Print Share Home

Inside Supply Management Magazine Masthead


Learn Today How to Be the Solution Tomorrow


John Yuva
John Yuva is editor for Inside Supply Management®

March 2013, Inside Supply Management® Vol. 24, No. 2, page 18

Take control of your professional development and career path by attending ISM's Annual International Supply Management Conference.

Is there ever a time to stop learning new things, especially as it relates to our career? The answer should be a resounding, "No, there is not." Many career fields not only encourage but also require professionals to participate in professional development opportunities and maintain current credentials — procurement and supply chain management should be no different. With ever-changing international regulations, geopolitical environments and technological offerings, it's become a necessity to pursue the latest educational offerings in the profession.

Understanding this, ISM's 98th Annual International Supply Management Conference in Dallas/Ft. Worth from April 28-May 1, 2013, brings together those thought-leaders and procurement and supply chain management practitioners who are changing the face of the profession. With the theme "Be the Solution," the Conference intends to do just that — offer solutions over four days that you can implement in your organization for greater efficiencies and outcomes, and become the solution, yourself.

Thomas W. Derry, Institute for Supply Management™ CEO in Tempe, Arizona, says he knew it was the right theme as soon as it was presented. "There's never been a time in the history of our profession — and ISM will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015 — where the strategic contribution of what we do has been more recognized and relied upon for driving results," he says. "That's why the 'Be the Solution' concept has so powerfully connected with our audience."

The event is the largest and most important gathering of procurement and supply management practitioners in the world. With such luminaries as Condoleezza Rice and Hau L. Lee, Ph.D., MS, MSc, presenting keynote addresses, Conference attendees can expect leading-edge, thought-provoking perspectives on the business world and supply chain management.

ISM is accomplishing this with a three-pronged approach — one that transforms previous Conference-planning strategies. Word is getting out, says Derry. "Registration for the Dallas/Ft. Worth Conference at this point is well ahead of prior years. And more exhibitors and sponsors are signing up as they learn about our investment in the event," he says. "Back in the office, the staff is having a great time making all this positive change happen and watching it pay off in a bigger and better event than ever." Here is how it's happening.

First, a focus on and commitment to content. ISM's Conference Leadership Committee (CLC) plays an integral role in Conference content decision-making. Composed of some of the leading thinkers in the field of procurement and supply chain management, the CLC actively recruits and develops the best speakers on the topics they know are top-of-mind in the profession today. Derry had the opportunity to witness and experience the dedication of the committee while participating in his first CLC planning session last September. "This is the group that put in the new directed-content strategy," says Derry. "And we know that strategy is working because the satisfaction scores from attendees have reached an all-time high and are 22 percent higher than they were just three years ago."

Judy Baranowski, director for AlixPartners LLP in Southfield, Michigan, and chair of the ISM Conference Leadership Committee, says the committee expanded the team of executives involved in content selection. "We wanted to reach into different industries and different parts of the economy to make sure we identified the right blend of topics for attendees," she explains.

She adds the CLC is fully committed to continuing its support of young professionals, as well. Companies are realizing the key to future success is a strong, nimble supply chain. The future procurement and supply chain management leaders are those learning about the field in today's classrooms and taking responsibility for smaller elements of the organization. "As they grow in their careers, their span of control is going to increase," says Baranowski. "The CLC wants to ensure that it provides the right support to help develop the best talent for businesses and organizations."

The theme "Be the Solution" and its corresponding content are very applicable to today's business challenges and opportunities. Baranowski agrees that it's vital for procurement and supply chain management professionals to understand current trends, manners in which companies are addressing critical issues, and how to take that knowledge and put it into action when they return to the job. "The supply chain is so impactful to businesses in terms of their customer satisfaction, competitiveness and overall profitability that supply professionals owe it to themselves and their organization to stay in tune with the leading edge," says Baranowski. "Getting out and sharing those thoughts and listening to those ideas from others becomes a critical part of every individual's personal professional development plan."

With 10 learning tracks for attendees to build their Conference experience around — ranging from best practices, to essential skills, to supplier strategies — there's ample opportunity to increase one's expertise as well as expand into new knowledge areas. Because of the pace of change occurring in the marketplace and the necessary agility required of companies and their supply chains to respond appropriately, the CLC creates tracks representative of today's challenges and emerging trends.

