the quarter to $53.8 million, beating consensus estimates. A year earlier, Coupa reported a loss of 5 cents a share on sales of $38 million.

Analysts expected Coupa to report a loss of 15 cents a share on sales of $49 million for the period ended Jan. 31.

In the April quarter, Coupa forecast a loss of 12 cents per share, in line with estimates, with revenue of about $51 million, above expectations of $49 million.

Read more analysis as Diginomica summarises the key points for us:

Coupa ended fiscal 2018 with a quarterly profit and an expanding footprint of new and expanded customers looking for a platform provider.

You can watch the webcast of the call with investors here.

Read more at:

Preparing For Brexit – Changing Demands, Skills and Supply Chains

Blog - Preparing For Brexit - Changing Demands, Skills and Supply Chains

Image: Directors Simon Edbury (left) and Andrew Daley (right) at eWorld 2017

eWorld is widely seen as one of the best events for procurement professionals to attend in the UK. It offers a great mix of exhibitors and presenters and an opportunity to learn more about what other procurement professionals are in doing in their organisations, particularly in the field of spend management technology.

The next eWorld is on the 28th February in London and one of our founding Directors Andrew Daley will be presenting a workshop entitled Preparing For Brexit – Changing Demands, Skills and Supply Chains.

It will be an interesting opportunity to discuss the impact of Brexit on the procurement and supply chain profession, with a particular emphasis on how it will affect the skills required by the profession and their availability in the UK.

Delegates will be encouraged to share their experiences of how they are preparing for the changes, and what they perceive the new challenges will be for procurement professionals.

We’ll also discuss the likely impact on the procurement talent pool in the UK, and how spend management technology can help.

Benefits of attending this session include:

  • A chance to hear what others are doing to prepare for the changes in their supply chains post Brexit
  • An opportunity to discuss the changing demands placed on procurement professionals and the implications for future skills and training
  • Gain an understanding of the likely impact on the UK procurement talent pool

It would be great to see you at the workshop or at the event in general. If you have any questions about the event or the discussion topics please do get in touch.

Click here for the full agenda for eWorld including all the other presentations.

How did data win the Super Bowl?

Blog - How did data win the Super Bowl?

Analytics and Data Science are increasingly a part of our lives, whether it be in our professional lives in the procurement world or as consumers and social media users. Many sports fans will know that data has been a part of professional sport for some time. Many of us have seen films like Moneyball or heard about football teams in Europe using solutions like Prozone.

The Philadelphia Eagles won their first ever Super Bowl last Sunday beating strong favourites New England Patriots in an amazing game. What is interesting whether you are a fan of the NFL or not, is how Philadelphia took the use of data to a new level in professional sport to understand where the true value lies in their strategy – something a lot of procurement, supply chain and data professionals can empathise with.

The Eagles coach made some bold tactical decisions at critical times that according to this article in The New York Times were backed by a coaching team that is “comfortable mining statistical analysis for advantages.”

Here’s an excerpt from the article

Analyzing every team’s risk-management style, EdjSports determined that Philadelphia optimizes decisions — on fourth down, especially — better than its peers by a substantial margin.

“The Eagles capture value at every turn,” said Tony DeFeo, the president of EdjSports, “because they understand where the value lies.”

What can procurement learn from this attitude to data and risk management?

Read more at: The New York Times Online

What are your career options within the Spend Management sector?

Blog - What are your career options

We define the Spend Management sector for recruitment purposes as the area which encompasses procurement services and processes that are typically enabled by technology.  They include P2P, e-sourcing, analytics, contract lifecycle management and supplier relationship management.  There are also associated consulting and outsourcing providers operating in this area.

If you are already working for a spend management/procurement technology provider what are your career options?

The good news is that your skills are in demand, perhaps more so than ever before.

Why?  The “solutions provider” market is growing as fast as ever, both in terms of sales revenue and head count.

There is also a growing number of roles dedicated to maximising the potential of these solutions in corporate organisations on both an interim and permanent basis.

As a result, the number of people with industry expertise simply can’t keep pace with the growth in the market overall which means there is significant competition for industry expertise in all the key disciplines – sales, delivery, consulting and technical.

In short if you have the skills and experience in this sector, there is a strong likelihood that other employers in the sector could be interested in you.

So what are your drivers when it comes to considering your future career?

Move for purely career development reasons

You maybe in a good role which you enjoy and feel suitably rewarded financially but question if there is a clear medium to long term career path in front of you in your current organisation.

Competitor organisations maybe growing at a faster rate and creating opportunities for their staff whilst you carry on in the same role.

You may feel that you need to broaden your skill set or gain experience of working on a different technology platform if you are to achieve your long term career objectives.

You may work for a small niche operator and want to work in with a broader range of clients or maybe even fear a possible take over at some stage.
All these are potential reasons to consider a move which is principally driven by your long term career objectives.

In such circumstances it maybe prudent to consider an upward or maybe even a sideways move if it will open up better long term development opportunities.

In this situation it’s important to set yourself criteria for a move and ask yourself whether it would be wise to take a sideways move for little or no improvement in terms.

There are circumstances where that would be prudent and others where it just wouldn’t stack up for you.

Move principally for financial reasons

Do you feel you are underpaid?

2016 could be the best opportunity you will get to take advantage of the current market conditions in the procurement solutions market i.e. a genuine shortage of people with specific sector expertise in spend management, consulting and associated areas.

If you want to maximise your current market value then it’s worth looking at what you might get paid if you were to move into a new role with a competitor organisation.  Several organisations are paying premiums for specific skill sets whilst others are facing up to the fact that they will need to so if they are serious about hiring the best talent in the market.

We can give you an insight into your current market value compared to your existing package.

Move for others reasons

The fact is that most job moves are motivated by a combination of a better career opportunity and an improvement in remuneration package.  However there are other situations where someone might need to move jobs for completely different reasons. e.g.

  • To change your work/life balance
  • To improve a tiresome commute
  • A significant change in personal circumstances

Whatever your motivation to move, you should analyse your options, seek advice from trusted sources and only move if fits most of your core criteria.

Alternatively you could of course Stay in your current role.

If your employer is doing well in these fertile market conditions and you enjoy your role why move? If you can see a clear career path and feel you are well rewarded there is no obvious reason to move in the short term unless you have issues around one of the other areas mentioned above e.g. onerous commute..

If you are happy and don’t want to even consider alternative roles, it may still be worth speaking to a specialist recruiter to at least benchmark your current package.  You could potentially have some evidence to back up your claims for a pay rise at your next appraisal and you can develop your network of contacts in the process.

Whether you actively want to move jobs in 2016, keep an eye on the market trends or just benchmark your current role and salary against the market, we can offer the support you need.

Furthermore we will treat you as we would expect to be treated ourselves.  Unlike many recruiters we do not see job seekers as commodities to be traded, we see real people with career ambitions and personal lives that value our expertise in the market.