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A successful first virtual World Café 30.04.2020: Tallinn, Estonia

The World Café connects experienced purchasing and supply management experts to look into the future by exchanging experiences, best practices, and ideas related to purchasing skills and competencies in the case of Industry 4.0. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the best choice for the World Café is to use advanced ZOOM Video and Web conferencing platform with breakout rooms option. This option allows to have small groups within the main call, so the larger group could be divided efficiently by the facilitator.

Purchasing managers and executives from Estonia were invited by PERSIST project team to the virtual World Café on 30.04.2020. There were about 10 company participants. All PERSIST project organizations had their own researchers also on board since they did not want to miss interesting discussions and there was a need for multiple moderators for every discussion table.

Holger Schiele and Maksim Dolgin welcomed the participants warmly. They also gave a brief introduction to the Industry 4.0 and World Café method. This ensured the common understanding of the topic and let the participants to concentrate on topic when the technical method was clear to them. Participants also introduced themselves in this starting stage.

After introduction, participants were divided on three tables so that they could discuss in small groups. After 15-20 minutes, they were moved to the next table. The purchasing and supply management function will be affected by the arrival of Industry 4.0 (i.e. Internet of Things or Machine-to-machine communication) and Artificial Intelligence (AI or Machine learning), and the project team wanted the participants to dig deeper on these themes.

The questions asked on the tables were the following:

Table 1) Which new purchasing roles I4.0 creates?

Table 2) Which new skills are needed for strategic sourcing?

Table 3) Which new skills are needed for operative procurement?

During the table discussions, moderators wrote down the responses in Excel sheets. After all three rounds, the tables were switched off by facilitator. Then everyone returned to the main call and had an opportunity to vote best responses for each question. Before voting, each moderator had a brief summary about discussions and responses. Each participant had 7 votes per question, and ZOOM allowed them to mark their votes on the screen. This was revolutionary from project team’s opinion since it imitated very closely the World Cafés that have been arranged previously face-to-face in other projects. After the formal World Café, the participants were encouraged to give feedback. The main comments were positive, and the themes were received as interesting. Lessons to be learnt for the project team was time management since the meeting ended half an hour later than planned. This shortcoming will be considered in upcoming events by the project team. Overall, the detailed planning and pre-testing of virtual World Café had its reward as interesting, professional and productive event. Thousand thanks for the project team for the detailed preparation and implementation of this event. But above all, great thanks for our active purchasing and supply management professionals for their time and effort in the virtual World Café! Regardless of hard times, the project took again one step forward in its work.