By William Dorn, VP of Operations
Corporate United, the nation’s largest Group Purchasing Organization (GPO), has, for several years, hosted a conference-style event entitled Synergy. This annual conference brings together its members, prospects, and supplier partners in order to foster better working relationships, encourage cross-industry best practice sharing, and facilitate supplier-buyer introductions. This year, Corporate United took a slightly different approach and hosted four Synergy events across four cities: Chicago, Washington DC, Minneapolis and Cleveland. I went to all of them and here’s what you missed.
Networking: Synergy events have always been great for talking with people outside of your own typical circles; both for buyers and suppliers. For one, you avoid the chafe that comes from most local networking events – the junior-level resume toters, the real estate agent, the former NHL hockey player who now sells life insurance policies – and instead meet with professionals that deal with many of the same issues you deal with on a daily basis. From a procurement professional’s standpoint, you get to meet new colleagues in different industries and swap both war stories and success stories of your last year. You also get to learn about other potential suppliers and programs that you may not be part of. While it’s great to get to speak to those perspective suppliers directly, Synergy presents a really unique opportunity to seek out face-to-face references of some of their customers.
Secondly, Corporate United does a great job setting up networking locales for professionals. Instead of loud, packed bars that just take away from the chance at conversation; they have small breakfasts, lunches, breakout sessions, and dedicated times for suppliers and procurement professionals to meet and greet.
Finally, the collection of attendees was tip-top. In each city, CU selected a great mix – from midsize regional companies to large public corporations – allowing everyone in attendance to expand their horizons and corporate reach.
Trends: From the networking opportunities, Synergy attendees are able to pick up on current and emerging industry trends. Last year, we heard people struggling with building internal relationships and effectively marketing the procurement and sourcing department’s services within their own organizations. This year, we heard more people focused on building and sustaining supplier relationships and asking where the next savings opportunities are supposed to come from after the low-hanging fruit and simple spend categories have all been picked over.
Consistent with what we hear from our clients, many sourcing and procurement groups are still struggling to get a handle on their IT and marketing spends. However, those departments are finally asking them for help, which is a remarkable shift away from those traditional silo-spend categories. We’ve heard that the sourcing teams want to help, but often lack the technical language, expertise, or category depth to be able to truly drive the best value in those spend categories. By the way, Source One can help with IT and Marketing Spend!
Business Tailoring Opportunities: Listening to attendees and hearing emerging trends first hand serves to help us further tailor our offerings to suit the changing sourcing landscape. Last year, we helped a variety of companies, through speaking and consulting engagements, better develop internal mechanisms and marketing materials to help promote the worth of procurement and sourcing within their organizations. This year, we’ve invested heavily in developing programs that bridge the gap between highly technical resources in IT and the acquisition and negotiation expertise of procurement. We’ve created processes and training, developed in-house technical aptitude, and have helped a variety of companies with market intelligence and benchmark data to full outsourced IT sourcing support for services and application development. We’ve also staffed to fill the growing demand for marketing and advertising sourcing and supplier management programs
These are just a few ways in which Source One is acting upon trends we see coming from procurement professionals attending Corporate United’s Synergy events. I’ve heard from Corporate United members and suppliers alike about their completely different and positive takeaways they achieved at the Synergy events. And it’s this type of insight, for both CU’s members and partners, that ensures Source One will be there again next year, and we hope to see you as well.