The autumn months are a busy time in terms of conferences in the procurement technology sector and I’ve attended four excellent events in London recently. Whilst e World offered a chance to compare a wide range of solution providers, Coupa, Basware and SAP Ariba organised single vendor events underpinned by their own sales agenda.
Each of these events offered an insight into the capability of the software through a number of informative presentations, and the cultures of the respective organisations. I offer my own thoughts and comparisons below.
As a specialist recruiter in the sector and largely impartial observer, I find these events a very useful way of developing my knowledge, keeping up to date with the latest developments in the technology and enjoying the networking opportunities that exist between presentations. It’s great to catch up with long established contacts, meet new people and listen to conversations about people’s experiences of using the technology.
I’ve been to several eWorld events now and it is the best option if you are looking to get a flavour of the myriad of options available in procurement technology.
This year had even more exhibitors than the equivalent event last year with the vast majority of the major players represented in the exhibition area.
There’s a wide range of presentations from solution providers, implementation partners and end users offering the procurement professional an great learning opportunity.
The opening Keynote, Procurement And The Brexit Bombshell from Dr. John Glen, Director of The Centre for Customised Executive Development Cranfield University was very interesting if slightly alarming for a self-confessed “remoaner” like me. His advice was “plan for a hard Brexit, hope for a softer one.” If you get the chance to see him present, take it. Alternatively you can find him on YouTube.
I particularly enjoyed watching Mo Ahmad of Ariba talking about #MakeProcurementAwesome for the Mid Market and Ian Thompson of Tradeshift’s presentation on Procurement Innovation: How to Successfully Transition from Being Measured on Savings to Being Measured on Value?
Ian Thompson of Tradeshift
Both raised some interesting points and had an engaging, thought provoking presentation style.
You can view the other presentation topics and request details here: http://www.eworld-procurement.com/programme/
My only real negative about this event is that its surprising not to see more senior decision makers attend given the quality of the agenda and potential value of these solutions. The audience appears largely dominated by middle management procurement people who seem to gain a great deal from it so I ask are the leaders missing out?
The next eWorld event is on the 28th February.
Messrs Edbury & Daley at eWorld
The venue of Park Lane Hilton set the tone for the event along with a very upbeat feel about the environment. With impressive lights and modern introduction music, it was standing room only for Rob Bernsteyn’s opening address. He gave a very bullish, strong performance, articulating Coupa’s values with an impressive presentation, extolling their Value as a Service mantra.
A Coupa slide
He was followed by Paul Desrosiers of KPMG’s procurement technology practice. Paul interviewed two Coupa/KPMG customers in a well-rehearsed Q&A offering an insight into what Coupa has brought to their organisations.
The Digital Leader – KPMG
With over 700 people in attendance, there was just enough space in the venue and this resulted in quite an energetic feel to the event, particularly around the exhibition area where the likes of KPMG, Deloitte, Hackett, Bearing Point and Xoomworks were all exhibiting as potential Coupa partners.
I had a series of very interesting conversations with the consultants that I know from these organisations that typically had one common theme – there’s a shortage of people with experience of implementing the Coupa technology (and many of the competing solutions) to the extent where it can achieve its full potential with all the associated change management work that accompanies the use of such a powerful platform.
Of course it’s one of our jobs to help our clients overcome such skill shortages and we have various methods we can recommend but more on that another time.
One thing I particularly enjoyed was watching the dynamics of the event. There was a lot of visible evidence of potential deals being discussed between Coupa sales people, prospective customers, and the various implementation partners giving a real buzz to the environment during the breaks.
My personal highlight was the presentation by Paddy Lawton, founder of Spend 360 (acquired by Coupa in January)
Paddy Lawton of Coupa talks about Neural Networks.
He gave a fascinating summary of his journey from the origins of Spend 360 with manually inputted and analysed data to the point where he’s at today. In the process of explaining this journey he articulated a very compelling case for the use of these technologies with the emphasis on the value of the data, both now and in the future. His message was largely echoed by Eric Wilson at Basware event the following day, and if there is one key headline for the layman to take away, its that the sooner you start to make better use of your data, the sooner you can start to reap the enormous rewards for procurement.
As an aside the food was excellent and a lot of people seemed pleased with the range of top end Coupa branded merchandise. The flask will certainly come in handy for me on the golf course this winter!
