Big firms hit by senior buyer crisis

16 October 2002
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17 October 2002 | David Arminas

Big European companies are suffering a massive skills shortage in senior buyers, according to a major international survey.

More than three-quarters of respondents to a survey carried out by consultancy Accenture said they found it difficult to recruit qualified senior buyers. The survey of 126 western European companies with global revenues of more than e1 billion also revealed that two-thirds found it difficult to recruit buyers and sourcing analysts.

The skills most in demand were communication and teamwork, integrity and ethics, and supplier negotiations. E-procurement and IT skills were among the least important requirements, according to the report, The Buying Organisation of the Future, based on firms in Italy, Germany, France and the UK.

Alex Milward, a partner at Accenture in the UK, said the crisis was due to increased globalisation, mergers and acquisitions and the relentless pressure for corporate-wide savings. He told SM: "There is a greater demand for senior buyers to have a combination of managerial, functional, technical and analytical skills."

Skills shortages usually mean salary hikes, but Milward said pay would rise markedly only when senior buyers were able to show they could improve profits.

He said senior managers' confidence in the ability of purchasers to improve results had been tainted by the failure of expensive e-procurement projects. "The legacy of e-procurement, when it was touted as the answer to all their prayers, has been holding back senior managers' belief that purchasing can make a difference," he added.

Despite the skills shortage, the report says companies have been slow to invest in training within procurement departments and have been filling the posts with people from other areas. Nearly a quarter of firms looked to sales and marketing when recruiting purchasers, while just 4.8 per cent turned to their supply chain departments.

Andy Ince, a senior consultant at the agency Purchasing and Supply Recruitment, said the ideal candidate for most companies is someone in the same job at a rival firm. "As a result, companies are restrictive of who they recruit and will often reject buyers of other goods and services, even in their own firms."

• To obtain a copy of the report, contact Accenture on 020 7844 2810


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