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SIG Recap: 2021 Technology Procurement Summit


Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) recently wrapped up its 2021 Technology Procurement Summit, a digital event that took place May 4-6th. “Thousands of procurement executives, experts, and thought leaders from across the world (61 countries, in fact) came together to discuss “industry trends, innovations, and solutions that are shaping high-performance teams and best-in-class procurement organizations.”

Some exciting discussions took place during featured keynotes, breakout sessions, demos, and networking events. Utmost was excited to sponsor the event and partner on a joint session with our client, Sage Therapeutics, on “Why a Traditional VMS Just Wasn’t Enough.” 

As with any conference or industry event, we noticed some key trends throughout the event that we wanted to share with you. Before we get into it, there was a quote from Dr. Bernard Banks, Associate Dean for Leadership Development and Inclusion at Northwestern University, who gave a keynote titled “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace,” that seemed fitting to the overall theme of this conference. “The time to amplify what a company does is getting shorter. What are you committed to developing for the future that will still have relevance? If you’re not thinking about version 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, you’re missing the mark.”

Talent is front and center

It was exciting to see many of the discussions centered around talent and how organizations can engage, source, attract, and offer a better working experience. 

Catherine Candland, Chief Executive Officer of nextSource and others provided some key metrics related to how the workforce is changing in terms of the extended workforce (i.e., gig workers, freelancers, ICs, 1099, project-based workers, and contractors) and how companies can prepare for the future of work. 

    • Workers, regardless of how they are engaged with an organization, are demanding positive candidate experience. Creating an engaging, relevant experience is critical in attracting future talent and retaining the talent you have. 
    • According to Dr. Banks, talent makes all other things happen. The best companies have access to the most diverse talent and harness it in a scalable way. 
    • Once you have access, how can you measure diversity in a clear, consistent way? What are your KPIs that you can track and report on? Does it provide you a window into where expectations are being met?
    • The extended workforce must be front and center to any discussion on talent: 60% of companies hiring gig workers today; 64.6 million freelancers in the US economy; 40% of the US workforce will be contingent in the next two years; Many companies are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers for flexibility, agility, and access to emerging skill sets. (via nextSource)
    • Two-thirds of talent acquisition executives are worried about getting the right talent due to a skills shortage. (via nextSource)
    • Jessica Wall, Associate Director, Talent Acquisition at Sage Therapeutics, highlighted the need for all human capital to be considered to revolutionize how companies view their workforce and take advantage of the increase in new, flexible talent.
  • New sourcing channels are developing, with 30% to 49% of companies stating they will implement direct sourcing within two years. Investing upfront in cultural changes and making an investment in finding, curating, and integrating into their overall talent strategy is top of mind. (via nextSource)

How we work is changing

Several sessions touched on the hybrid workforce and how organizations can support both the worker and the enterprise in a flexible way. Chris Murawski, CPO at ABM summed up why a flexible workforce is here to stay: “We’ve shown we can be effective remotely.”

  • Engagement and collaboration will be key. 
  • There must be more focus on digitization around the user experience, training, onboarding, and education. Systems need to be intuitive and make worker’s lives better. 
  • Michele Wesseling from TD Securities cited the need for more collaboration tools to achieve this. Specifically, supplier management collaboration tools and spend analytics turned into a collaboration tool so teams can actively collaborate on things like cost savings and other metrics. 
  • This new workforce creates exciting new opportunities to find and source talent globally, unlocking different ideas, skill sets, and perspectives. 
  • If you’re fully remote, aligning to company culture can be challenging. Structured onboarding processes that educate on how an organization operates are critical. 
  • Remote work allows for a more equitable playing field and the opportunity for those underserved to have a seat at the table.
  • Leadership must demonstrate empathy and trust their teams to develop innovative solutions for how to work in a remote world. 

Automation and digitization remain a top priority

There was good discussion around using new purpose-built technology to solve recurring business challenges and to automate tactical processes throughout the supply chain. Pamela Beard, Senior VP Technology and Project Management at Guidant Global, and Sean Chou, Co-Founder and CEO, of Catalytic, specifically talked about tools delivering innovation and transformation in procurement and beyond. 

  • Speed to hire is becoming increasingly important for all workers (especially in IT) as a result of emerging technologies and digital transformations. 
  • How can tech make it easier for all parties to work together more efficiently?
  • Companies are looking to automate simple, manual tasks (email or invoice aging, for example) and then grow from there. 
  • Organizations can shortlist incoming talent in an expedited time frame using vetting and skills-scoring tools to refine the hiring process. 
  • Nila LaVanaway Charles, Chief Executive Officer at Pierpont Holdings, talked about how the past year shifted focus from hard savings to soft value drivers in awarding sourcing events. There were bottlenecks in the supply chain, transportation, and disruption and capacity constraints that dominated the year, highlighting risk areas and shifting priorities.
  • The rise of the “citizen developer” or non-professional developer. People who are technical or are working on complex spreadsheets can develop alongside professional developers to build out solutions for the business.
  • Efficient, agile, innovative solutions that are fit for purpose.
  • Remove barriers and offer transparency. Give people the information and access they need to be successful. 
  • Lindsey Kirchberg, Director, Global Procurement Operations at Workday, talked about innovating processes started with their policies, which were aligned with future goals. Processes enable policies (i.e., streamlining intake process or funneling purchase requests), which have been automated to achieve. 

As companies prepare for a post-pandemic workforce, it’s become clear they must have systems and people in place to sift through emerging talent strategies that will enable them to better prepare for their future. Add to that the advances in automation, the need to upskill and reskill millions of workers, and the globalization of the market, procurement leaders are an integral part of these conversations.

If you’d like to learn how Utmost is doing this on behalf of our clients, please join us for our next monthly demo.

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