Dr Craig Voortman, speaking at the CIPS Middle East Conference. MUSTHAFA PHOTOGRAPHY
Dr Craig Voortman, speaking at the CIPS Middle East Conference. MUSTHAFA PHOTOGRAPHY

Procurement professionals must master blockchain now

3 July 2018

Procurement professionals need to get to grips with blockchain now, rather than wait to be disrupted, the CIPS Middle East Conference was told. 

Dr Craig Voortman, supply chain logistics research scientist from the Saudi National Center of Excellence in Supply Chain and Logistics, told delegates in Dubai: “Blockchain will disrupt you, your procurement processes and your entire supply chain. If you are a C-level executive in procurement and supply chain, you need to master blockchain.”

He added: “Blockchain is not a fad, and it is not Bitcoin [the cryptocurrency]. It is bigger than you think and will be used in all supply chains everywhere. Smart contracts and digital contracts are coming your way soon. Global trade is going digital and things will move faster using blockchain.”

Head of CIPS MENA Sam Achampong echoed Voortman’s message, urging procurement professionals to “take a lead and come up with procurement applications for blockchain”.

Citing Dubai’s aim to be the first government to host all its documents on blockchain by 2020, he added: “Blockchain is not just a piece of software. We don’t have a choice [about whether or not to use it]. We need to take a lead – otherwise someone else will do it for us. [Procurement] should lead, rather than be led.”

Blockchain is a shared ledger technology where multiple copies of the same database can communicate. It allows new entries, or ‘blocks’ of information, to be shared with all stakeholders, creating a permanent and immutable record of data, where transactions can be accurately tracked.

Voortman said digitisation would change procurement and supply chain forever. “All companies in the world need to innovate, or they will be left behind like dinosaurs,” he said. “Don’t bluff yourself that we are far into this revolution: it will radically change your supply chain and procurement process going forward.”

As well as the opportunities that come with blockchain, he cited the internet of things, artificial intelligence, big data, automation, and augmented and virtual reality as digital trends procurement needs to be on top of. 

This means procurement leaders need to focus on the talent they have in their teams. “Talent is not so easy to get and keep in the digital economy,” Voortman said. “We have to hold onto our people, look after them and develop them. When did you last send your staff on an innovation course? We need smart people who can work with data, and work with people. Finding people who can do both is not easy.” 

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