ABX Impresses in London

The Amazon Business Exchange (ABX) Event, a new conference on the procurement rota, took place on 9th October with the Victoria House Basement in Holborn full to capacity with 500 delegates.

The main sponsors were SAP Ariba, Coupa (who are both partnering with Amazon Business), Barclaycard, Accenture and YPO which gave it a slightly different feel to the likes of eWorld and Procurement Leaders, a sense emphasised by what was quite a different audience to many of the events we attend.

Whilst there were a few familiar faces, there was definitely an international feel to the audience which was predominantly mid and senior-level procurement professionals.  Representatives from the other solution vendors and consultancies were conspicuous by their absence.

This was the first ABX event in Europe with people tuning in via live streaming. Todd Heimes, Director of Amazon Business for Europe, opened proceedings with a few interesting thoughts about their view of the procurement world and how Amazon intends to have a major impact on it.

The pictures of his various slides that we have published here give some great insight into the data he was able to share with the audience.  Amongst the headlines were:

  • 89% of procurement leaders say that 50% of their processes can be automated
  • 94% of procurement leaders have implemented a 3rd party marketplace
  • By 2025 70% of all savings will be driven by data analytics.  He made the very pertinent point that there is a talent shortage centred around data (maybe he read one of our Insider reports!)
  • Only 34% of digital transformation projects are judged to be a clear success with more than 50% classified as a clear failure.

  • More than half the FTSE 100 are already Amazon for Business customers

He talked about the gap that exists between procurement leaders’ plans and the businesses expectations. Amazon intends to fill that gap and who would back against them given the success of the business overall?

Following Todd on stage were a couple of notable Amazon for Business clients Dietmar Harteveld Head of SCM for EMEA at Siemens and Bouygues Construction Global CPO Eric Bouret.

Both talked impressively about their journey with Amazon for business, their savings, process improvements and positive feedback from the business.

Two areas of capability really got my attention and are worth considering for CPOs.  Firstly Amazon’s system of progressive discounts over time which don’t require bulk purchases or supplier negotiation if you are a Business Prime customer.  The second was built in Spend Analytics, something that procurement professionals need to start using more of.

Next up was David Price, MD of lead sponsor Barclaycard Commercial Payments talking about how they might work with Amazon.  Todd asked David about how Barclaycard is making a difference to supply chains in an era of Brexit uncertainty and increased regulation.

He talked about the importance of “injecting liquidity into the supply chain” in areas of vulnerability and pointed to two key elements of the Barclaycard solution that could make a real difference in future. Firstly built in analytics (data again!!) to support their customers’ payment strategies and a similar capability for suppliers which could have a multitude of benefits for companies needing to manage their cash flow more efficiently.  For example, faster payments to the supplier community has given them a significant value add in the Barclaycard service and moved the dynamics of the relationship towards the supplier community away from the previously dominant buyer.

There were some good breakout sessions for the procurement delegates to enjoy after lunch which made for a successful event overall.  We expect to see much more of Amazon in the business community now, particularly given their alliances with such high profile organisations, and given the global success of the Amazon consumer business, we think it’s reasonable to suggest that this is bad news for other marketplace businesses.

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.

Wax Digital & Edbury Daley combine to discuss recruitment best practice

Respected e-procurement platform provider Wax Digital recently interviewed Peter Brophy, Associate Director of the specialist Procurement and Spend Management recruitment company Edbury Daley for an article where they investigated “How to identify and recruit top procurement talent.

The article covers a range of relevant issues including what to look for when hiring in terms of softer skills and personality types.  Peter also gives his opinions on what makes for a good selection process and suggests some good interview questions.

You can read the full article here – https://www.waxdigital.com/blog/how-to-identify-and-recruit-top-procurement-talent/

For more really useful on this subject where Peter and his colleagues dig into some key issues around hiring into your team and developing your own career, you can access some excellent short videos here.

Movers and Shakers – What’s happening in the procurement tech market?

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

This article is an excerpt from our Procurement and Spend Management Insider Report. Coupa continued their growth by acquisition in October last year when they bought Aquiire, who are described as ‘the Leader in Real-Time Supplier Catalog Search’. This was followed up recently when they announced their intention to acquire contract lifecycle management (CLM) leader Exari in mid April.

