Key Analyst Takeaways from Tradeshift's Copenhagen Innovation Summit
Levvel Research was invited to attend Tradeshift’s fourth exclusive Innovation Summit, called “Designing for Change” held in Copenhagen on June 13-14, 2019. The following post provides an overview of the event and a Levvel Research analyst’s key insights.
Last month, Levvel Research was invited to Copenhangen. The Danish capital is a city of significance as it is the birthplace of Tradeshift, a company that began in a modest garage in 2005 and has grown rapidly to a unicorn status company with global reach. Just as its previous iterations, this Innovation Summit was an exciting event overall, this time inspired by its location in the heart of the city of design.
The focus of the Summit was design and change—how designing solutions that are flexible and fluid in our current digital and changing world is key to gaining a competitive advantage. Tradeshift’s Founder and CEO, Christian Lanng, painted a picture of our world today: how we are living in a time of unprecedented turbulence, navigating currents from climate change and trade patterns to politics and technology. Lanng touched on how, within a supply chain, customer demands, employee expectations, and supplier relationships are always in flux. Despite all of these changes, supply chain models and processes have not adapted to the current state—but Tradeshift is trying to address the outdated nature of procurement with their platform. At the Summit, Tradeshift highlighted their approach of design for change, where design follows function and change ultimately affects all aspects of business and life.
An Overview of Summit Events
Roy Anderson took the helm of the two-day summit, offering clever quips and insights drawn from his experience has a chief procurement officer. Over the course of the summit, several speakers shared their perspectives. David Fellah, the Chairman and co-founder of the Strategic Design Group, emphasized how adaptive design thinking must be at the core of every business interaction, and how Tradeshift embodies this tenet. Fellah pointed out that designing for the sake of change is meaningless; the “change” must be relevant to those both inside and outside of the organization.
A customer panel gave attendees a glimpse into how Tradeshift adopters had embraced the role of changemaker at their respective companies because of an unavoidable need for more transparency, consistency, and efficiency in their procurement processes. The panel spoke to how it was critical to proactively digitize and automate business processes, as well as be agile and courageous when considering organizational change.
Justin Dillon represented FRDM (pronounced “freedom”), a Tradeshift partner that helps consumers understand their connections to various ethical challenges in today’s fraught economy. By reverse engineering purchasing, FRDM creates greater transparency so organizations can make better decisions regarding their supply chain. Ahmed Mazhari from Genpact, another Tradeshift partner, emphasized the importance of learning about market changes and adapting quickly.
Later on, breakout sessions included a deep dive into Tradeshift’s use of AI and big data, a design workshop discussing how to use technology to reduce friction in supply chains, and offsite visits. These offsite sessions showcased the innovative and impressive architectural design created and harnessed for various purposes in Copenhagen, including Amager Bakke, a new waste management plant that also doubles as a year-round ski slope.
All of the speakers, panels, and workshops touched on the opportunities that lie in supply chain management today, and how Tradeshift has designed their solution with a focus on preparing for change at the forefront. While no supply chain is perfect, Tradeshift’s goal is to help organizations get as close as they can by offering a platform that supports one resilience and agility through turbulence.
Designing for Outcomes
Tradeshift’s platform and its products, including Pay, Cash, Buy, and Go, are all designed with the goal to drive outcomes with the end-user in mind. Tradeshift’s approach of design is focusing not on a product, but instead on results for a user tackling currents of change. This focus aligns with their stance on successful digital transformation, which they assert must be adaptive and collaborative.
Tradeshift’s underlying intelligence layer, Ada, blends AI and ML to optimize coding, spend categorizations, seller selection, and other decisions, similar to other advanced software providers. However, Tradeshift has gone a step further and has boldly moved toward a more innovative, almost futuristic goal, which is to completely automate decision-making in AP and procurement and removing the need for those standalone departments. They claim that 90% of decisions can be automated within 3 years by optimizing processes and interactions with software. By blending Ada with human interactions and decisions, Tradeshift aims to transform the way AP and procurement processes are completed. Like Tradeshift, Levvel Research believes that automation in both AP and procurement are critical to success, but with much of the market still struggling with paper, it’s difficult to see Tradeshift’s vision becoming reality even in 5 years.
However, it’s clear that “Innovation Summit” is no misnomer for this event. Tradeshift has consistently showcased their innovative outlook in supply chain finance and procurement, and it was certainly the case here, where they delved into their design-centric and outcome-based mindset. Tradeshift’s drive is fueled by the creativity of Copenhagen and, by embracing change and teaching customers to follow their lead, it positions them competitively for transforming the rest of the P2P world.