Sourcing Automation Conference: Keelvar Konnect in Zurich

Sonja Straub

April 6, 2022

Following the success of Konnect in Amsterdam, the next stop for Keelvar Konnect was Zurich on November 6th 2019. Keelvar’s Sourcing Automation Conference drew a full house of procurement professionals from Europe, North and South America. Strategic sourcing with intelligent automation was the theme of the day. Guest speakers from the Construction, Financial Services and Healthcare industries spoke of their journeys to sourcing excellence, while the Keelvar speakers highlighted Keelvar’s development of Sourcing Bots and the milestone of integrating with SAP Ariba. 

Education and learning were front and centre in Zurich, with the relaxed atmosphere lending an open floor approach to the day for the guests from some of the world’s leading enterprises, including Hilti, CRH, Henkel, Sony, Logitech, Grupo Nutresa and Carlsberg to name a few. Questions, answers and discussions spanning industries and categories were amongst the highlights of the event, with attendee engagement welcomed within the presentations of the speakers. 

Toby Hannon, Alan Holland, Alan Gleeson (Keelvar), Armin Scharlach (Oliver Wyman - Global Management Consulting Experts) Jason Brown (SAP Ariba) and Niklas Klarnskou (CRH) at Keelvar Konnect Zurich.

Alan Holland, CEO and Founder of Keelvar opened proceedings with The Journey to Autonomous Procurement. Alan spoke about how autonomous systems are increasingly being given the autonomy to make decisions on behalf of those working in sourcing. Touching on the goal of Keelvar’s Sourcing Bots, he asked “What tasks can we take away so you can focus on the tasks that can’t be automated?”.

To this day, education is a resounding challenge faced by sourcing teams. While educating teams on the benefits sourcing optimization and expressive or rich bid mechanisms is one challenge, the bigger obstacle is the training of these teams to using sourcing tools effectively. Now, instead of learning how to use every part of an esourcing tool, users can simply interact via the chat with the Sourcing bot. 

Niklas Klarnskou, Procurement Technology Director at CRH, delivered a powerful, energetic discussion on Sourcing Optimization and Scale in the Construction Industry. Clear, complete management of expectations with suppliers and executing a game theoretic approach were some of his key focuses on his journey towards sourcing automation. 

Armin Scharlach, Partner & Commercial Director, Oliver Wyman, guided the audience through an insightful presentation entitled, Best Practice in Sourcing: What Various Industries Can Learn from Each Other? Armin delivered great clarity on the many aspects of ensuring success within sourcing teams and therefore in the greater picture of sourcing processes and outcomes. 

Jason Brown, Vice President, Solution Management - Technology, Infrastructure, and Ecosystems at SAP Ariba, took to the stage with Alan Holland, leading SAP Ariba & Keelvar: A Discussion on the Path to Autonomous Procurement.  The eagerly anticipated announcement of Keelvar and SAP Ariba’s integrations stirred the room. Attendees expressed relief and delight at two such powerful solutions joining forces to deliver transparency in sourcing, with SAP Ariba providing a single repository for a 360 view of sourcing activities, and Keelvar's Sourcing Bots bringing speed and excellence to sourcing as well as powerful, advanced analysis capabilities. 

Alan Holland, Keelvar and Jason Brown, SAP Ariba introduce  the new Keelvar & SAP Ariba integration.

With plenty of coffee and Swiss chocolate refreshing the attendees, the Commercial Track and Learning Lab kicked off. The attendees of the Learning Lab joined Keelvar’s CTO John Paul O Gorman and Principal Software Engineer David Devlin for a deep dive and discussion on Sourcing Bots for freight transportation. This closed, intimate round-table session brought together five large (non-competing) enterprises to discuss their Sourcing Bot prototypes that had been built with the Sourcing Bot team. Questions and answers enhanced the interactive demonstrations of these Sourcing Bots, with the Keelvar team sharing insights and recommendations.

The Commercial Track continued in parallel, with Toby Hannon, VP of Sales at Keelvar introducing the audience to Keelvar’s Sourcing Bots, and the success of their deployment in enterprises in Welcome to the New Age: Sourcing Automation in 2019.

The last presentation before lunch, Alan Holland elaborated further with AI Enabled Sourcing, drawing a comparison between Poker Bots and Sourcing Bots. These Bots deliver optimal results consistently, refining their strategies with each poker game or sourcing event.

With deep learning, Sourcing Bots do not require a large historical dataset for training- smaller amounts of clean data provides optimal training conditions for success.

David Stencel, Director of Group Sourcing, Commercial Support and Transformation at UBS then cast some great light upon Best Practice in Sourcing for Financial Services.

With Sourcing Bots using Keelvar’s core sourcing tool, Sourcing Optimizer, to run events, Panos Stavrakos, Senior Analyst at Keelvar walked the attendees through the most powerful aspects of the optimization engine. A careful, impressive combination of advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence form the bedrock of Sourcing Optimizer, enabling a robust scenario analysis when running events. This in turn forms the strong foundation of Keelvar’s Sourcing Bots. Panos explained how Automation will help enterprises to achieve procurement maturity through visibility, control, efficiency and savings. 

With the close of the afternoon’s coffee break, Cristian Jorza, Category Excellence Manager and Sebastien Blandino, Direct, Global Category Lead, of Johnson & Johnson, brought to the table their approach to strategic sourcing with an Introduction to Advanced Sourcing. David Devlin of Keelvar acquainted the attendees with Sourcing Bot Skills & Rapid Bot Development, examining the key benefits of deploying Sourcing Bots.

The differences in using a manual approach, Sourcing Optimizer and Sourcing Automation.

With the automation of tedious manual tasks, consistency in best practice and high levels of adoption, the case was strong. David also touched on the foundational components of Sourcing Bots, before John Paul O Gorman of Keelvar took to the stage.

First up under the spotlight with John Paul was a Demonstration of a Sourcing Bot in action, showcasing some of the key features and demonstrating some of the key benefits to using a Sourcing Bot. Jason Brown then joined John Paul in delivering a discussion and demonstration of the new Integration of SAP Ariba and Keelvar. 

With questions and answers dispersed throughout the presentations, conversations and discussions flowed amongst speakers and attendees during the breaks scattered throughout the day.

No doubt, this was a meeting of the most forward thinking minds of sourcing.

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