The Basware Network
The following day took me to CodeNode, a very different, more understated venue with a real technology theme. On a smaller scale to the previous day, it felt more intimate and the presentations had more of an educational rather than sales feel by comparison.
There were plenty of Basware staff on hand to meet with potential and existing customers and the venue made for easy networking and open discussion.
Matthew Syed (AKA “The Ping Pong guy” from the BBC radio podcast and Times journalist) gave the opening keynote and he was absolutely excellent. His presentation on “black box thinking” was fascinating. He talked about the “growth mindset” offering comparisons of learning methodologies between the aviation and healthcare sectors with some references to sport thrown in. It’s well worth buying his book or watching some of his presentations on YouTube if you haven’t seen him speak.
He was followed by the aforementioned Eric Wilson (VP of S2P at Basware) who covered a range of topics including the huge importance of data. He discussed how our current machines will be obsolete soon but the data we are producing through them will only increase in importance in the next few years.
Eric Wilson of Basware
There were several other really interesting presentations from the likes of Theresa Lacey and Louis Fernandes, and again it offered a great opportunity to develop one’s knowledge of the power and importance of spend management solutions.
Theresa Lacey Making Sense Of The Terminology
It was great to see some of my contacts from the old Procserve business and compare the different cultures of the US owned Coupa versus the Finnish owned Barware – fascinating stuff for a recruiter.
The Future Of Procurement – Ariba
In early November Ariba invited both customers and potential prospects to its latest event. The Royal College of Surgeons was an atmospheric venue with its 500 year history, on-site museum and intimate lecture theatre where it felt like the audience were almost on top of the speakers.
It was a largely educational agenda with a subtle sell of the capabilities of their solution thrown in, making for another enjoyable event.
It was great to see Justin Sadler-Smith back in the sector after recently joining the business. He gave an excellent introductory speech and more evidence that he’ll bring a great deal to Ariba’s business in the UK, particularly with the partnership with IBM on Cognitive Procurement given his background at Emptoris.
He was followed by former SAP CPO and now Chief Digital Officer, Marcel Vollmer who gave a really insightful view of the impact of technology in both our personal and professional lives. He also talked about SAP’s own implementation of Ariba.
Some of the numbers for SAP’s transformation to Ariba
Between them they touched on some interesting issues including:
- Procurement moving into a different space in future business with its changing value proposition
- The growing importance of data scientists in procurement
- The potential for areas like Category Management to be largely automated
- The move towards supplier management and innovation rather than just delivering hard savings
- A strong message that the potential for change is here now and able to move at a rapid rate if we embrace it
The Future of Ariba S2P with Marcell Vollmer.
Later in the afternoon I really enjoyed listening to Andrew Croston of Smith & Nephew who gave a warts and all account of their experience of implementing the Ariba solution with consulting support from Deloitte.
It was a refreshing change from the often 100% positive presentations that are so common at such events. He was largely very positive about both organisations but also gave a good account of the challenges they’ve faced, and some useful feedback for anyone about to embark on a similar transformation journey. His dry northern wit also kept me and the rest of the audience amused throughout.
The three partners exhibiting were excelerated S2P, Deloitte & Apsolut but in keeping with the rest of the event they appeared to be in educational rather than full on sales mode.
Some Final Thoughts
- Procurement professionals really are spoilt for choice with solutions at the moment, the power of the technology is amazing, the real challenge lies in how you harness it for your organisation and finding the skills required to do so.
- Procurement professionals should go to as many of these events as possible. There are so many ways to learn about what’s happening and ultimately to enable you to choose the right solution for your business.
- The skill shortage I’ve been talking about for so long shows no sign of abating but you can raise your own profile and knowledge by embracing these learning opportunities.
Starting with the EU referendum decision last year, how many of us have witnessed such a combination of global economic and political events which have created such high levels of business uncertainty.
Very few of us have ever experienced a situation like this in our business lives, yet many people from the procurement and supply chain professions believe it will fall on them to manage the inherent risk and navigate their organisations through it.
As we’ve asked in previous editions of our quarterly report on the procurement job market, do the skills exist in the profession to get this right?
It’s a question we’ve asked in the past about the implementation and use of spend management tools and now we ask it again about supply chain risk, currency hedging and all the associated considerations.
One potential source of comfort is the increasing power of technology to help organisations manage the aforementioned risk in their supply chains. For example, the latest generation of the Ariba solution will enable organisations to dig deeper into their supply chains providing all sorts of benefits.
