Tuesday, 4 March 2014

@eWorldForum Purchasing & Supply March 2014

Today I attended the latest eWorld Purchasing & Supply conference. With practitioners facing difficulties gaining approval to attend any training, eWorld is particularly good value as there are no delegate fees with the costs are covered by event (and delegate) sponsors. There is of course variable quality in the content, some chaotic catering arrangements and the usual logistical nightmare of racing up and down lifts in the QE11, but in general, you can expect a well organised, useful and informative event.

I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of the day, but merely hope to share some nuggets which I found of particular interest.

The Opening Keynote was by Andrew Bartolini, Chief Research Officer at Ardent. Now I am generally very sceptical of research which draws on CPOs giving their view of the procurement world (if you want a copy of my 2009 paper in International Journal of Public Sector Management explaining why, let me know) but setting that aside Andrew shared some useful insights which I think will be of interest to many:

  1. The number one challenge facing CPOs is accessing staff/talent (57% of respondents);
  2. There is an emerging definition for 'spend under management' as '% total spend under influence' - I'm not comfortable with that as it leaves me asking "then what's the definition of 'influence'?"
  3. Best in class CPOs achieve >85% spend under management, while the average CPO only achieves 63.6%;
  4. Contract compliant spend, averages at 60.7%;
  5. Best in class have 2014 savings targets of 7.8% while the average have a negligibly lower target  of 7.7%.
In a separate keynote, Dr Jonathan Betts (Director, Science Warehouse) shared some of his research which appeared to generally validate Bartolini's claimed that:
  1. Common themes remain issues of training/skills and moving from tactical to strategic;
  2. Only 28% systematically manage suppliers as a source of value to the business;
  3. 32% have strategically aligned procurement strategies. 
I don't know about you but this strikes me as quite disappointing. The discussion on procurement making a strategic contribution has been on the agenda since the mid-90s. Perhaps it is validation of the number one challenge being the skills deficit.

It's funny, but towards the end of the day I met with a friend, as one does at these sorts of events, and he said some of the content of the day was being discussed 20 years ago - I agree with him. But I wonder how CPOs think that they will be recognised, by those who count, as strategic, while some of the basic foundation still aren't in place.

There's always something to learn at eWorld. For me, I hadn't previously been aware of 'Relative Value for Money (RVFM)' a basis for reaching agreement on how much extra would the organisation be prepared to pay for a really good bid. I'm still struggling to get my head round this but at least I was able to pick up QintetiQ's white paper  on 'Measuring Value for Money in a tender evaluation' which I'm led to believe will enlighten me.

Another particularly good session was Sam de Silva on outsourcing.  Perhaps too much, too rushed, but nevertheless, he clearly knows his stuff. 

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