With 14 acquisitions in total now, it will be interesting to see how Coupa integrates all this different technology into a unified platform.

The other big news from the past few months was that the proposed acquisition of Basware by Tradeshift, which first came to light in November 2018, was officially terminated at the end of February with this announcement: “Tradeshift has recently informed Basware that it will be unable to proceed given conditions in the capital markets.”

Despite the negotiation of a ‘standstill agreement’ between the two companies until November 2019, several people have speculated to us that they think this deal could still be revived. For now, both parties will press ahead with their growth plans independently.

The other notable deal in the sector, which was also announced in February, was the acquisition of Determine (formally Iasta, B-pack etc.) by procurement and financial process automation solutions provider, Corcentric.

Following some disappointing results last year, Determine was widely known to be ‘in play’ with speculation across the market focusing on who would buy the business rather than whether they would be bought. With a relatively small presence in Europe, it will be interesting to see what their plans are for growth in the region.

There are more details and analysis on all these deals from the excellent Spend Matters website.

MOVERS & SHAKERS

In terms of high profile moves, these have been relatively few and far between in the last couple of quarters. Dean Pathak, formerly of SAP Ariba, has joined fast-growing finance automation business Rimilia as Chief Revenue Officer joining CEO and former SAP Head of Cloud, Kevin Kimber.

Ragnar Lorentzen, formerly of the Procurement Leaders organisation, has joined supplier master data specialist HICX Solutions.

Lance Younger, high profile former Partner of Deloitte’s digital procurement practice left in January to join Inverto, a subsidiary of The Boston Consulting Group.

Dan Quinn, formerly leader of the Bravo Solutions Emirates business Tejari, left the company following the Jaggaer acquisition last year. He has recently joined Tradeshift to lead their business in the region.

Another former senior leader of BravoSolutions is Hannele Palge-Rossi who recently joined Risk Methods as their Nordic Region Executive. Hannele was previously leader of BravoSolutions’ Nordics operation.

Now Jaggaer of course, the business moved to strengthen their local team by appointing Hannu Tikkanen, formerly of Basware in Finland, as their Nordics Sales Director.

At the middle management and experienced SMEs level, several key players continue to be active in the hiring market, particularly SAP Ariba building on their growth with more recruitment into sales, delivery and implementation teams across EMEA.

Ivalua remain active in the UK in particular, as were Tradeshift in the latter part of 2018.

Smaller best of breed organisations are typically seeking to strengthen their sales capability but competition for proven performers with knowledge of technology value propositions for procurement is intense with several attractive roles open in the sector at the time of writing.

Headlines from SAP Ariba Live – “We are listening”

The week of the 4th-6th June saw the biggest European procurement technology event in the calendar as the SAP Ariba roadshow rolled into wonderful, sunny Barcelona. If only it could be there every year!

The event had a different theme to typical software conferences and evidence of further evolution of the business’ message to customers over the past couple of years.  Ariba Live in Prague in 2017 was the age of “making procurement awesome” as they showcased all sorts of innovations. Last year in Amsterdam the message was about “procurement with a purpose” as the business embraced the CSR agenda. That theme continued strongly this year with a lot of coverage of ethical issues in the supply chain and rightly so, although this year’s headline was #3trillionreasons, a reference to the amount transacted on the Ariba Network.

What I did note was a more humble theme than other similar events with the tone set by the President of SAP’s Cloud Business Group Jennifer Morgan at  the opening plenary session. She talked about the business adopting an outside perspective with a greater focus on customer feedback. In plain terms, I thought the underlying message was “we are listening.”

Her three key action points were:

  1. Refocus on quality and support with problem resolution at the top of the agenda.
  2. Faster implementation (as evidenced by big developments in their partner ecosystem).
  3. Continuing to strive for innovation.

Jennifer was the first of six speakers that made up the all-female line-up in that opening session, including high profile guest, the very impressive Amal Clooney.  It sent a strong message about diversity in the business which continued on the second day at the Diversity Luncheon where the keynote speaker was the excellent Michele Mees.  I’d recommend her TED talk. Anyone who was there will remember it for one of the questions that was asked as much as her outstanding content. Let’s just say Michele did a wonderful job of educating us all about what diversity really means, and how it can truly benefit organisations.