Again the challenge is to find people with the knowledge and/or experience to really harness the power of these solutions.
Some of these issues were highlighted in the Recent Deloitte CPO Study In our opinion, this is one the foremost research studies for the procurement sector and several of their findings tie in with our comments above. Most notably Deloitte flag the following:
- The growing importance of risk management as a procurement priority
- 60% of procurement leaders do not believe they have the internal capabilities to deliver on their vision
- Talent: Whilst there is an increased requirement for leadership and digital skills there is limited change in the investment or approach to close the talent gap. With improvements in technology enabling automation, the skills of the past will not deliver the needs of the future – organisations should look to attract and develop the next generation of procurement leaders who will act as innovators, challengers, and digitally minded-thinkers.
“The skills of the past will not deliver the future” as Deloitte put it is a message we have been conscious of for some time. The profession needs to grasp this message, invest in training and development if its to continue to thrive in an ever changing world.
At Edbury Daley we work with companies who need to hire professionals with experience of leading edge technology solutions and the more advanced procurement and supply chain skills we refer to above. As a result of this work and our regular research, we know where to find and how to engage the best people in these areas in conversations about potential career moves.
We’ve observed significant growth in salaries in these sectors in the past three years and we’ve attributed much of that to the supply and demand equation in markets characterised by skills shortages.
However in the final quarter of 2016 we started to notice some changes of mentality in the market as some organisations responded to the climate of political and economic uncertainty.
Given our extensive network in these sectors we are uniquely well placed to research this subject and spent part of January 2017 questioning business leaders in our network about their approach to end of year pay reviews, basic salary and bonus differentials. We specifically asked if Brexit, Trump or any other factors had a tangible impact on their decision making.
We have received an interesting range of responses to the question “has the current economic climate had any impact on your decision making around salaries and bonuses for 2017?” Here are a selection of the responses that reflect the overall picture:
Spend Management Technology
Several cases here which demonstrate the range of performance across the sector:
Case 1 – Spend Analytics Company
“We are doing really well so growth is very much on the agenda and there has been no real Brexit impact on our sales. However our overseas salary costs for the team have gone up because of the weakness in the pound so we are looking at reshoring some of that team.
What has changed is that we are giving relatively small pay rises (in line with inflation and no more generally) but offering the opportunity to earn more through better bonus schemes. We are moving away from purely annual to monthly, quarterly and yearly bonuses, the first two of which are based on personal and the yearly is based on company performance. This has two benefits – it mitigates against the rising salary costs and it encourages certain key behaviours that we want to develop.
So in summary the Brexit impact has increased our salary costs due to weakness of pound and led to realignment of fixed versus variable remuneration.”
Case 2 Mid Tier Spend Management Company – UK focused
“We haven’t experienced any real change as yet, we think it’s more likely next year. We’ve had a great year so most people have got 100% of bonus capability. There are pay reviews to come, so any early signs in 2017 maybe factored in but no specific concerns as yet.”
Case 3 Mid Tier Spend Management Company – International
“We missed several key targets last year, largely because we had to address some issues with our product, so pay rises weren’t really on the agenda anyway, but there has still been a tangible shift towards greater bonuses to keep sales people motivated without exposing the business to higher basic salaries.
Client retention is at the top of our agenda, so we are heavily bonused for that.”
Case 4 European arm of a US owned Spend Management Company
“Nothing has been announced in terms of any official policy, however its noticeable that the payment of ad hoc bonuses has increased for high performers whilst base salaries have stayed the same.”
Case 5 Mid Tier Spend Management Company – UK focused
We’ve made a small number of redundancies because it’s clear that P2P deals aren’t progressing through the pipeline the way they were a year or so back. Analytics and invoicing are our strongest areas currently. Also professional services is doing quite well which suggests customers are sweating what they’ve got rather than going to market for new technology. We also saw signs of declining overall investment in 2016.” However this company hasn’t materially altered it’s approach to salaries.
Further Anecdotal Evidence
We know from our conversations with business leaders and established sales people that the bigger players are enjoying really healthy growth, and several of the sales people are earning impressive bonuses based on exceeding ambitious sales targets.
The market leaders continue to hire aggressively across Europe, both from direct competitors and other neighbouring sectors suggesting they remain bullish about their growth prospects.
On balance we believe the sector remains in rude health as companies with a strong product offering and clear go to market strategy continue to thrive. That said, there is clear evidence of keeping costs under control and a greater desire to retain staff through better performance related pay rather than big increases in fixed pay.
