You go to the three-day SIG Summit to learn new practices, solidify standards and make business connections. The Denver Summit will be my seventh. The speakers are uniformly excellent, the first-class entertainment on Wednesday night is always a surprise, and the Thursday night event is fun-filled and relaxing. But it's Tuesday's Speed Networking event that tops my list for an informative and high-energy way to make new colleagues. If your goal is to meet as many Summit attendees as possible, then attending Speed Networking on Tuesday afternoon is a must. And no, I'm not just tooting SIG's horn here. There is a sense of camaraderie that you get at Speed Networking. Sure, it is a bit like speed dating at first...but once the buzz fills the room, the air is electric. Speed networkers are trying to broaden their connections by increasing their exposure – and this venue is the perfect opportunity to accomplish that. SIG used to host Speed Networking on Wednesdays during the Summit, and I was always a bit frayed by that – why wait for the second day, when everyone can meet on the first day?! Because what we do best at SIG is to brainstorm ways to continuously improve, we changed the venue to Tuesday, the first official day of the Summit. For those who have not attended, we fill the largest ballrooms with huge rounds of tables and place chairs on either side. Nearly everyone attends. The corporate buy-side attendees move around the perimeter. The sell-side attendees stay put. SIG staffers happily serve beer and wine to help break the ice. And as if we couldn't make this event more fun...there are REALLY great prizes for the buy-side attendees – just put your business card in the bowl that is passed around prior to the event beginning. The din that ensues is lively, productive and fun. You have a few minutes with each person, introduce yourself, your company, even your kids if you must.
I recently dropped off my oldest son at college. It was a momentous time sending my first child out the door. Not only did it bring a flood of my own college memories back, but it also made me realize that we often wait until the last minute before we impart the pearls of wisdom that might be most helpful in a new setting. I took the opportunity to write an article (if you call a Facebook posting an "article") to him, chock full of advice on washing clothes, changing sheets, using good judgment and much much more. As I reflect on that moment, it makes me realize that often when we approach the Summit, we assume people don’t need our advice on how to make the Summit a great experience...and you know what they say about assumptions. With three new SIG employees, it occurred to me that perhaps some Summit pearls of wisdom might be in order, so here goes:
Don't miss the networking events. Most people come to events for two reasons—the first, education is what gets the approval for the plane ticket, but it's the second, networking that often gives you the most bang for your buck. One conversation can help you solve a problem...or create a lifelong resource...or even identify a potential vendor or partner. Because of that, we factor in a lot of time for networking. Our breaks are long and our evening events are lively and fun. For real energizing networking, our Tuesday evening Speed Networking is not to be missed. Even if networking is not something that comes naturally, this "speed dating" style of networking makes it easy to meet people quickly, exchange business cards and move on. On that note...
One-on-One is a new Q&A series with leaders in the SIG community. Cost savings. Process efficiencies. They're synonymous with procurement and among the terms most used to describe its role within the enterprise. And with good reason. Over the last decade, procurement has transformed itself from a back-room function to a strategic capability by delivering them. But a new term has entered the lexicon: innovation. There's no doubt that procurement today is a different game. It's more connected, informed and some might even say "social" than ever. Just as consumers tap into personal networks to learn, share and shop better, procurement is beginning to tap into business networks. To learn more on how these digital communities are transforming the function, SIG sat down with Dr. Chakib Bouhdary, President of Business Networks for SAP.
SIG: Social tools much like those used to manage our personal lives have infiltrated the enterprise. How is this changing procurement?
Bouhdary: There are officially more mobile devices than people in the world. More than a billion of us participate in social networks. Over 15 billion web-enabled devices connect us to the people and information we need to manage our daily lives. And data is exploding—doubling about every 18 months. So we are mobile, and apps on our phones and tablets give us new ways to discover and collaborate with our peers and trading partners. Just as consumers tap into social networks to keep tabs on their relatives and friends, procurement is now leveraging business networks to manage trading relationships and commerce activities.
