The team felt chatbot technology has the potential to provide the most value to procurement ©badboo/123RF
The team felt chatbot technology has the potential to provide the most value to procurement ©badboo/123RF

The future of procurement…

…by procurement's young talent. Where future CPOs see the profession going

The CIPS Professional Services Specialist Knowledge Group (SKG) recently set a challenge to younger procurement professionals among its member organisations: how can we make procurement more agile?

“The initial idea was to find a way that we could provide a development opportunity to high potential procurement talent,” says the SKG’s chair Chris Emberton, who is procurement director at law firm Clifford Chance. “We were not prescriptive on the deliverable. They needed to bring a fresh perspective to solving the problem.”

The group of nine presented their findings at the SKG annual meeting, hosted by Clifford Chance and exploring the theme of Procurement 4.0. They took the approach of splitting the procurement agility challenge into three areas: people, process and technology.

People
The group agreed that although technology would radically change the role of procurement, the relational and judgement skills of people would not be easily replaced. To be more agile, the focus needs to be on removing blockers, using technology and process changes, and adding value via uniquely human skills. These key future skills will include influencing, networking, collaboration and pragmatism. 

Process
Procurement needs to move away from being seen as slowing down processes. The group developed an agile procurement methodology, separating deals into high complexity/low agility, where high levels of governance and due diligence are required, and low complexity/high agility, which would enable a greater degree of automation. They developed tools to help, like a one page RFP and a contract ‘cheat sheet’ of commonly misunderstood terms, to educate suppliers and stakeholders. 

Technology
The team designed and built a chatbot, feeling that this technology had the potential to provide the most value across the different areas of procurement, driving innovation and increasing productivity. The chatbot, which was demonstrated live, was able to answer those often quite simple queries that can take up a large part of a procurement professional’s time, freeing them up to focus on more valuable tasks. 

“The final outcome of the challenge exceeded all expectations,” Emberton says. “It was clear we were seeing procurement future leaders in action.” 

Procurement 4.0 working group

• Alexandra Barbus, procurement operations team leader, Freshfields 

• Rupa Bhatt, category manager, Pinsent Masons

• Alicia Caley, IT strategic sourcing specialist, KPMG

• Laura Davidson, supplier relationship manager, Tesco Underwriting 

• Laura Gardiner, global procurement specialist, Clyde & Co

• Jack Greenwood, procurement manager, Clifford Chance

• Aman Somal, IT procurement manager, Clifford Chance

• Rebecca Thomas, HR sourcing, Linklaters

• Rhiannon Willis, IT vendor manager, Linklaters

CIPS professional Services Specialist Knowledge Group

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