Category Archives: Conference Season

It’s Conference Season, so Marketers are Marketing Like Mad!

And, as usual, some of it is driving the doctor a little bit nuts.

So, dear Marketer, if you’re reading this, here’s a few tips when trying to sell to someone actually in the market for a Procurement solution, vs. just looking for a good excuse to get approval to go to a conference for a good time.

They don’t care about your story
Yes, PR people love stories. Yes, journalists love stories. Yes, company storytellers like stories. But guess what? People who are drowning in their job and need a system that can actually help them be more productive only care about what you or your product does, and how you or your product will do it, not what circuitous route got you to the point where you decided to start a company.

They don’t care about your passion
Yes, Investors do. They want people driven to work hard to solve a problem with a solution they believe will make them a lot of money. Yes, Executives use it as a check box, and it will differentiate you from the other collared shirt when you make the final three and get to present your case. But someone who is going to have to use your solution and follow your process day-in and day-out in the Tower of Spend isn’t going to care about that in the slightest until they see that your solution might actually help them.

They don’t care about your clear and regular communication, great service, commitment, follow-through, willingness to do what it takes to hit the implementation and integration deadlines, your ease of use, great UX, shiny new offering, or disruptive value proposition either (or any of the dozens of ways you can say this with effectively the exact same lack of meaning).
This is because this doesn’t say anything about your solution, the problem it solves, and how it is different from the 20 to 200 other solutions they could also choose. (And if you think the doctor is exaggerating, please refer back to the Source-to-Pay+ Mega-Map with 666 unique clickable logos for your research pleasure.)

In fact, during conference season, about the only thing most of them actually care about is if you have a booth, what Brand Ambassadors are going to be there, and if you’re giving away free booze, culinary delights, or unique (cool) swag.

Also, before we end this, just a little FYI that the analysts, consultants, and social media influencers (unless, of course, in the latter case, you have a cool booth with free booze, food, and SWAG and give them an all expense paid trip to the booth to show it off on TikTok) that you want to cover you probably don’t care about any of the above either!

Rabbit Season? Duck Season?

Is it just me or does the annual return of “conference” season remind you of the old Looney Tunes Rabbit Season, Duck Season shorts with all of the competing, similar, but yet mangled and confusing messages about what you should be focussing on, what conferences you should be going to, and what you should be hunting for?

For the younger generation, the classic “rabbit season, duck season” was a “hunting” trilogy of Warner Bros shorts starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fud that began with Rabbit Fire in 1951, that was the first to show Daffy as a flawed, greedy, vain character who always, secretly, wanted the spotlight (and not just a screwball comedian who wanted to make you laugh).

In this particular episode, where it is supposedly rabbit season, Daffy lures Elmer Fudd (the hunter) to Bug’s burrow and convinces Bug that a “friend” is there to see him, seemingly aiming to take out the competition. High jinks ensue until Bugs manages to trick Daffy into saying it’s actually duck season, at which point Elmer tries to shoot Daffy. Then the two find increasingly creative ways to turn the tables until the hunter decides its rabbit and duck season, at which point both realize how stupid they were and work together to make it “Elmer” season …

So why do I think of this cartoon?

Well, first of all, many vendors spend a lot of the year trying to eliminate their competition from your consideration by claiming that the competitor’s product is lacking key features you need for efficiency, value, or ROI (Daffy tricking Elmer into hunting Bugs); then, during Conference Season, the competition (Bugs) strikes back with slicker messaging that encourages the buyer to turn on the vendor that may (or may not) have led them astray; then the original vendor (Daffy) starts copying the message of the competition, with a few twists to get the attention back; and the marketing and messaging dance continues until the buyer (Elmer) gets simultaneously so confused and so angry that he wants to eliminate both vendors (Daffy and Bugs) from consideration, at which point the vendors need to team up (or at least call a temporary back-room truce) in some way to trap the buyer back into buying at least one of their solutions, and if there isn’t complete overlap, preferably both!

As far as the doctor is concerned, this misses the point of conference season, which is supposedly to educate you about the offering and the value you can get from it. Which would be great if that was what the majority of events did, but over the years, I found that less and less of a reality at the bigger shows by the bigger vendors and conference players. Starting with the latter half of the last decade, the events at many of these players have become less about education and more about how spectacular of a show the vendor or conference group could put on as vendors, professional organizations, and conference groups tried to show value by showing how successful they were, instead of just keeping it simple and showing how successful you could be with their technology, education, processes, or platforms (built up from the technology and processes of their sponsors).

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little bit saddened by it — I know it’s been a staple in the enterprise software world for a while, going back to the old trade-show mentality where if you couldn’t afford the poshest venue and the biggest suite, then obviously you weren’t successful … but isn’t Procurement supposed to be about your success and not theirs?

Although it means regular work is less guaranteed, the doctor is actually quite happy to be independent now as it means he can pick and choose what conferences and events he does, and more importantly, does NOT have to even consider going to as, this year, he’s only seen ONE event by a top suite vendor he’d actually like to attend. (Compare this to the early and mid teens where he was quite interested in going to almost all of them … )

Now, I should say, this viewpoint, which is the doctor‘s and the doctor‘s alone, is lobbied primarily at a subset of the big vendor conferences and the big conferences / trade shows and not the smaller vendors or smaller workshops. There are still plenty of smaller and best-of-breed vendors putting on great educational events, many of which even us analysts don’t hear about until it’s too late, that are more than worth your time and money to attend.  (Heck, sometimes even us old dogs and cats who’ve been in this for over two decades will learn a new trick.)

In other words, given that your time, money, and patience is limited, don’t fall for the hype and instead look for the education that you need to make the right decision as to what platform, product, process, or service your organization needs next and whom you should buy it from. And enjoy the fact that you know you don’t have to go to everything or anything if it’s not relevant!