SIG: There seems to be a complete shift in the way trading partners communicate, transact and collaborate. How are business networks driving this?
I recently had a sneak peek at Dawn's "President's Message" in our latest (soon-to-be-released as of this posting) InsideSourcing newsletter. In a nutshell, she talked about the fact that SIG is not just a "membership" organization, but should more appropriately be thought of as a "training" organization — a place where professionals come to learn more about the latest best practices in sourcing, outsourcing, procurement and so much more. Read her newsletter article for the many things SIG provides in the way of training — I won’t restate it all here — but I would like to expound a bit on the benefits of engaging in professional development for yourself and your team: It exposes you to the latest innovations. When you attend classes, conferences or events, you gain access to new ways of thinking. Sure, you can read about new innovations online, but the most tangible way to learn is to hear how someone has applied best and worst (more on that below) practices. You learn from other industries. At a recent SIG Summit, we had a speaker, Stephen Shapiro who extolled the virtues not of "thinking outside the box," but rather in "finding a better box." What does that mean? Well for one thing, sometimes looking inside your industry for all the answers may not be the best place to find them. If you attend a conference where many sectors are present, you might just have an "aha!" moment by hearing how people in other industries have approached, applied and solved problems. It motivates your team. Don't underestimate how important it is to provide your team with opportunities to network and learn. Sure, you might offer courses in-house, but imagine what it means to your team to give them the chance to meet peers in other organizations and hear the latest innovations.
We live in a networked economy. As consumers, we tap into personal networks to learn, share and shop better. And with increasing frequency, companies are harnessing the insights and intelligence of business networks to break down the barriers to collaboration and drive innovation and competitive advantage. Like social networks, business networks are an efficient, effective way to connect with a global network of partners and transact business. And they have fast become the defacto standard for a number of key processes, such as sourcing. But the real power of business networks lies in what goes on inside them – all the interactions, transactions and commentary, and the massive amounts of insights and data that they generate. And innovative companies are leveraging this information to move beyond simply transacting and engaging with partners in new ways that give them a leg up on the competition. Take MSC Industrial Supply Co., a leading distributor of Metalworking and Maintenance, Repair and Operations ("MRO") solutions, services and supplies to North American manufacturers. More than a decade ago, MSC joined a network to provide its customers with a fast and efficient way to find and purchase the products they needed. Today, the company is taking things to the next level, mining the insights, intelligence and transaction data that reside on the network to help its customers run their businesses with greater efficiency and effectiveness. When MSC learned that employees at one of its customers' locations had to walk a mile to get to a centralized storeroom where supply replacements were housed, it suggested they install vending machines to put inventory closer to where the work was being done. In doing so, MSC enabled its customer to save time and money, making it a more strategic and valuable partner. In their initial phase, networks were all about connecting companies so that they could buy and sell more efficiently.
Dr. Chakib Bouhdary, President, Business Networks, SAP
The world is in a soccer (or should I say "futbol") frenzy right now. Every day the best teams in the world are competing for their country in hard-fought matches where the team advancing might be determined in the final few seconds of a game. In the U.S vs. Portugal game, the U.S. was the only team in their group Sunday that could have advanced to the knockout round with a win. Instead, their fate is still up in the air, with a number of possible outcomes. This got me thinking about the lessons we could learn from the World Cup.
Leadership is key. It is easy to credit a coach or team captain with leadership, but if there is one thing I've learned in the past few years, it is that anyone can be a leader—it is not defined by your title. This is evident in any soccer game in the world at any given time. Just listen to players talking to one another on a field. Often it's the goalie or center back defender shouting instructions. They may have a lay of the land that someone in a striking position can't see. I think of the Procurement group the same way—it is often the only department that has regular communication with virtually every other business unit, allowing it insight at a high-level that is difficult for any other department to replicate.
