Highlights from the SIG Global Sourcing Summit
As I started working on the highlights from this spring’s SIG Global Sourcing Summit, I was overwhelmed by what a great mix of thought leadership and networking it was. Twice a year we gather with our members – sourcing and outsourcing leaders from Fortune 500/Global 1000 companies – to share best practices, hear transformation stories, network with colleagues, and hold strategic conversations. I always walk away in awe of our members’ accomplishments, and grateful that they are willing to share the challenges they had to overcome in frank, no-nonsense discussions so other organisations can learn from their mistakes and celebrate their successes.
I must confess, my original version of this article recalled the story of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ and referenced a blog post by Tony Filippone of HfS Research, where Tony talked about how an event (not a SIG event, of course) he’d recently attended was well-run, but had too much of an emphasis on sales…and not enough on thought leadership. My intent was to share why SIG would have appealed to Goldilocks, but I was admonished by Outsource Editor Jamie Liddell for doing the one thing we at SIG pride ourselves for NOT doing—being overly commercial. He was right…so now I’m just going to stick to the facts!
Technically, we kick off the Summit before we officially kick off the Summit. In other words, we start the event with a “pre-conference” day of sessions. Back in the olden days, B.D. (“Before Dawn” Evans became CEO), the pre-conference day was really “pre-Summit”. If you flew in that day, you might have missed a couple of good workshops and a round of golf, but you knew there were more great sessions to come over the next few days. Now, if you show up on Tuesday night, you will have missed 10 potential workshops, a variety of Executive Roundtables and a full day of networking opportunities. The only thing we DIDN’T provide on Tuesday was a keynote speaker.
At 8:00 am, we began the Summit with a Manufacturing Roundtable. We held this event for delegates responsible for direct spend and/or from manufacturing companies, in large part because more and more of our delegates represent folks concerned with issues in sourcing direct spend. Immediately following the direct spend roundtable, we held ten lively sourcing and outsourcing workshops on topics that ranged from ‘Negotiating Skills’ to ‘Remediating Troubled Outsourcing Relationships’. Simultaneously, for the fourth time, SIG hosted Executive Roundtables for buy-side executives on top-of-mind issues and concerns, specifically in the areas of Procurement, Outsourcing, and Legal.
In the Procurement Roundtable, one topic of conversation was on the fact that it’s a shrinking world, but that cultural differences cause vast implications in doing business globally. Risk mitigation, privacy laws and security were key concerns in doing business with overseas vendors or partners. India and China are still large outsourcing pockets among our members. Other areas are growing in interest – particularly Eastern European countries for IT talent – but an overwhelming message was to retain the knowledge and expertise that has been built and make informed decisions vs. chasing cheaper salary levels.
One Outsourcing Roundtable topic that got a lot of attention centred, somewhat surprisingly, on leadership and how leadership styles can change the outcome of an outsourcing deal – or perhaps more accurately, the perception of the outcome. Proper governance for outsourcing arrangements also emerged as a critical component that is often forgotten. Concepts that are gaining in popularity and airtime included “homeshoring” and “rural sourcing.”
The Legal Roundtable has grown in interest with more and more companies realising the value of bringing Legal into sourcing contracts earlier in the process. In addition to increasing efficiencies, Legal can also shed light on a variety of issues that impact sourcing and outsourcing delivery and pricing models, including visa restrictions and regulations, and the challenges associated with interpreting visa types (e.g., H1B, L1, TN, etc.) differently.
The Grand Roundtable brought all executives together to hold a collaborative discussion in cross-functional groups. The format at this Summit was slightly different with the executives choosing to participate in three of four Roundtable conversations on different topics, including ‘The Evolution of Sourcing to Encompass Outsourcing’; ‘The Cloud and Outsourcing: Destruction or Creation’; ‘Critical Success Factors of Vendor Management Programs and More’; and ‘Understanding Business Unit Strategic Plans and Delivering to Their Success’.