Are Conferences Perpetuating Supply Chain Stasis?

It’s conference season, and you know what that means. Thousands of people flocking to ISM next week to hear about the “state-of-the-art” practices and technologies that will revolutionize your supply chain, take you into the modern age, and prepare you for what comes next. Except they won’t.

For the average organization that still hasn’t adopted a modern e-Sourcing or e-Procurement system, the technologies being presented by even the vendors who haven’t updated their core platforms since last decade will still be revolutionary and for the average organization that is just dipping their toes into the waters of modern supply management processes, the talks will be inspirational and progressive and, for all practical purposes, look like a transition from the industrial revolution to the information age. (And, for some organizations, it will be. But it won’t prepare you for what comes next.) It will be like seeing the world through rose coloured glasses for four days straight. By the end of the conference, the average attendee will be in awe of the possible and leave in a state of hippie bliss (until he gets back to the office and crushing reality cracks his lenses and he’s forced to again see the cold and depressing blue sky, the blood red losses, and the blackness of the bottomless pit that new ideas get tossed into).

But for a leading organization, the majority of technologies will be outdated, the practices insufficient, and the talks sleep inducing. That’s because, for the most part*, it will be the same vendors as last year, the same practices that were being presented as revolutionary five, if not ten years ago, and different speakers giving the same scripted success talk that you have heard from the leaders who have used these technologies and processes for the last five years.

the doctor downloaded the thirty-four (yes, 34) page “brochure” for ISM and didn’t see one new idea in the entire publication. Not one. Moreover, while a few of the topics only became trendy in the last few years, there appear to be only two talks focussed on TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), one on integrated supply chains, and zero on supply chain modelling.

This is a serious problem. We’ve reached the point where supply chain success for the average organization is becoming dependent on preventing supply chain disruptions and failures. Supply chains span the globe, lean is the name of the game, JiT is widespread, disasters (natural and man-made) are on the rise, margins are thin, and customer loyalty and patience is thinner. It doesn’t matter how well you source if you can’t execute. It doesn’t matter how well you procure if you can’t control your costs. The best laid risk avoidance and mitigation plans are worthless if you can’t monitor for risks and implement mitigation plans at appropriate times. The best spend analysis system in the world is useless if the data is incomplete or too dirty. You can’t optimize what you can’t model. And so on.

Moveover, every savings opportunity you identify at one stage of the supply chain or management process can result in a larger loss at a different stage if the opportunity is not analyzed appropriately. Sure you can save money by consolidating supply, but if a single source is unable to deliver and the organization has to buy on the spot market at the last minute, the 5% savings could be a 10% loss. Reducing inventory can significantly reduce the 25% inventory overhead cost, but could result in stock-outs that lead to million dollar revenue losses if the organization runs too lean and a transportation strike cuts off the just-in-time supply. Better supplier oversight and management can certainly increase quality and reliability, but is the additional cost of the SRM systems and staff to manage the relationship less than the additional value generated?

True value comes from looking at an integrated supply management process, which might take the form of a full category management lifecycle or a complete strategic sourcing execution lifecycle, modelling the physical supply chain and associated costs, and computing the full total cost of ownership of the current scenario and an expected improvement.

But good luck finding anyone who looks at the supply chain as a whole from this perspective, especially when few people will even address the subject.

And this is why the doctor does NOT attend ISM. When you’re trying to identify the next evolution of supply management, or even if you are a true leader, unless you enjoy preaching from the pulpit, it’s a little depressing.

* There will be some exceptions.

Coming Soon: The 6th International Supply Chain Management Symposium

The 6th Annual PMAC/MeRC International Supply Chain Management Symposium is coming up next month. It starts with the 3rd annual Doctoral Colloquium on Wednesday, October 15 and the welcome reception that night and the main body of the conference is on Thursday, October 16 and Friday October 17.

This year, their keynotes are from Mr. Dean D. Loria from Shell Canada Limited, Dr. Terry L. Esper from the University of Tennessee, and Jason “The Prophet” Busch, the Spend Master of Spend Matters. Jason’s always an energetic speaker, Dr. Esper is rather well reknowned, and although I must confess that I don’t know the dude from Shell, I’ve never attended a bad presentation from a Shell representative. (Not that they’ve all be gems, but compared to some presentations I’ve attended, including an Ariba keynote from last year, they were never bad.)

In addition, they again have a number of tracks on timely supply chain issues that include green supply chains, health care supply chains, energy sector best practices, and remanufacturing supply chains as well as the old standby topics that include global logistics, procurement management, and negotiation. In addition, this year’s panels are on green supply chains, non-profit supply chains, and supply chain education.

As I noted in last year’s announcement, there aren’t a lot of good Supply Chain / Sourcing / Procurement conferences north of the border, and this is one of the few. So, if you’re in Canada or the northern states and do business in, or with, Canada, I strongly encourage you to consider checking it out. Plus, you get to check out Cowtown this year, which might be a nice change after five years of Hogtown.

For those of you who haven’t been to Canada’s wild wild west, you can check out the the city web site, the Tourism Calgary site, the Calgary Community Events Guide, and eventhe travel guide and vacation planner. And even though the event is not being held during the annual Folk Festival, Blues Festival or during the world famous Stampede, you can always check out the Calgary Zoo and Heritage Park and see how your average Canadian still lives outside of the big nine Canadian cities (which, from east to west are: Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver). In addition, you can also check out the Calgary Herald, the Calgary Sun, and The Gauntlet for the down-low on what’s happening. (And you music lovers can check out Calgary Music Lives here, Music Calgary, and the Calgary Music Special Interest Group.) And, for us bloggers, there is the Wild Rose Brewery and the Brew Brothers Brewery … so we’ll be just fine.