Develop digital capabilities to seize Industry 4.0 opportunity, CPOs told

Data brings opportunities, but procurement needs to invest in upskilling the workforce.

Sitting “at the nexus of data” gives procurement professionals the opportunity to add more value to organisations in the future, according to CIPS economist John Glen.

But, he warned, there needs to be a concerted focus on developing digital capabilities in the profession. Glen was speaking at the launch of the CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide and Insights 2018 report, hosted by PA Consulting. 

In a world dominated by big data, eProcurement, AI and machine learning, predictive analytics will be a powerful tool to develop, Glen said. 

“A lot of data goes over your desk every day,” he explained. “In this connected world, where data is king, the people who sit at the nexus of data and are located at important nodes of the network become very valuable.”

The interface between procurement and supply chains will allow procurement to capture and aggregate extensive data on suppliers and markets, he said.  

“If you look at people in the broader supply chain perspective, they are looking at their capability to analyse your data along with their own and aggregate it in a way which allows you to do things you had never been able to do,” Glen said. 

This should lead to procurement having the ability to provide real-time data about supply chains. “Forget about forecasting; customers want ‘nowcasting’,” said Glen. “Can we tell people exactly what’s going to happen today on the basis of the data we collected in the past?”

Having access to data will give procurement more clout and a seat at the top table, he added. “You will be invited into conversations you have never been invited into before,” Glen said. “Extra data, extra connectivity inside the network: that’s where people see value.”

This means the competition for top procurement talent and people with digital skills will intensify, something that is already reflected in the Salary Guide, which found 56% of employers are struggling to recruit suitable procurement professionals.

Glen said the market for procurement professionals was already tight, with candidates able to command higher salaries. The Salary Guide revealed there has been an 8.8% increase in the salaries paid to graduates.

Procurement will also need to hire “clever people to do clever things with data”, Glen said, adding: “But the people who can do clever things with data often can’t really speak to other humans.

“Once you analyse that data, you need to be able to explain what business opportunities it allows you to seize,” he said.

“Procurement needs to create a digitally capable workforce. To create that workforce, we need to put our hands in our pockets and invest in that capability.”

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