The second day saw new President of the SAP Intelligent Spend Group Mike Eberhard continue the theme of working to improve the effectiveness of the solution.   He particularly talked about bringing customers together into the breakout sessions throughout the event to share their experiences and learn from one another.

Sean Thompson (SVP, Business Network and Ecosystem) built on this theme with the emphasis on the importance of using partner organisations as he told us that over 50% of implementations are now partner-led, whilst 75% of all implementations include partners.  I believe this is quite an increase from previous numbers.

The other big theme was the promotion of the power of the unified platform offered by the Intelligent Spend Management group.  Of course, news had reached the industry press that SAP was bringing the Fieldglass and Concur solutions into the stable before the event, but we heard more about the potential for this at various stages.

It struck me that the audience and partners received this news well, as they did indeed the message around members of the leadership team acknowledging that customer feedback and experience would be a central theme of how the business moves forward. It might seem like an obvious thing but it’s not something you hear enough of at these industry events in my opinion.

There were two other highlights from the main stage that I think worth mentioning.

The announcement of the partnership with Barclaycard streamlining payments within the Ariba Network – it was noticeable that the Barclaycard stand was mobbed in the next break and was busy all day as prospects wanted to learn more so that clearly went down well.

From a personal perspective, it was great to see Graham Wright and Mayank Chandla from IBM on the main stage as well, as they shared their vision for the future of procurement, particularly the development of their people enabled by tools like Ariba and Watson.  As regular readers will know this is a course we are particularly passionate about.

There’s so much more to cover from a wealth of breakout sessions and presentations so if you want a more detailed account I suggest you look at the coverage from our friends at Spend Matters here.

Next year the event is in Berlin so unfortunately there’s no beach on my day off and no sunbathing for Mrs Daley, but it’s another great city to visit.  I’m looking forward to it already.

A memo from World Procurement Congress – act now, don’t wait

My colleague Andrew Daley and I attended the World Procurement Congress hosted by Procurement Leaders last Week.

It was an excellent event managing to mix some key themes that procurement needs to address now, such as sustainability and talent and significant long term trends including the impact of technology and how regionalism and nationalism affect the supply chain.

The message to me was ‘act now, don’t wait’, as in such uncertain and unpredictable times sitting and waiting may be the worst option and seriously risks your business getting left behind.

Robert Guest of the Economist gave a very broad ranging ‘state of the nation’ type speech on global trade and made some excellent points on the increasing regionalism of supply chain versus globalism and the impact of nationalism. He asked “what does this mean for Procurement people?” Well it risks the introduction of increasingly populist regulations or challenges on hiring, which means doing business could well become harder. So watch this space as this may be counterbalanced as digitisation and AI may make trading easier.

Sustainability is becoming a critical business driver and one that procurement has a leading role in. This point was made excellently by David Ingram, CPO of Unilever. It’s not good enough to just talk about it as sustainability is visible and measurable and must be checked and certified in the supply chain.

This was followed by an excellent discussion session with Imran Rasul, CPO at BAE Systems. Procurement people in his business have embraced the approach as they feel good about it. So no need for a mandate.

Two excellent but very distinct approaches in different markets.

Talent was another key theme from the conference. Future-proofing procurement’s capabilities featured in many of the keynotes and breakout sessions. Simon Geale of Proxima summed this up concisely as being two key issues of capability and capacity – simple if you think about it but very complex to solve?

Yes, there is a shortfall of people with specialist procurement knowledge, but more critical is finding those with good business and soft skills. Part of this discussion across the two days was also on diversity. We just had to look around the venue at the predominantly white, male audience to see this is a challenge procurement needs to address. Again real action needs to be taken now and words and presentations are not enough.

A number of discussions also touched on another key challenge for procurement, that of digitisation and the use of AI. Daniel Keyworth, CPO at Legal & General shared his vision for a 100% digital workflow by 2021 and I feel other organisations need to challenge themselves in this way too. He proposed five key pillars for procurement linked to digitisation:

  1. Enabling self service.
  2. Team organisational evolution.
  3. Better business partnering.
  4. Driving disruptive innovation.
  5. Easier to work with for our suppliers

Ultimately, the theme ‘procurement needs to be an enabler’ resonated, but with so much to do and with headcount tight it was felt organisations will need a flexible resource model with highly capable, well trained, multi skilled individuals who will adapt to the organisation’s needs.  

