October 14, 2019
Column | outbound

Be present

There's no doubt that today's digital tools have enhanced our capabilities to do business. But they haven't replaced the value of being there.

By Mitch Mac Donald

As we hurriedly sift through emails, text messages, workflow chat streams, webinars, and a host of other digital communication and skills-development tools, there is the occasional reminder that the foundation of business success is still personal relationships and old-fashioned face-to-face meetings.

The most recent reminder of that came from our recent trip to the 2019 Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Edge Conference in Anaheim, California. Over the course of three and a half days, nearly 3,000 supply chain executives from more than 40 countries took the opportunity to directly engage with their peers, share ideas, discover new strategies, and see the latest in enabling technologies at the companion Supply Chain Exchange trade show.

With over 30 hours of high-quality educational sessions and 25-plus hours set aside for networking, the annual CSCMP conference is designed to help attendees keep current and stay competitive. By that measure, it's a slam-dunk success. The annual pilgrimage to CSCMP leaves those who make the journey better prepared for the present and the future, putting those who don't make the trek at a potential disadvantage.

Being there and meeting face to face provides tangible benefits that simply cannot be replicated digitally. "The internet is a wonderful thing, and it provides us with a vast resource of information," notes CSCMP President and CEO Rick Blasgen. "But it doesn't provide the same opportunities as engaging with peers and thought leaders in person."

Blasgen likens the role of his association to that of an electric power company. "We are the wire between the switch and the light," he says. "You flip a switch, and the light goes on. You don't call your power company and thank them. It just magically happens. Associations like ours function much the same way. If you need something, you can contact CSCMP and we'll help you find what you need. We have the connections that can help people succeed. Members just have to flip the switch."

Whether it's the educational sessions, thought-provoking keynotes, dedicated networking hours, or meetings with exhibitors at the Supply Chain Exchange, attendees benefit from hearing the thoughts, perspectives, and experiences of their fellow supply chain professionals.

That, Blasgen says, is just how it is intended to be. "One of the great virtues of CSCMP is that it is a community. It's a family of people willing to share."

And while the educational sessions remain the hallmark of the annual conference, the growing interest in and value of the trade-show component was clearly evident in Anaheim. "If you walk down the aisles of the Supply Chain Exchange show floor, you'll see the companies that are building [some of today's most innovative equipment and systems]," says Blasgen. "It's just fascinating how fast some of these tools are being developed and how supply chain professionals are putting them to use. We call it the 'SCE' for a reason. We want people to exchange information and exchange knowledge. Those are the conversations that are really highlighted here."

And that's what you keep seeing, hearing, and experiencing at CSCMP's annual Edge event. People are engaged. People are learning. People are connecting in a way that provides far greater value than any connections they might make with today's digital tools. These tools may enable us to do more, do it faster, and, we hope, do it better, but they cannot match the value of being present and meeting face to face.

Next year, CSCMP will bring its conference to Orlando, Florida. Put it on your calendar now. Don't let anything keep you from making it to the event. It is important to be connected, but even more important to be present.

About the Author

Mitch Mac Donald
Group Editorial Director
Mitch Mac Donald has more than 30 years of experience in both the newspaper and magazine businesses. He has covered the logistics and supply chain fields since 1988. Twice named one of the Top 10 Business Journalists in the U.S., he has served in a multitude of editorial and publishing roles. The leading force behind the launch of Supply Chain Management Review, he was that brand's founding publisher and editorial director from 1997 to 2000. Additionally, he has served as news editor, chief editor, publisher and editorial director of Logistics Management, as well as publisher of Modern Materials Handling. Mitch is also the president and CEO of Agile Business Media, LLC, the parent company of DC VELOCITY and CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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