It’s always a good experience at Procurecon. There is a city to explore, food to try, people to meet and ideas to be shared. Procurement folk don’t get to stand back and reflect very often and these events are a great way of doing just that. There’s an undercurrent of digital at the moment and seeing a profession grapple with a concept is always fascinating.
There’s a mix of perspectives on what digital might mean
The big data thread has a steady fascination: AI seems to have more potential than ever to provide insight into our disparate and broken data sets, from which we hope to glean new insights. The promise of many years of effort with Oracle and SAP, brought to fruition. The challenge of Amazon sits on our shoulders, asking why buying in business can’t be as simple as buying at home. Fast moving marketplaces can be tracked real-time, using critical analysis to show the impacts of movements and supply demand changes. Game theory is starting to help us understand alternative positions, different strategies, at both macro and local levels. Team based communication is helping us break down barriers and work on influencing and decision making in a more collaborative way.
We are lucky to have leaders who are prepared to invest and explore in all these areas and to test how the approaches available to us are able to add speed and depth to our work lives. Even more, we seem able to share and learn across our broad community, because, I think, we are proud of what we can achieve as a profession.
Still, we also know that we can struggle with the fundamentals. Even the best data analysis struggles with poor participation from the users of the systems. Marketplaces aren’t the rational places with rational actors we hope for. Communications can be tough: just getting agreement on the systems we want to use can be tough in a multi cultural, multi location organisation.
Right at the fundamentals, we meet people who have to fight for the time to deliver a meaningful category strategy, at a level of quality which drives value into the business, and which can be implemented. People whose fundamental value is measured by the euros and dollars they deliver into the business at a EBITDA level. Where the opportunity for reflection is challenged by the reality of the next saving.
And here is the interest in our profession: it’s the range of challenges and views, of stakeholder beliefs, of demands and challenge from the macro economic environment. We’re having to deal both with the march of technology as well as the political environments thrusting us into uncertainty as tariffs and Brexit and climate change all shuffle the pack for us.
I say this to procurement teams around the world, as I have for a number of years. It’s a really exciting time to be in Procurement, and we’re right in the heart of our businesses, driving in new approaches and value, even when the business doesn’t want to hear it. We’ve got great opportunities, great people and a fantastic future. Let’s get back into it, grab hold of the future and drive it all forwards as hard as we can!