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ISM 2017 Conference To Tackle Global Issues, Uncertainty

In about a month, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) will host its 102nd annual conference in Orlando, Florida at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. The ISM Conference is always a big draw for procurement and supply management professionals looking to network, learn best practices from their peers, and hear inspirational speakers from inside and outside of the industry. Ahead of the event, Ardent Partners sat down with ISM’s Chief Content and Engagement Officer, M.L. Peck, to discuss the themes of ISM 2017, the heavyweight speakers who will keynote the three-day event, and what it all says about ISM’s role within the supply management industry.

Now more than ever, enterprises operate within a global economy and as a result, they can be impacted by events that transpire halfway around the world. Issues like conflict, human trafficking, modern slavery, natural disasters, nationalism, protectionism, and terrorism can and frequently do affect organizations that are several times removed from the point of origin. The world is much smaller than it used to be with the rise of the internet and the spread of global supply chains. As a result, enterprises have become increasingly exposed to these and other supply risks, and procurement and supply chain professionals have had to bear more of the responsibility in avoiding or managing them.

ISM is acutely aware of the global risks associated with supply management today, which have been increasing for more than a quarter of a century. As a reflection of this awareness, and in an effort to drive it further, ISM has invited two major international political figures to keynote ISM’s 2017 conference: former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and former U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin Powell (U.S. Army, Retired). Their knowledge and perspectives will be timely given the state of the world today, said M.L, who believes that procurement and supply chain management professionals need to think outside of the procurement box and consider political and economic risks, too.

For David Cameron, the “elephant in the room” will be the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (aka “Brexit”). According to M.L., Mr. Cameron is expected to address Brexit, along with what he believes will be its geopolitical impact, and his vision for a post-Brexit UK. He is also expected to address today’s geopolitical landscape, the political risks in today’s supply chains, and how supply management professionals can best operate in a globalized economy that has begun to experience nationalism and protectionism. After all, Brexit is just one example of a trend that can be seen across Western Europe, and now in the U.S., as workers that have felt left behind in the age of globalization and the post-recession economy reject globalism and seek to re-shore jobs and manufacturing. Beyond Brexit, Mr. Cameron is likely to focus his talk on his work to streamline public procurement in the UK, his advocacy for tackling global anti-corruption, and his support for small businesses.

For Colin Powell, the other “elephant in the room” will be the geopolitical trends in the world today, like terrorism, international conflict, and the threat of future major conflicts, and how they impact global supply management. But, according to M.L., the real “meat” of Gen. Powell’s speech will likely be a discussion on leadership during uncertain times.

Globalism, nationalism, protectionism, and terrorism — to some, these are controversial topics that may elicit strong reactions on either side of a debate. Likewise, Mr. Cameron and Gen. Powell may stir some controversy, given their roles in recent events and their enduring legacies. But as M.L. noted, it is ISM’s job to broach the conversations that procurement and supply management leaders need to have in order to confront today’s business and economic realities, and to do so in an objective, unbiased manner. “Someone has to bring these questions to the forefront,” she said. It is how ISM envisions leading the supply management industry forward.

After all, business does not happen in a bubble; as M.L. noted, the political and geopolitical climate outside of that bubble matters, perhaps to a greater degree today than at any other time. For example, the U.S. government under President Trump has officially withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is seeking to amend the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and has openly considered withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change. These developments have real-world implications not just for organizations in the U.S. but across the globe.

M.L. also pointed out that social media has changed the dynamic of how, and how quickly world leaders can impact international business. Whereas before, it would take a whole news cycle for a leader’s statements to impact business, now, a world leader can merely tweet his/her support for (or criticism of) a company and almost immediately propel (or sink) that company’s stock price. Likewise, world leaders are more accessible today via social media than ever, and organizations and their employees can now directly reach and potentially influence them. According to M.L., ISM members need to understand this changing dynamic and manage the associated risks.

Our conversation with M.L. was enthralling, and as a result, we are very much looking forward to attending ISM 2017 in a month. We hope we’ll see you there.

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