All the tracks are led by a supply chain management thought-leader who is a subject-matter expert. "The track leaders represent some of the best minds and most experienced professionals in our field," says Derry. "If I had to pick just one new innovation to highlight, it would be the new 'Game Changers' track, developed by Dr. Bernd Huber, who heads the eSourcing Center of Excellence for Google Germany. Google is a company that knows something about innovation and game changers."

Second, a focus on the big picture. One of the greatest strengths of procurement and supply chain management practitioners is their ability to analyze marketplace and business conditions through a macro lens. Success in the profession requires a global perspective to evaluate potential issues and strategize. The ISM Annual International Supply Management Conference is the ideal venue to step back from day-to-day requirements and assess personal and company outlooks within the global landscape.

Image of ISM Conference Attendee Demographics

This is a goal of the Conference, says Derry, by attracting keynote speakers who allow you to put your initiatives and priorities in the context of what's happening politically, economically and within the dynamics of our constantly evolving profession.

Take Condoleezza Rice, for example, the Denning Professor in Business and the Economy in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. "People know her as a former national security adviser and then Secretary of State in the Bush administration. But she has also been a board director at Chevron, which boasts one of the most admired procurement functions in the industry," says Derry. "She will speak to the geopolitical and other factors at work in our world that we need to be mindful of as we plan for the future of our profession."

Another impressive keynote speaker and a figure well-known in the field of procurement and supply chain management is Hau Lee, Thoma Professor of Operations, Information and Technology, as well as director of the Stanford Institute for Innovations in Developing Economies, and director of the Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. "Dr. Lee is basing his talk on how best-in-class supply organizations are positioning themselves to be more effective within the accelerating pace of change in business today," says Derry.

Lee understands firsthand the importance of being macro-focused and seeing the big picture. He says the ISM Conference offers a great opportunity and stepping stone for those in the profession who want to be regarded as solution-makers in their firms. Reaching that level, however, requires overcoming two types of boundaries — functional and organizational. "Functions within companies are not as rigid; you see much more overlap and joint teams. Supply chain management professionals must adopt a broad vision beyond their functional area and learn how to work in a multifunctional setting," says Lee. "The same holds true about organizational boundaries. When you talk about product design and innovation, the focus must expand beyond a company design team philosophy because suppliers have design capabilities, too."

The ISM Conference, says Lee, is a place where these types of discussions are occurring. The cross-company and cross-industry sessions at the Conference can spark new ideas and enable us to devise different approaches to solve problems. "For people's personal development, the learning that occurs within your own company is important, but it's not sufficient," says Lee. "With such a rapidly changing business world, the Conference provides accelerated learning outside your comfort zone and the company boundary. And the network you establish at the Conference will lead to future learning opportunities and growth in professional capabilities through your association with people you meet."

An area outside the company boundary that has critical importance for ISM members, their companies and countries around the world is global economics. Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist for The Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, New Jersey, serves as another valuable keynote speaker who will educate as well as entertain attendees on the finer points of the economy.

Baumohl anticipates growth in both the U.S. and global economies, due largely in part to the reduced threat of a eurozone breakup and steps by China and Japan to aggressively stimulate their economies. "Businesses will be seeing strong growth domestically and overseas, increasing the demand for goods. Supply chain management professionals will need to ensure all the materials, inventory and commodities needed to satisfy increased demand are available in a timely manner," says Baumohl. "They will also have to continue their role in carefully monitoring their organizations' distribution and supply chain systems. Too often in the past two years, we have seen supply management organizations caught off-guard because they did not adequately anticipate shocks that occur around the world." Baumohl is sure to provide strategies for economic variables throughout this year — all of which can serve attendees and their companies well.

Third, a focus on attendees' Conference experience. ISM is taking great care to ensure Conference attendees have an enjoyable and stress-free experience. The attention to detail begins in the registration area and expands throughout the venue and within the general sessions. "We're using new, best-in-class technology for the Dallas/Ft. Worth Conference to greatly reduce long registration lines," says Derry. "We have also invested in improving the overall look and feel of the Conference, and I think you'll notice that in our new ISM Booth, which will be the hub of activity and discussion in the Exhibit Hall. You'll also notice it in the production quality of our general sessions."

This is an exciting time at ISM, and its Annual International Supply Management Conference in Dallas/Ft. Worth is an opportunity for Conference attendees to share in that excitement. There is no better time than now to elevate your procurement and supply chain management skills and strategies. ISM exists to serve the profession and provide you, our members, with best practices and leading-edge perspectives in your pursuit of professional excellence. We look forward to seeing you at the Conference.

For more information, send an e-mail to

Back to Top