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The future of modern procurement is now... And technology is the key

| Jun 21, 2017

Procurement in United States is in the midst of an extraordinary transition. Like many other industries and professions, technological enhancements are seeking to take over human activity. The ISM2017 conference last month was the perfect place to see this transition in real time.

My three days at the conference were fascinating. First, kudos to Tom Derry and his team at ISM for presenting prestigious headline speakers Colin Powell and David Cameron. Second, the conference was buzzing with knowledgeable speakers and interesting sponsors. The sheer range and type of these speakers and sponsors was staggering.

Many speakers were covering subjects such as 'transforming source to pay' or 'leading to drive results in midst of change.' These common topics have supplemented many procurement conferences over the last 10 years and remain relevant for today’s CPOs.

What was interesting was to then hear discussions about 'the magic of branding' of procurement, where Richard Wertsching from Disney and Maria Centeno from Salesforce did a great job conveying the importance of the story, and cognitive computing's impact on procurement. These topics are likely to be the focus of procurement conferences over the next 10 years.

How do these advances in areas like robotics and AI affect procurement? And how will procurement adopt these innovations and disruptors? Will it lead to improved relationships with suppliers and more value creation? Who will lead and who will follow?

Technology providers dominated the exhibit hall at ISM. While AI did not fully make its presence felt with most vendors, tools focusing on vendor management (note of disclosure that Proxima was one of these) and easy-to-use interfaces for S2P users were common themes as companies continue to seek out ways to meaningfully measure performance. However, intensified discussion about cognitive IT-led procurement is clearly coming, and the US appetite to adopt new technologies is undimmed. Interest swarmed around cognitive procurement, engaging a great majority of attendees.

Technology has been critically important to procurement for over two decades, but its importance continues to grow at an increasing rate. Modern technology can drive efficiencies, streamline processes, and enable visibility.

I wonder whether the impact of new technologies will mean early adopters will enjoy a period when their performance relative to later adopters will be dramatically different than it is today. Procurement teams must continue to expand and enhance their capabilities to enable modern procurement. I think tech is going to separate the leaders from the laggards even more clearly in the future. And that future is now.

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