It’s not often that senior procurement executives start their day drawing a picture of their superpower. But that’s just how our fifth Procurement Innovation Network event kicked off in Phoenix at the end of January. This is not your typical workshop. Picture clients and Accenture subject matter specialists armed with markers, sticky notes and journey maps driving the next wave of procurement innovation.

An unconventional experience

The idea that the best innovations happen with our clients, not to them is the guiding principle behind the Procurement Innovation Network. Our goal was to create interactive experiences for small groups of chief procurement officers and senior executives. Think of it as a forum for co-innovation, where peers come together in a collaborative community, providing feedback and validating new products and services and staying connected to each other and to market trends.

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A day in the life of the network

I’ve been involved in several of these events since we started in 2017. I’m always impressed by the types of conversations we have, and by the level of engagement among participants. I attribute this to two important aspects of the Procurement Innovation Network. First, while our focus is on innovation, our conversations go beyond technology. We also explore pressing topics like customer experience and the future workforce—anything that’s keeping the C-suite up at night. Second, we use creative facilitation techniques to challenge people’s thinking—including our own—and to push them to imagine the art of the possible in procurement.

Here’s one example of what this looks like in practice. At the Phoenix event, as we often do, we started one of the sessions with a topic that has nothing to do with procurement. We referenced Michael Lewis’ book-turned-movie Moneyball. This is the story of how the 2002 Oakland A’s used analytics to field a strong team despite having one of Major League Baseball’s lowest payrolls. Nearly twenty years later, this is standard practice among teams.

Grounding participants’ thinking in this story, we asked them to imagine if they had what the A’s did—complete data at their fingertips. What questions would they answer? How would they change their processes? This spurred a lively discussion. People got up from their seats, pinned sticky notes on priority lists taped to the walls, and challenged each other’s ideas.

Creating an innovation community

Attendees consistently tell us that this kind of honest peer-to-peer interaction is one of the highlights of the event. Chief procurement officers rarely get the opportunity to connect with each other in this way, and they value getting cross-industry perspectives.

What’s fascinating too is when you get procurement leaders from across industries together in one place, they find common ground quickly. The important takeaway here is that while procurement organizations may think they are very unique, in fact, they can benefit from tapping into leading practices, solutions and learning from each other.

Bringing new ideas to life—together

For Accenture, the Procurement Innovation Network is an invaluable feedback channel. We ask questions and pose solutions to prompt our clients to confirm, deny or evolve our thinking. It’s insurance against innovating in a vacuum.

A number of important ideas have taken flight thanks to the Network. Last year, we introduced the concept of our digital agent Alma This generated so much interest and feedback that six months later, we have a fully commercialized model. In Phoenix, the group overwhelmingly told us that procurement executives see blockchain more as a future opportunity than as a pressing priority.

As a result of the Procurement Innovation Network, we have five new ideas that we plan to explore further through co-innovation with our clients. What’s especially exciting is that everyone benefits. The most promising innovations would ultimately be available to all of our clients. That’s a long way to come from an idea scrawled on a sticky note. Are you interested in drawing your superpower? What would you draw? Contact us to find out more about how you can participate in the Procurement Innovation Network.

Kristin Ruehle

Global Procurement Business Process Services Offering Lead

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