Procurement should look outside the function for new talent

Digitalisation will bring many benefits to the procurement function but it will also mean procurement skillsets need to change, according to industry leaders.

Karen Thompson, head of direct procurement at Anglian Water Services, said as digital capabilities grow, junior positions and traditional procurement tactics could become obsolete, with more procurement professionals being hired from outside of the function.

Speaking at the CIPS Business Briefing on digitally transforming supply in Manchester, she said: “We will potentially need to be attracting professionals who have never set foot in procurement before. When we think about the role of strategic category management for example, is it more about knowing the seven steps or is it about knowing your category, knowing your market, knowing your stakeholders and your users?

“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.”

Warren Hallworth, director of consulting at consultancy and software provider GEP, said procurement had a role to play in supporting the wider business in its digitalisation journey and to ensure there is a strategy in place to support this.

He said as well as having a clear vision and strategy for how you want to use technology within the procurement function, technology will also bring changes to the way procurement operates.

“It’s changing some of the skillsets we have within our teams. Having fantastic analytics capabilities, technologies and tools is great but you need to have the right people who are able to drive the right value from those tools,” he said.

Dale Turner, director of procurement and supply chain at Skanska UK, said as the capabilities of technology grows, it is difficult to think about the kind of people you need in your organisation as many of those jobs may not have even been created yet.

While technology such as robotics, AI and e-contracts can help procurement professionals to be more efficient, even the most basic of apps can make a huge difference to a business.

Turner gave the example of the previously manual processes used to check each of Skanska’s 2,000 commercial vehicles every day, using paper-based documents to log work or maintenance that needed to be carried out.

“We now have a walkaround app which is effectively somebody going round and taking pictures, which are automatically sent, and it sets up dates for any maintenance or repairs. There are a lot of things out there which can just help that efficiency and help staff get the most out of their day,” he said.

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