Digital procurement transformation is reconfiguring the skillsets needed for new-generation procurement to function well, rendering many junior roles and traditional procurement tactics obsolete, experts forecast.
Anglian Water Services’ head of direct procurement, Karen Thompson, believes that more procurement professionals will be drawn from outside the function – people who, as she puts it, “have never set foot in procurement before.” She told attendees at the recent CIPS Business Briefing in Manchester on digital transformation that core procurement functions, such as strategic category management, are being radically altered by digital technology, adding: “Some of the best category managers I’ve come across come from an engineering background. Some of the best examples I can think of when it comes to analytics actually come from an insurance background. We need to think outside the box. People don’t realise you don’t have to start from the bottom in procurement.”
Also speaking at the event, procurement software expert, Warren Hallworth, pointed out that excellent cutting-edge technologies with stupendous analytics capabilities are unlikely to deliver their full potential unless the people using them are equipped with the knowledge to extract maximum value from them. Tools providing spend analytics, in other words, are of little use unless their output can be properly interpreted.
The power of advanced technology to consign previously manual and laborious processes to obsolescence was illustrated by Dale Turner, director of procurement and supply chain at Skanska UK. Whereas in the past, each of Skanska’s 2,000 commercial vehicles had to be manually checked every day using paper-based documents to record the maintenance or repairs needed, a basic ‘walkaround’ app has revolutionised the task. The app simply requires someone to walk around taking pictures of the vehicles, which are then automatically transmitted along with automatically set-up dates for work or maintenance. A process taking hours has been reduced to minutes. Procurement professionals of the near future, it seems, will need to become tech-savvy to maintain their value.