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2019 Annual Letter (Part 2): Art of Procurement In Review

By December 31, 2019 January 22nd, 2020 No Comments

In our first annual letter last year, I wrote that “the first three-quarters of the year were the most difficult months of my professional career”.  So did 2019 fare any better? The short answer – yes! Topline revenue increased 5X and we’re really excited about our plans for 2020.  But it wasn’t all roses. 2019 also had an experience that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy! 

The Art of Procurement Podcast

Our flagship podcast continued to grow this year, and it now has a daily listenership that is the equivalent of the typical large procurement conference.  It is listened to across 170 countries.

The reach of the pod never ceases to amaze me, and in 2020 we’ll be investing to grow it further.  The more people it can reach, the bigger the impact it can have! One thing we do not currently do is “optimize” the content to extend its reach.  We want to cover the topics that we believe are the most important and the most insightful. That means that not every podcast will be of interest to every member of our community, and that’s ok.

Picking my favorite podcast is much like choosing a favorite child! However, here are a selection from throughout the year that I particularly enjoyed:

This Week in Procurement Newsletter

Last year, I wrote that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with our newsletter, This Week in Procurement. We brought it back in the fall, but with a slightly different focus to increase the number of articles that we curate and share from outside of procurement. What can we learn from other functions? Our open rates haven’t changed much – they are in the 20% range. How can we make This Week in Procurement even more compelling in 2020? Have your say and email me to let me know! 

Partnering with Procurement Brands

I’ve wrestled since the very beginning of Art of Procurement in deciding whether or not we accept sponsorships and how to partner with brands to help them increase awareness of their product or message.  This is a challenge around a single issue. Can we maintain an independent opinion while working with other providers in the space.

With this in mind, we launched our brand partnership program in early 2019.  Last year, it involved title sponsorship (TraDove), our AOP Live Webinar Series (Sievo, UNA, Infosys, Ivalua, Per Angusta), a podcast special series (Efficio) and providing onsite thought leadership and panel facilitation at user conferences (Ariba, Ivalua). 

For all content that we co-create, such as our AOP Live webinar series and the podcast special series, we retain full editorial control.  Each engagement has to pass the sniff test – is the content engaging (i.e it is valuable) responsible (it is in keeping with our values and perspectives), and authentic (free of hype)?  Brand partnerships are a small but growing part of our business, and they help us cover the bills that come with creating the podcast and keeping it 100% free.

Bumps in the Road

I mentioned at the beginning of the letter that 2019 was a success, but it wasn’t without bumps in the road.

We planned two major product launches in 2019.

The first was “The 60-Day Catalyst”, a 10-month lunch and learn program where we would create and host a series of training sessions that would be delivered for clients monthly over the course of the year.  We experimented with a different business model: a low cost that is dependent upon a minimum number of signups. We posted the product as a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in early February. Despite interest behind the scenes, the commercial model was a step too far, and the Kickstarter campaign closed without the necessary minimum number of clients.

The second was “AOP Mastermind”.

We released AOP Mastermind over the summer to much fanfare – and an immediate legal challenge. AOP Mastermind redefines how procurement professionals at all levels can develop the strategies, tactics, and commercial skills that they need to elevate their impact – without leaving the office. 

As I wrote last month, we are re-launching AOP Mastermind in 2020 with no changes, and we’ve received a lot of interest from companies about taking part in the initial go-live. I can’t wait to share more in 2020.

Highlights

I’m very thankful for the trust placed in Art of Procurement by the 17 clients that we worked with this year. I mentioned in the introduction that this year has been one of rapid growth, with offerings spanning procurement transformation consulting, category strategy and sourcing support, and programmatic microlearning.  This has allowed us to invest back in the team, and I’m thrilled that my long-time collaborator Kelly Barner is now Art of Procurement’s General Manager. 

I spoke at a number of events in 2019 where I was able to connect with procurement professionals, podcast listeners, and share my passion for the future potential of our profession.

When agonizing over a decision, I often remind people that it isn’t a matter of life or death. For PAHO – the Pan American Health Organization, who are the regional office of the Americas for the World Health Organization, it often is.  I was honored to be asked to inspire their procurement team in the art of the possible in Panama in early September.

I’m also proud that we put a lot of effort at Art of Procurement in “keeping it real”. To us, that means being true to ourselves, and to refrain from engaging in hyperbole that can often be found around the content and social media side of any business. We’ve written a series of values that I’ll be sharing in early 2020 as we go live with our website refresh in January.

As 2020 approaches, we look forward with hope, both for the procurement profession, and Art of Procurement as a business. These are exciting times for procurement.  The opportunity is there for us to be an integral part of the organizations we serve – let’s make 2020 the year we redefine the art of the possible for procurement! 

To read Part 1 of our 2019 Annual Letter, which focused on the procurement profession, click here.