My day at eWorld – September 2019

I always view the eWorld conference as the start of the Autumn events season and it was great to get back into action after the summer break.  It was nice to catch up with existing customers, talk to a few contacts who are coming onto the job market and also meet a few new people.

The eWorld event in March certainly seemed to benefit from a change of venue and that continued at the Great Connaught Rooms last week.  There was the usual interesting mix of sponsors ranging from regulars such as Proactis and Wax Digital through to new start-ups (here’s a full list of those who exhibited) so the main hall had plenty going on and more than enough delegates to make the event feel busy.

Throughout the day there was quite a varied mix of presentations going on, and those that I attended felt more like an education than a thinly veiled sales pitch and I think that is certainly the way to go with these things.

The opening keynote from Adventurer Tori James was very enjoyable. As the youngest British female to climb Everest back in 2007 she had a very inspiring story.  What impressed me about her was that she had no climbing background before deciding to take on the challenge.  She trained hard, learning the requisite climbing skills on other mountains before taking on Everest and achieved her goal through sheer dedication and application.  

She talked about the great help she’d had from coaches and other adventurers but also stressed the importance of the mental challenge for which she had to prepare herself personally.

The words that stuck with me were “At some point, you realise that you have to be your own coach” and this very much resonated with the message I had in mind during the workshop that I chaired in the afternoon entitled The Future of Procurement – Combining New Skills & Technology.

In my opening address, I bemoaned the lack of training available to procurement professionals which specifically relate to the future skill set required in a digital world.  I then asked for show of hands from the 20 delegates. I asked how many had received training from their employers in the past 12 months – five raised their hand. I then asked if any of that training was specifically geared towards digital procurement – four hands went down leaving one person who had been taught how to use an eSourcing platform.

These numbers, admittedly with a small sample size but representative of what I see and hear generally, proved the point I made later in the session that if procurement professionals want to equip themselves for the future, they have to take it upon themselves to start developing the skills and knowledge themselves i.e. to be their own coach as Tori put it.

During the discussion, we talked about what the future of procurement might look like, what value procurement might be able to add and what skills would become more important as a result.

A couple of delegates felt more needed to be done at CPO level to reposition the function and sell the new vision of procurement, something we’ve touched on ourselves in previous editions of our Insider report.

One delegate mentioned that her organisation had three CPOs in the group of companies but there was no vision from any of them about where procurement is heading or what skills will be required for the future – worrying stuff really.

We talked about sustainability and risk management as being two areas that procurement could really make a difference in future.

When it came to the question of whether technology could be an enabler for the evolution of procurement there was some doubt in the room. Ian Anstey, formerly of SAP, currently working with Apsolut, made the point that ultimately ROI on the technology will usually trump most other considerations, so companies really need to make a robust business case for change if technology is going to help move the profession forward.

We also had some people from suppliers in the room who had some good questions, but the most interesting point they raised, in my opinion, was around how marketplaces are now placing a layer of technology between salespeople and buyers which could have a negative impact on the possibilities for supplier led innovation.