Big multi-disciplinary consultancies have, in our opinion, been falling behind on salary and particularly bonus numbers for some time now but continue to command a lot of loyalty from their staff. However it’s increasingly difficult for them to hire externally at Senior Consultant, Manager and Senior Manager grades because many other consultancies and corporates are paying better salaries.
Furthermore in procurement technology consulting some of the smaller niche players are consistently winning projects against bigger consulting players on the strength of greater expertise and agility combined with lower costs, so this is something they have to contend with.
One of our regular niche consulting customers in the technology sector told us:
“We had a really good year in 2016 and our pipeline is as strong as ever so there’s no need for us to factor any wider concerns into our salary and bonus decisions at this stage. Our business has a nice spread across Europe, so we expect to be insulated from Brexit. Also we’re not really involved in the US so we can’t see any direct impact from Trump at the moment.”
A concern for this type of organisation is that their staff are being targeted by the bigger consultancies so staff retention is a key driver. Thankfully they are in a position where they can reward their staff well which often makes them unaffordable for the bigger consultancies who have rigid salary bands.
Edbury Daley is widely acknowledged as the market leading recruiter in the Spend Management sector in the UK. We are now bringing hiring success to our clients across Europe.
Our recent projects have included:
- Business leaders for appointments in UK, France & Northern Europe.
- Regional sales leadership roles for Europe, Nordics, France, Italy, Sweden & UK
- Senior procurement technology consulting roles in the UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy & Spain
- Project Management & Implementation appointments in England, France & Germany
We offer broad coverage of Procurement Solutions which include Analytics, Payments, Vendor Management Solutions and Supply Chain Finance.
Our international network of contacts across the procurement technology sector allied to a deep expertise in the procurement profession enable us to provide an unrivalled service. Here’s how:
- Identifying proven sales people with experience of selling to finance and procurement audiences across Europe.
- Head hunting geographically flexible Implementation and Transformation Consultants with experience of international projects.
- Building an outstanding network of EU nationals currently working in the sector wishing to move to the UK, and those already in the UK willing to work/relocate across Europe.
If you need a recruiter who understands your product, your target markets and the availability of the skills your business needs to grow then it’s time to get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s an excerpt from our Procurement Quarterly Market Update for the second quarter of 2015 which addresses recruitment market trends and the availability of skills in the consulting sector.
The picture in the consultancy space is not as bullish as in quarter one. It is somewhat mixed as some niche areas (spend management) are doing well but many others are either static or struggling to win new deals and hence we have seen a number of examples of organisations pulling back on previous expansion plans.
Most consultancies are still recruiting but not at the rate anticipated or merely to cover leavers or to backfill promotions. The picture varies according to each organisation’s project pipeline and this can change week by week currently. This is impacting on recruitment as candidates become nervous when recruitment drives are delayed or even cancelled.
Much of the new project work being awarded centres around technology led procurement transformation and many of these organisations are successfully ‘on-selling’ other services. In our view organisations not offering access to a technology solution seem to be at a disadvantage in the current market
The larger outsourcing deals appear to be less in number as many CPO’s or senior Procurement Leaders have indicated to us that they are focusing on ‘targeted help or consultancy on specific areas of spend or to speed up specific projects’ This implies they want to retain full control and don’t want to commit to the costs or risks of a long term outsource unless there is a long standing relationship or a specific business problem beyond the in-house capabilities.
Some organisations are in effect running transformation projects internally by carefully utilising interims directly instead of ‘outsourcing’. However there remains a shortage of experienced consultants with the requisite skill set to deliver major transformation projects in procurement and supply chain at senior levels.
An increasing trend that we have reported before is the shortage of junior level consultancy candidates with 2-3 years experience. Many consultancies are increasingly delivering projects via a tiered delivery model with good junior people increasingly being used to support senior people on-site from day one. Therefore they can only consider those with existing client facing skills and experience as they cannot risk putting those without this straight into this environment. This increasing demand means salary rates for these levels are becoming increasingly inflated as competition for good candidates becomes more intense.
As an example we are finding that good junior people with 2-4 years experience can command a base salary of £45-50k for a move to another consultancy. There are examples of individuals with only 3 years experience being offered £55k to move to some of the smaller niche consultancies. This we think will cause increasing problems for the bigger players or those organisations with strictly controlled salary and career bands who are unable to flex.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please contact Peter Brophy.