This was a red flag for me as whilst I agree, I did not hear how this was to be solved in terms of recruitment or development. If the bar is raised higher and the approach remains the same, we will get the identical end result: a lack of capable people internally and a lack of good people to recruit.

The end of the conference was a call to arms and Anita Sngupata, who is ex-Nasa really showed how we need to challenge our thinking through the example of how transport will change. If she is right our current supply chains will need to be completely re-modelled as there are some genuinely disruptive technologies coming – and soon.

Procurement Leaders event hosts Jet Antonio and Joe Agresta gave us three key takeaways to make happen:

  1. Build talent capability
  2. Drive innovation
  3. Sustainability

The challenge I think for procurement is to lead and educate their businesses about cost savings versus value and long term strategic goals. We see too many functions and organisations who are driven by short term cost or time-based metrics and a ‘penny pinching’ approach to any of these three could be a very short term result indeed.

But overall, do it now. Don’t wait.

Peter Brophy

Associate Director, Edbury Daley

peter@edburydaley.com

Time for action – Talent on the agenda at The World Procurement Congress

It was great to hear that Talent was as high up the agenda as ever at last week’s World Procurement Congress. We hear about supplier innovation and collaboration as the future of procurement and a potential source of competitive advantage in many industries. We ask why isn’t the profession adopting this mentality with their talent attraction?

The Procurement Leaders business always put on a great show and this year was no different with numerous high profile CPOs making presentations or joining group discussions around the central theme of “High Velocity Procurement – The Competitive Advantage”.

These presentations were typically subdivided around concepts like Procurement as an Innovator,  Procurement as a Visionary, Procurement as a Value Driver etc so there was plenty for the procurement professional on a learning expedition to consume.  

My focus is the same at almost every conference we go to, and that is to hear what is being said about people, specifically on the subjects of recruitment, development and retention. I wasn’t disappointed as we heard a lot from industry leaders about the importance of their talent.

In between sessions I took part in some great discussions with other attendees and some of the sponsors where there was a clear theme, and that was the leaders of the profession talk about their great programs offering examples of good hiring practices, career development plans and training to support them. However when you dig a bit deeper into what’s going on outside the big names, the picture is somewhat different.

So best practice in hiring and training remains rare. Many mean well and make the best of the situation but others lack resources (time and financial) whilst others don’t do themselves any favours with their approach to hiring and retention. This is something we see in our day to day work and was backed up by a very interesting panel discussion I attended on day one of the conference.

In this session, Simon Geale of Proxima talked about a severe talent shortage mentioning that many procurement departments are “light on capacity by 10-30%”.  He also commented that “there is not enough talent coming through the system” and talked about the need to equip the next generation with better skills around areas like collaboration and data.  

In response Johanes Giloth (CPO of Nokia) talked about his vision for the future of procurement and working more closely with the business to understand their goals, drivers and challenges which will then enable procurement to better understand its role in future. He actively encourages his best people to move into other departments to develop themselves and their understanding of the business, whilst continuing to hire and develop the best graduate talent he can so they can move up the organisation.

We also heard from Ruth Bromley (VP Operations & Procurement at Heineken) about their development programme for top talent which they call “Procurement Pioneers”. At the heart of their department is the need to understand and talk the language of their stakeholders, so they can ultimately sell their proposition to take responsibility for projects and develop the varied skill sets required to achieve deliver on them.

It was all very encouraging to hear what these two organisations are doing but I found myself nodding my head every time Simon Geale spoke about what he sees in the wider market and the reality is that the likes of Nokia and Heineken lead the way when it comes to developing their people. Unfortunately they are in the minority.

