The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has warned in a new report that procurement professionals who fail to develop new skills are at ‘medium risk’ (42%) of seeing their current roles replaced by automated technology. The report, which assessed a proportion of 20 million UK jobs facing a probability of becoming automated in the foreseeable future, found that purchasing managers and directors faced a relatively low risk of 32%.
The lower the skill level of a job, the higher the risk of it being completed more efficiently by automated machinery, the study concluded. The ONS defines high risk as above 70% probability of automation, medium risk as 30%-70%, and low risk as 30% or less. Approximately 1.5 million of the jobs assessed were at high risk of automation, 13 million at medium risk, and 5.5 million at low risk. The ONS said: “It is not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function. The risk of automation tends to be higher for lower-skilled roles for this reason.”
The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) said that the procurement profession needs to adapt to emerging technology by moving away from a ‘functional mindset’ toward the development of human aptitudes that machines cannot emulate, such as strategic and relationship-building skills. The arts of strategic sourcing and ethical, tactful supply relationship management are perhaps becoming more important than ever. CIPS believes that to survive and thrive, procurement practitioners must embrace new agility and resilience to cope with rapid change, including new skillsets, which it says “will be the hallmark of a true professional of the future.”
Machines can’t yet ‘do’ empathy and read relationships as humans can. But as digital procurement transformation gathers pace, becoming proficient with digital technologies and machine learning may shortly be essential.