On Tuesday 5th May, the Ivalua NOW virtual conference was held, replacing the firm’s planned US customer event. It was my first experience of a full-scale online conference, and the platform used (6Connex) was impressive.
You entered into a mock-up of a venue “lobby”, with links to keynotes, breakouts, the “exhibitor hall”, resource centre and so on. In the exhibitor hall you could visit the dozen or so partners, and ask to speak to a real live person, or watch videos, download information and so on. Everything worked very smoothly.
As the keynote started, there were exactly 500 people attending, according to the site – not bad at all. Over the course of the day, attendance peaked at one point to over 800. Given that others among the nearly 1500 registrants are sure to watch the recorded sessions later, the event has an impressive reach.
As the clock ticked around, there wasn’t quite the expectation you get at a live event. On the other hand, I could sit in a comfy chair, with a nice cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit of my choice, with plenty of space to take notes… all factors which don’t always apply in the live experience!
Alex Saric, Ivalua’s CMO, introduced the event, talking about the challenges around the virus, but also the opportunities, such as the chance to innovate, as in the case of the event. And procurement and supply chain is suddenly the top priority for organisations – “I’ve never seen a better opportunity in my life to elevate the stature of procurement”, he said.
The opening keynote came from David Khuat-Duy, founder and CEO. As Ivalua celebrates its 20th birthday this year, he spoke about the goals for procurement which should be supported by technology – reducing costs, delighting our employees (people expect enjoyable, easy to use tools), sustainability, driving innovation, managing risk, and providing data for better decision making. It’s quite a list.
David pointed out that succeeding in many of these objectives helps transform not just the business, but the world and that procurement leaders need to work towards the ultimate goal of turning their spend and supplier relationships into a competitive advantage.
This was backed up later by several of the customer presentations, showing how companies like Baylor Scott & White Health, Cagemini and JLL are doing just that with the help of Ivalua’s platform. David also highlighted customers who are playing key roles in the fight against COVID – including Honeywell, L’Oreal, IKEA, LVMH, and Cleveland Clinic.
Ivalua’s mission is “all spend, all suppliers, no compromises”. This is achieved via the fully unified suite, which gives flexibility to grow but is also easy and fast to implement and use. (The >98% customer retention number seems to back that up, along with the 50+ new customers last year).
Increasingly, the firm is tailoring offerings to particular industries, incorporating specific best practices and solutions. Manufacturing and public sector options are available now; financial services, healthcare and construction/engineering are coming this quarter.
We then had Pascal Benoussan, Chief Product Officer, talking about the Ivalua Platform vision and 20/21 strategic priorities. This sort of presentation is by definition always a bit technical and probably most interesting for current clients, but there is no doubt Ivalua continues to innovate strongly.
The first of the two biggest investment areas is supporting customers in managing direct spend. There is “a lot of cool stuff”, such as supporting subcontractor management, more help on cost drivers, cognitive/guided sourcing and also a new sourcing optimization module – the “sourcing decision centre”. And the second big theme is beefing up the contract lifecycle management solution with more AI, including capability on contract capture, authoring, change tracking, integration with Adobe sign and more. A third theme is ensuring a quick and easy buying experience, with improved search, a UX revamp and other enhancements.
The two customer keynotes were both powerful, and we’ll cover them in part 2. But in a different vein, Dawn Tiura, founder of SIG (Sourcing Industry Group) spoke about leadership challenges in these “difficult times”, as we all say. She doesn’t like the phrase “the new normal”- because it isn’t going to be normal, and there is so much we don’t know about the shape of the business world post-COVID. However, procurement and supply chain are higher profile than ever, and we have to take the opportunity to navigate this.
She talked about leadership style and the need for leaders to be empathetic at the moment, even more so than usual. We do know that many people are afraid. They want to (literally) “stay where they are”. So, it could take up to three years to overcome this, and as in the case of any change, be prepared for opposition – “you will charge up the hill as a leader, then people will throw rocks at you!”
It’s the same when you introduce new procurement technology. That is a different test of leadership, but you have to show the same consistency of purpose. Change will fail if the leader starts moaning about new processes, or allows non-compliance the first time a stakeholder challenges.
And let’s finish part 1 with a final message from Dawn, appropriate for these times. “Be honest, be optimistic, and act with confidence”.
If you missed the Ivalua NOW Virtual Conference, many of the presentations are available online.
Please register here – www.ivalua.com/now