IDA welcomes the The Procurement Italian Community: interview with Maria Teresa Bongiovanni

Today we meet Maria Teresa Bongiovanni, Ceo & Co-founder of The Procurement, the Italian community of Chief procurement officers of the major companies operating in Italy, to which it offers numerous congresses, activities and services for their professional growth and that of their teams.

IDA: Welcome Maria Teresa, what can be said about yourself and your professional path?

Maria Teresa Bongiovanni: First of all, I have to say that as a publisher like The Procurement, with the publication of its quarterly magazine, it makes a certain effect to find yourself on the side of the interviewee and I thank IDA for this opportunity. As for me, I prefer talking about myself through the words of our community of CPOs, who say that in what I do I put an energy and an inexhaustible and engaging enthusiasm, as also demonstrated by the growth of The Procurement.

IDA: From what idea and with what mission the Procurement Italia come about?

Maria Teresa Bongiovanni: It wasn’t my idea at first. About 20 years ago, I joined a project that was already underway, which started as a journalistic initiative with the goal of creating a community of procurement directors, like those already existing for the marketing, finance, and HR functions.

At that time, procurement was particularly underrated and so the desire to create a newspaper was born, the first Italian magazine dedicated to this function, enriched with in-depth spaces curated by consultants and supply chain management professors.

I joined the project to take care of the sponsorships and, while organizing the first events dedicated to procurement, I have discovered that there were many interesting topics to address.

However, these meetings were too rigid, and among the procurement directors I noticed a certain reluctance to converse with each other. I then began to realize that beyond the quality of the proposed content something was missing, a bond that made participants feel part of a community.

Meanwhile, the project moved away from its initial purpose and, when it ended, I decided to put my hands in the dough and try again with a different spirit, so as not to lose the relationships that, in the meantime, I had built with many CPOs.

IDA: Over the years, various communities and initiatives dedicated to procurement have emerged. On which pillars have you decided to develop yours? What qualifies it and makes it unique?

Maria Teresa Bongiovanni: My thought is that The Procurement Italia must be the house of the Procurement managers, where they can meet up with colleagues from different companies and sectors, driven not only by the need to confront but also by the more human pleasure of conviviality they have developed over the years, as if they were a group of friends who also share a few jokes and a glass of wine.

I think that this atmosphere that we have managed to create is the success of our community, the poetry that is present in all our summits, from the most popular annual congresses, such as those dedicated to innovation and sustainability, to the evening meetings designed to present our partner’s specific solutions.

Unlike other companies, we also dedicate ourselves exclusively to the procurement and supply chain world. As I often say, every day we offer to eat bread and procurement, trying to serve it at its best, enriching the number of dishes especially at times when CPOs are called to respond to important challenges, such as in recent years.

As our manifesto says, our aim is to support the growth of the procurement culture through original contents; to believe in the key role of procurement especially in the context of geopolitical and economic stress; to build alliances with Italian and foreign partners and sponsors; promote the debate and confrontation on the most urgent questions concerning our CPOs, from the technological innovation to the relationship with suppliers, the sustainability of their supply chains and the actual national and European laws like the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDD), recently approved.

IDA: A few years ago, The Procurement became a benefit company. What does this evolution mean for those who are part of it and for your daily commitment to the community?

Maria Teresa Bongiovanni: I would say it was a natural growth, the result of years of work in providing support to a function that is still struggling, at least in Italy, to be recognized in all the strategic value it can play.

We have developed a new awareness about our role as aggregators of a qualified network, as amplifiers of good practices and propagators of original visions.

When we say that we want the culture of the purchasing world to grow, we think that this can only happen thanks to the creation of a collective conscience, which leads us all to pursue the common good. So, if it is true that procurement has a strategic role, it follows that it has also huge responsibilities towards the company and the society when it needs to make the decisions.

In addition, we have seen how our new status facilitates a certain harmony with other organizations that are also benefit companies.

IDA: This interview is intended to be a first meeting point between our respective communities, that of The Procurement and that of DSA. What are the points of contact that unite us?

Maria Teresa Bongiovanni: For us, 2024 is the year in which we start “getting serious” with artificial intelligence. This is demonstrated by the fact that last February, for the first time, we gave ample space to AI at our annual congress, in its 8th edition and hosted in Milan at the PwC HQ, dedicated to the technological disruption in procurement. On that occasion, we also asked you, Luca, to take the stage and tell us about your idea of artificial intelligence.

From that meeting it became clear, on the one hand, that this technological evolution is an issue that concerns everyone and requires a common effort, and on the other hand, that it becomes intelligent only when we make it a useful tool, capable of supporting our decisions and freeing ourselves from actions with low added value.

It is on the decision-making process that CPOs need support, especially in this moment of geopolitical instability, between wars and new economic balances, which Harvard Business School recently called “the great reallocation”.

For this reason, we find that in the operational research promoted by DSA, procurement can find valid help, complementary to the use of new technologies, in making optimal decisions.

Moreover, taking up a recent article published in your IDA newspaper, dedicated to 2024 trends, we can only agree with your forecasts that see a transformation in terms of efficiency and transparency of supply chains thanks to the integration of advanced technologies, a growing relevance on the necessary reduction of Scope 3 emissions and an evolution of the CPO in entrepreneurial end-to-end value.

In summary, I see three aspects that we have in common: the goal of developing content capable of addressing the respective communities; creating synergistic relationships with academic realities, advisors, companies, startups, etc. to build vibrant ecosystems; enhancing Stem disciplines for a thorough understanding of the world around us and to fuel corporate prosperity.

IDA: With the presence of The Procurement at the International Summer Conference, organized by DSA on June 6th and 7th in Valencia, what kind of message do you want to pass?

Maria Teresa Bongiovanni: Participating in this event means for us to project our community into an international context, often more advanced and far-sighted, from which we can learn a lot.

We certainly want to be rooted in the Italian territory, knowing its potential and critical features: an industrial structure that sees a small number of large and very large “chain-leader” companies and a majority of SMEs, where procurement is not yet structured, and which perhaps may be part, in turn, of industrial districts or are dowels of large supply chains.

That said, it is important to open up to new realities, including foreign ones, to identify best practices to share with the community. In fact, this is the intent we also propose with the annual organization of our The Procurement awards and with the Italian Digital Procurement (IDP), a leading event designed to present the best high-tech solutions which we have also included in our new Techmap, that today collects over 100 tech solutions divided into 10 application areas, such as data & analytics,  contract management, sustainability, supply chain, process planning, risk management, all described according to criteria such as project implementation capacity and costs.

In Valencia we will bring the best of  The Procurement’s experience and it will be an opportunity to start shaping this triangulation between new technologies, procurement and supply chain and decision science, to support the CPO in their daily creation of that famous “added value” that, as we pointed out at the opening of our “Procurement & Innovation congress” this year,  “is what of our thought and work we are not willing to delegate, is that essential human garrison, without which artificial intelligence loses intelligence”.

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