It’s not many conference organisers who are praying for no-shows the night before the event. But when I saw the Ivalua team at the opening reception last night, before the start of today’s Ivalua Now conference, they were hoping for a decent number of people not turning up! Registrations were closed last week, but not before the take-up had been way ahead of expectations and last year’s event. That may be the attraction of the venue, or a reflection of a strongly upward business curve for Ivalua – or maybe a bit of both.
“The Art of Procurement” is being held at the Halles de Carrousel du Louvre, which is not a giant merry-go-round overlooking the Mona Lisa, but a very impressive conference centre right next to perhaps the world’s most famous art gallery and a very swanky shopping centre (plus McDonalds). Delegates are getting a private tour tonight – of the Louvre, not McDonalds – and we’re all looking forward to seeing the Mona Lisa and other great works. So, if you read about a daring theft in your newspapers tomorrow, and I disappear on a very large yacht … you will know what has happened!
Anyway, back to reality. The venue was packed, but it stayed just about manageable in terms of numbers with some 500 people in attendance, from more than 20 different countries. Alex Saric, the Ivalua CMO, introduced the day and touched on how Procurement needs to drive organisational competitive advantage. We have to move beyond cost and look at real value through goals such as improved time to market or growing revenues. As you advance on the Procurement digital transformation journey, it becomes an “Art” rather than purely a “Science” (hence the title of the whole event).
The opening keynote came from one of the original founders of Ivalua, David Khuat-Duy. The firm must be pretty unique in our industry in terms of having a senior team in place most of whom were there from the beginning, almost 20 years ago. But growth has accelerated in the last 3 years to around 50% annually, and there has been considerable investment into and focus on product improvement and development – R&D spend was up 100% last year, he said. (There’s been more marketing investment too. In some countries, including the UK, Ivalua has been a bit of a best-kept secret in my view, but that is definitely changing).
He also talked about the recent release and the new features there, such as a new user interface across the platform, a new category management module (which I want to investigate more) and an integrated “digital assistant” at platform level. He also outlined the road map for the next two years, and it’s clear Ivalua is seeking to be right up there at the leading edge of capability across the whole platform, from risk management to advanced sourcing options.
“The Future of Procurement” is not a wholly original title, but the next session from Natacha Tréhan was excellent. She is the Professor in Purchasing Management at the University of Grenoble Alpes, and has run their master’s level course in Purchasing (Procurement) for the last 10 years. I’ve heard many such presentations and tend to judge them on the basis of whether they give me anything new and different to think about. Tréhan succeeded, and she even gave me a new word! We are entering the “noetic age” she said, where knowledge and information is key, not products and “things”.
But it was her comments around “symbiosis” that were most thought-provoking. She talked about how Procurement contributes through competitive advantage in areas such as CSR. But symbiosis goes beyond that and means (for instance) networks where the waste or residue from one firm might be the raw material for another. It also covers “coopetition”, a term I have heard before, but she framed it as a real challenge and opportunity for Procurement – how to handle those firms that might be suppliers, partners and competitors, all at the same time. She also stressed that “supplier management is becoming supplier motivation”, as we see the best suppliers choosing their customers, not vice versa.
The first client and practitioner session came from Anne Lanusse and Eric Bozec of Total, the oil company. “Delivering Procurement Efficiency Through a Successful Business and IT Partnership” was their theme and they told us how the Ivalua platform was supporting their efforts in their huge business (which has 100,000 suppliers). Their goals include managing supplier data better, including having that essential “single view of the truth”, sharing information more effectively, and delivering a more consistent source to pay process around the organisation. And it appears to be working …
Then we were back to the theme around what the future holds for Procurement, with Emmanuel Erba of Capgemini. “Proc 4.0, What is the procurement journey and where does it lead?” By this time, a few of us were thinking that the answer to “where does it lead” might possibly be “a nice lunch”, but Erba actually threw so many ideas at us, I felt we probably needed longer to get into some of his ideas. How about this – “position your role as an aggregator of services, either internal or external, and map them to the business outcomes of the company”. Genuinely thought-provoking stuff!
Then, a final quick pre-lunch session from Bertrand Maltaverne, who is an essential presence on the Procurement social media scene, and has written some really good reports, articles and other content over the years. He spoke here about two areas of innovation in the Ivalua product related to collaboration. Firstly, the Bill of Material (BOM) capability enables the user to look at different options, to drill down, and easily create new sourcing events or invite offers from suppliers, then integrate that back into the BOM. And secondly, purchase order collaboration means for instance that a supplier can ask for change to a PO within the platform, the buyer can accept or not, and that is all automatically amended where appropriate.
It’s all very neat, and good examples of both platform usability and focus on speed of action, two of the common threads from the morning’s discussions. But I confess it is still the ideas around “symbiosis” that are rolling around my head!
Author: Peter Smith, Managing Director at Procurement Excellence Ltd. Until recently also Managing Editor, Spend Matters UK/Europe.