There are two conference seasons in enterprise software, Spring and Fall, and enterprise sourcing and procurement falls into this squarely.
Every year, it seems to get crazier and crazier, but what have we learned?
The Bigger You Want to Appear, the Bigger Your Conference Needs to Be
Back in the day, if you were big, you satisfied yourself with a low-key user workshop … so low-key that it might not have even made your website. These days, you do big 3-day affairs, splashed across the relevant parts of the web, and keynote it with the biggest names you can get, whether or not they have anything to do with Sourcing.
The Bigger You Want to Appear, the More Events You Appear At
It used to be that you went to an event or two and splashed your banner, but now you go to every major event — ISM, Procurement Leaders, ProcureCon, SIG, etc — and all their instantiations. You’re on a constant roadshow, because the gospel needs to be spread far and wide.
The More Attention You Want, The More You Focus on Indefinites
Instead of focussing on functions, or process improvements, or knowledge, there is a big focus on value, customer success, or organizational recognition.
In other words, many of the big vendors, who have been pumped up by big PE coffers or IPOs, have apparently used their reserves to lure away the big enterprise CMOs under the assumption that the broader enterprise success strategies will work in Sourcing and Procurement. Their tactics are certainly getting them noticed, but these people are used to selling to IT, Operations, Marketing, Accounting, etc. — everyone but Procurement.
They haven’t yet figured out that Procurement is different.
First of all, Procurement are tough negotiators — they’re not going to pay a penny more than they think the software, and the services (be it implementation, process improvement, or other best practice education) that comes is worth. So unnecessarily boosting overhead by spending money on trade shows that don’t deliver value (because they don’t enable any learning opportunity) or on keynotes that don’t advance the knowledge of the attendees (because they don’t know anything about Procurement) or on drastically overpriced venues doesn’t help their case.
Secondly, Procurement want more than one-way conversations. They want interactions. They want input into the next release and the overall roadmap. And they want to learn as they do it. But these days, many user conferences have done away with the user feedback sessions, even though it’s the perfect place to do it.
It wasn’t long ago the marketers in this space got that. Let’s hope they reclaim their top spots after the new mega cos realize that the enterprise marketers they brought in are missing these fundamentals. Because for our space to advance, everyone has to be smart on all sides.