I attended 3 Procurement Conferences. Here is what I learned.

Amanda Prochaska is the Chief Wonder Officer at Wonder Services. In order to give back to the Procurement community, she actively publishes articles and blogs within publications like Procurious, Supply Management, ProcuRising. She has also served as the ISM Thought Leadership Council’s Founding Chairman. Finally, you can Amanda speaking at events like Procurious Big Ideas, ISM, Hackett Best Practices, Source Industry Group, and others.

This spring, I had the unique opportunity to attend three procurement conferences: WBENC, Coupa Inspire, and Procurecon. Each unique event gave me the opportunity to connect with other procurement professionals and leaders. I was excited to witness the progress occurring in our industry and community. 

I left these conferences with many insights and takeaways regarding the industry, tech advancements, and upcoming changes. I am excited to share a few of my discoveries and observations with you. 

Less Talking, More Doing

A massive part of procurement is implementing change successfully. However, change is a challenge for everyone, inside and outside business. 

Change has a hard time creating and maintaining any positive effect when people are only great at talking rather than doing. There can be all kinds of hype around what you’re doing in this procurement space. However, until people see action, change will not occur in our companies or processes. 

Teams need to adopt the visions of their leaders and understand strategies in order to be truly successful. This can only happen when leaders act more than they simply speak. Fortunately, I was able to witness more action taking place at these three conferences than ever before. 

For example, during conventions in years previous, many speakers have emphasized the importance of needing access to capital in order to win sizable contracts without being impacted by negative cash flow. I always left these presentations thinking “duh” and wishing presenters would point to some actionable steps business owners could take to find funding.  

This year, for the first time, I saw actual booths set up by companies that were ready to start lending capital to business owners. This change is a significant step in breaking a major barrier that prevents many companies from being successful. This also helps remove the significant barrier I have seen women encounter as they are often less likely to access funding in comparison to male business owners. 

My hope is that the shift towards more action at this conference will translate into the procurement industry as a whole. Specifically, more action related to implementations and software adoptions could make all the difference for companies leading significant changes. 

End-to-End vs. Best-in-Breed 

There were two distinct groups in the procurement industry; those who favor end-to-end implementations and those who are gaining ROI through best-in-breed. 

At the conferences, I learned that end-to-end typically takes longer to implement. Although there is a higher upfront cost, this method results in a more stable and user-friendly environment. Best-in-breed is quick to implement and often less costly, but it does require increased strategies on user experience and more integrations to maintain long-term. 

Although I did not leave the conference sold on either strategy, I did gather some insights regarding the pros and cons of both. I am intrigued to see the results of each. 

Simplicity and Creativity

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence solutions are moving quickly ahead. At one conference, I witnessed an AI product that can build a statement of work (SOW) from a few prompts. This advancement cuts out 60-70% of the work required to build SOWs. 

However, while tech was a huge focus, I was even more excited to see many people taking a step back. There were many discussions regarding simple process changes to solve complex problems. For instance, one company has decided to assign someone to review requisitions and direct them to the appropriate buying channel rather than training infrequent users to memorize the channels or install new technology.

The creativity of our profession is also astonishing. People are thinking creatively in order to solve tricky supply chain problems. The hallways were buzzing with people discussing their ideas. 

Attending these conferences was an enlightening experience that provided valuable insights into the world of procurement. The emphasis on action and implementation, the debate between end-to-end and best-in-breed strategies, and the combination of advanced technology with simplicity and creativity were all key takeaways from these events. As I reflect on the knowledge gained, it’s crucial for us as procurement professionals to apply these insights and drive change within our own organizations. Let’s embrace the power of action, explore different implementation strategies, leverage innovative technologies, and tap into our creative problem-solving abilities. Together, we can shape the future of procurement. 

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For the Love of Procurement: Industry Insights & Ideas to Ponder