The “pre”-Summit day concluded with a First-Time Attendee Reception followed by an All-Delegate Welcome Reception on the top floor of the Hyatt Regency Jersey City, with breathtaking views of the New York skyline. As someone who attended the Summits “B.D.” I can attest to the fact that the Welcome Reception used to be held in a smaller venue and was something that you might pop into if you happened to arrive early enough. Now, with two-thirds or more of our delegates already on location, the Welcome Reception is a not-to-be-missed networking opportunity.
With the majority of the presentations taking place on days two and three of the Summit, the opportunities for relationship building and learning accelerated dramatically Wednesday morning. We began the day with a keynote presentation by Ambassador Susan C. Schwab, former US Trade Representative and Presidential Cabinet member, who offered a perspective on the political and governmental implications on the world of sourcing. Ambassador Schwab’s experience in industry, government and academia give her a unique viewpoint on what opportunities companies can leverage to insure against – and take advantage of global trends.
The lunchtime featured speaker, Dr. Philip Hadcroft, provided an in-depth overview on outsourcing in a variety of Asian locations, and specifically China. Dr. Hadcroft’s deep knowledge of the region and engaging Aussie accent had the entire room captivated. The first day of knowledge-sharing was rounded out by breakout sessions on topics ranging from governance to sourcing and outsourcing. As at the last Summit, in order to bring Legal into the conversations earlier in the sourcing process, we have seen an upswing in the number of in-house counsel in attendance. This is, in some part, because of the continuing learning (CLE) credit the lawyers can receive from a variety of great sessions.
As has become tradition, we ended the more formal agenda of the day with SIG’s increasingly-popular “Speed Networking Session,” where the buy-side and sell-side delegates sit on opposite sides of a large circle and have a few moments to meet and exchange business cards before moving on to their next new contact. With nearly 200 people in two large circles, the session was lively, loud and great fun. The fact that it was also cocktail hour didn’t hurt. Worth noting, the Speed Networking Session is really the only place at SIG Summits where “pitching yourself/your company” is allowed. Otherwise, the fact that there are no exhibit halls, no vendor meetings, no offsite sales dinners, and no blatant commercialism allowed anywhere else at the Summit results in more natural conversations and easier-to-develop business relationships based on trust, respect and subject matter expertise.
We wrapped up day two with a dinner in a top-floor “room with a (Manhattan skyline) view,” which proved to be a highlight of the event. Our entertainment for the evening, Mike Rayburn, self-described as the “world’s funniest guitar virtuoso,” was actually much more than that. He was an incredibly talented artist who captivated the entire room with his skilled playing and quick and acerbic wit.
Day three of our Summit began at full attention for those who were lucky enough to hear our final keynote speaker, Colonel Bernard Banks, a West Point leader, Ph.D., and charismatic professional who had the crowd on the edge of their seats as he spoke about developing character-based leaders. In his thoughtful and spot-on presentation, Colonel Banks shared some of the tools used by the military to train young men and women to assume leadership roles, and applied those lessons to corporate opportunities. Colonel Banks’ plenary session packed a powerful punch that was maintained throughout the entire day with another full schedule of breakout sessions with next practice content.
The most highly rated Summit sessions covered a cross-section of issues. One of the hottest topics was on talent management, and included sessions on: worker misclassification; candidate sourcing in the new world of social media recruitment; and the importance of change management in successful procurement transformation. Achieving a higher return on investment from outsourcing as well as the concept of “Vested Outsourcing” resulted in tangible strategies and high ratings, as well as topics on hunting and farming suppliers in effective supplier risk and performance management programs; and managing commodity price volatility through forecasting.
We closed the Summit with a cruise on the Hudson River, where we could fully appreciate the Manhattan skyline, and had an awe-inspiring view of the Statue of Liberty. As I wrap up the highlights of this Summit, we are already well into the planning for many upcoming events, including Regional Roundtables in cities all over North America, International Outsourcing Expeditions (IOEs) to China and Nicaragua, an International Roundtable in Australia, and of course, our next SIG Global Leadership Summit, taking place October 9-11, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where we will have timely discussions on all things sourcing and outsourcing – as well as the implications of the Presidential election on supply chain.