Buyers 'ignore technology-driven progress at their peril'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
5 November 2015

Supplier performance management software and predictive analytics are the two technologies most likely to be implemented by firms within the next two years, according to a survey.

Xchanging said 12 per cent of firms intended to introduce the technologies in the medium term, while online auctions were the least popular technology, with 46 per cent “unlikely to ever implement” them.

The results came from a survey of 830 purchasing decision makers across the UK, Europe and North America, part of Xchanging’s 2015 Global Procurement Study.

The survey found savings tracking (77 per cent) and spend analytics (76 per cent) were the most widely implemented technologies, while top investment priorities around technology were process enhancement, automation and talent development.

A report said eight in 10 respondents identified “procurement team time pressures” as a challenge, with 20 per cent calling it a “major” challenge. “Technology that automates and enhances processes will ease the pressures and demands currently placed on procurement manpower,” said the report.

In terms of supply chain, predictive analytics and the internet of things (IoT) “are expected to be most revolutionary technologies”, with eight in 10 respondents stating both would have an impact.

Xchanging found “aptitude for technology” was only ranked as the sixth most important skill in procurement departments, despite “talent development” being cited as the third most important technology investment. The report said this suggested “when procurement professionals look at technology as a whole they recognise the importance of developing talent”, but “when they look at the desired skills of the procurement function in isolation an aptitude for technology is overlooked”.

Relationship management and negotiation skills were ranked the most important skills.

Luke Spikes, Xchanging’s procurement technology spokesman, said: “The supply chain landscape is increasingly global, and IoT can enable businesses to track the exact whereabouts and the condition of goods in transit, automatically monitor inventory levels to manage cash flow more efficiently, and remove human error from the process.

“Predictive analytics will drive a far more strategic approach to sourcing. For example, enabling hedging on the price of raw materials to become a daily part of the procurement process – as well as creating further opportunities for automation to increase accuracy and efficiency.”

He added: “Procurement leaders ignore technology-driven progress at their peril. If they don’t seize the opportunity, they will quickly fall behind their competitors. The adoption of new technologies – alongside a continued focus on the value and expertise of procurement professionals – will ensure the function remains a strategic, indispensable part of their organisation.”

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