Another organisation that offered some real hope in this area was IBM. I’ve written about their journey to the next generation of procurement in the past and heard more evidence of it on day two when Graham Wright (Vice President – Global Procurement) and Marco Romano (Procurement Data & Analytics Officer) talked about how they are using the Watson tool to help elevate their skills and contribution to the business. The headlines were:

  • AI is enabling new skills not replacing jobs through Watson
  • It’s a valuable tool, not a threat (a common concern about AI)
  • It can help the journey from enabler to consultant for procurement professionals and elevate their skills in the process
  • It is driving a culture change in their organisation
  • At the heart of its success is education and training

IBM was amongst the very first organisations to appoint Marco at what is effectively a Chief Data Officer in procurement, and he provides the bridge between procurement and the data scientists with a key aim being to drive adoption.

Interestingly this concept of a centre of expertise in data analytics able to support procurement was raised in the session I referred to earlier, and it’s a model we expect to see replicated as more organisations finally get around to embracing the opportunities presented by the data.

Some interesting questions were asked by the audience about how it is being used. Graham talked about the importance of speed to value and using the tool when it was going to make a real difference, rather than just for the sake of it.

When asked where to start, both Graham and Marco were on the same page with the suggestion that you should “find something you can execute on and just do it, start small…. don’t go too big or address the most difficult area to begin with… just get started and don’t use lack of data as an excuse not to move forward”.

So having seen evidence from innovators like IBM we know they are using technology as a catalyst to develop their people but to reiterate the point made earlier, they are still in the minority and this practice needs to become mainstream as soon as possible. As my colleague Peter Brophy outlines in his piece on the event, the Procurement Leaders CEO Nandini Basuthakur urged attendees to take action to change and make improvements “NOW” in her closing address and included both technology and talent amongst the key development areas. I couldn’t agree more!

One point I’d like to make as a specialist recruiter in this market is this: we hear about supplier innovation and collaboration as the future of procurement and a potential source of competitive advantage in many industries. So why aren’t procurement leaders adopting this mentality with their talent attraction? In a competitive market for skills with the shortages mentioned by Simon Geale, maybe it’s time to move away from the tactical relationships that dominate the recruitment sector and start thinking a bit differently?

It’s time to back up the big words with some action!

For the record, the awards dinner on the Thursday night was very enjoyable with lots of friendly faces around. The Talent and Development award went to Turkcell, the leading mobile phone operator of Turkey. The judges praised them for their Young Talent Programme aimed at graduates which “provides end to end training programmes that harness technology to deliver the skills that the functions newest entrants require”.  

Congratulations to them. Having recruited in the local market we have seen that procurement talent is in short supply so it’s great to hear how they are developing graduate talent. It is undoubtedly the best long term strategy to address such skills shortages and something that we have been preaching to our clients, particularly in procurement technology and consulting sectors for a while in the UK.

So overall the Word Procurement Congress was a very enjoyable event. It was an intense couple of days of learning and networking where it was great to see a lot of friendly faces and meet some people in our network face to face for the first time.

One other note of interest to me was that it was noticeable that the sponsors that dominated were largely solution providers and partners. Unlike events such as SAP Ariba Live (my next conference in early June) and similar events from their competition, the really big consultancies were not exhibiting although we did see niche players like Proxima alongside the tech firms and payments providers.

I’ll be reporting back from SAP Ariba Live in early June. If you fancy joining me in Barcelona, I can highly recommend the event and the city. More details here: https://events.sap.com/aribalive-2019-barcelona/en/home

Andrew Daley

Director, Procurement Technology at Edbury Daley

andrew@edburydaley.com

What’s happening in the Interim market for procurement technology specialists?

As procurement departments increasingly turn to the latest generation of spend management solutions to drive improvements in efficiency and process, where are they getting the specialist expertise from to drive successful transformation programs?

CPO’s & CFO’s have various options open to them including consultancies and the solution providers themselves, but it seems they are starting to consider alternatives like specialist interim managers.

Andrew Daley of procurement technology recruitment specialists Edbury Daley (LINK) recently posted a two-part series on this very subject.  In it, he addressed how the digital procurement revolution is impacting the interim labour market, the supply/demand equation and what that means for employers.

You can read more here in the first article.

The second of his articles reveals what Edbury Daley are advising their clients to do in order to adapt to the challenging market conditions in order to be successful when hiring for specialist skills in solutions like SAP Ariba, Coupa, Ivalua and Jaggaer.

You can read that article here.