Don’t Waste A Crisis: Insights From The 8th Annual PASA Premier Confex

On Wednesday 28th October, procurement professionals from all over Australia and New Zealand gathered together virtually for The 8th Annual PASA Premier Confex. Delegates enjoyed an action-packed program, networking opportunities, and the opportunity to connect and learn from several of the top suppliers servicing the Australasian procurement profession.

What does a virtual conference look like? This year, we hosted #PASApremier on Remo, and we have to say it was a huge success. By simply clicking on a link, delegates found themselves transported into what looks like a virtual lounge, complete with conference tables, a stage, and supplier booths:

Joining someone else at a table activates a video chat feature, which was fantastic for our first session of the day: “Birds of a Feather”. Delegates gathered are topic tables to discuss the following big issues:

  • Sourcing from overseas
  • eProcurement
  • Modern Slavery
  • Information over data
  • SRM
  • Supply chain mapping.

Modern slavery, sourcing from overseas, and eProcurement turned out to be the most popular table topics of the day. 

Seven Key Challenges facing Procurement

 After the networking session, Jonathon Dutton took to the main “stage” for the first keynote with his presentation on the seven key challenges facing procurement as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.

JD explained that the current crisis presents procurement not only with difficulties, but with an opportunity to become highly relevant and deliver outstanding value. It also offers an opportunity to show how responsive and in-touch with business needs we can be as we seek a greater resilience for the future. JD’s seven challenges are:

  1. Refocusing on securing supply lines and balancing risk.
  2. Improving procurement responsiveness and agility.
  3. Managing demand & reducing non-essential spend.
  4. Turning fixed cost into variable cost streams.
  5. Increasing spend visibility through eProcurement.
  6. Re-segmenting the supplier base and harnessing SRM.
  7. Negotiating stronger legal protections and remedies.

The full report is available to download here: 

Procurement in the Next Normal

The key theme to emerge from the next session, hosted by Accenture’s Billie Gorman, was that the COVID-19 crisis hasn’t been all bad news for procurement teams. While negative impacts have included reduced team size and struggling suppliers, three CPOs across the public sector, university sector, and banking sector shared the following positive impacts:

  • A higher profile for procurement in organisations.
  • The acceleration of digitisation and a focus on simplification.
  • Navigating the unknown by building stronger networks.
  • Procurement more empowered to challenge spend.
  • Newfound agility and resilience across the supply chain. 

Leaders have seen what procurement can do in a crisis, which means they’ll expect more from the team in future. How can procurement leverage this opportunity to become trusted advisors to the business?

Accelerated Procurement

Peter Melville, GM Procurement Transformation at Pareto Toolbox, joined the Confex from NZ to discuss the concept of Agile in procurement. Does “Agile” just mean “getting faster”, or does it involve an entirely new approach?

Peter explained that most teams don’t have the tools, capacity, or capability to work in an accelerated manner, and suggested the following approaches:

1. Up-skill your teams to help them deliver faster.
2. Access and leverage your data to build a suite of customised dashboards and applications.
3. Build a supplier data and contract repository.
4. Implement an Agile (accelerated) procurement workflow. 

Battle of the CPOs

For many delegates, the highlight of the day was the “Battle of the CPOs”, where Coretta Bessi (CPO, Westpac Group) and Michael van Keulen (CPO, Coupa) went head-to-head in a debate hosted by Coupa’s Milos Lekovic (dressed like a boxing-match referee).

With the audience voting on each response, Coretta ended up winning the match by a whisker. Some of the top insights include:

  • Career advice: Don’t chase the money, chase the career experience.
  • Process adoption: Help people understand why the change is necessary.
  • Digital transformation: Procurement, not the IT team, needs to take the reins of digital transformation.-
  • Alignment: Align your procurement strategies to business goals, future tech architecture, and your organisation’s people strategy.

Building resilience

After a (virtual) lunch break and another opportunity to network with colleagues, sponsors and exhibitors, delegates were treated to two sessions:

  1. How to build greater resilience: A panel explored what the term “resilience” actually means in the context of an organisation’s supply chain.
  2. International sourcing post COVID-19: Kobus van der Wath, Founder and CEO of Axis Group International, drew upon his impressive knowledge of international trade to talk about de-risking sourcing from China, and the rise of alternative sourcing destinations such as Vietnam, South Korea, India, and Eastern Europe.

Procurement technology stacks and SRM at speed

In the final sessions of the day, delegates had a choice between a discussion from VendorPanel’s Matt Clyne about building a procurement technology stack (or “ecosystem” of best-in-breed integrated tech solutions), and a session on leveraging SRM to obtain fast benefits from suppliers during a crisis, hosted by State of Flux’s Kate Nicholl Skattäng.

The following day, PASA hosted an online workshop using Agile methodologies to explore the key roadblocks facing procurement and brainstorm ways to overcome them. A report on the day is available here: 

The PASA team sends a heartfelt thanks to our attendees, speakers, sponsors, and everyone else who helped make the virtual PASA Premier Confex a big success in 2020.

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