I've read a lot lately about networking. It's a "must do" for any professional career...but for SIG, it's the difference between success and failure. SIG is defined by our ability to provide opportunities for our members to share best practices and thought leadership. How? By connecting them with other sourcing, outsourcing and procurement professionals. We offer online opportunities with Webinars, Town Hall Teleconferences and P2Ps (Peer-to-Peer resources), and of course with live events, such as Global Summits, Symposiums and Regional Roundtables. This week alone we've had one Symposium (in Toronto), a Regional Roundtable in Chicago (at McDonald's Hamburger University...how cool is that?!), a Town Hall Teleconference two Webinars and two P2Ps. It's a busy week—but it's what our members need to hear the latest industry standards and benchmark with others in this function. We love what we do and we try to make our events hassle-free and accessible. But based on some of the articles I've recently read, I'm reminded that live networking is not something that comes easily to most people. In fact, some of the best public speakers I know absolutely cringe when they have to mingle. So what can you do to enhance your networking outcome when you are at a conference or an event?
In the final part of this series, I have a few tips on what to do after a SIG event…and specifically after the SIG Summit…is over.
Summarize your notes. Take a few minutes on your plane ride home while it is still fresh in your mind and write one sentence for every breakout and general session you attended. Make sure write down the overall theme and include key takeaways. Identify any action items for you or your team and who might own them, including any speaker follow-ups. If you need a few reminders, look at the SIG twitter feed using the hashtag for that event. In the case of the fall Summit, we used #SIGFall13. Chances are that someone tweeted some of the key thoughts. The Summit is full of tangible and implementable ideas. Use them!
Schedule time to report your experience to your team. When a SIG team member attends a conference, we report back to our team, providing:
Collateral: copies of decks, checklists, takeaways, forms, templates, tools
Summary of lessons learned
5-10 new ideas / innovative approaches / topics for brown bag lunch discussions and strategy meetings
Many members have told us that they have to take turns attending the Summit, so a report-out is a great way to share your learnings and make the whole team feel like they were onsite. If you tweet while you are at the event, they can even follow you live!
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG
After every Summit we ask the delegates to tell us the two most important factors in contributing to their decision to attend the event. Consistently the delegates cite the Summit program content and the opportunities to network. In the first part of this blog series, I summarized some best practices for networking, specifically for Sourcing professionals. In this part of the series, I will summarize best practices for obtaining the most value from the SIG Summit program content. Keep in mind, most of these also apply to other SIG event program content (like our Symposiums, Regionals, Webinars and Town Hall Teleconferences).
Before the Event:
Make arrangements to arrive early and depart late - for Summits this means come in on Monday night and plan to stay until Friday morning. The event schedule is packed and the attendees are high-level...trust me, you want to get there early and stay late.
Write a list of objectives - include the content you wish to cover. For example, you may own the Legal spend category or you may be in the process of supplier normalization or possibly building a case study for procurement transformation. Consider the industries and organizations you may be interested in hearing from...and understand the expectations of your boss and your team members...do they expect you to report your experiences? If so, how? And when?
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG
In my last post, I provided some tips for networking. I actually enjoy networking, but I know many who think of it in the same way that others think of public speaking...they are scared to death to do it. They'd rather find the one person in the crowd that they know than to seek out new connections. At SIG Summits, which attract 350-450 people, we try to make it easy to network by putting a special sticker on the nametags of first-time attendees. At the first General Session we explain the sticker and encourage everyone to "introduce themselves to the cowboy boots" (for example, since a cowboy boot sticker was the chosen icon for the last Summit in Fort Worth, Texas). It takes a lot of the pain out of the process for those who don't enjoy seeking people out and is an instant conversation starter. But if you are in a situation without your "cowboy boots," (and/or if you are a network-a-phobe like so many), perhaps some of these questions can be helpful to you. I use them when first meeting a fellow Sourcing professional.
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG