Procurement leaders are starting to fill more “hybrid roles” that combine procurement and technology skill sets, a conference was told.
Bobby Dhanoa, global CPO for KPMG, said the pace of change, particularly in the digital space, led KPMG to look for traditional procurement experience and “pockets of technology skills” in the same people.
Speaking at the CIPS Virtual Conference 2020 she said: “Once these individuals are going out to talk to the stakeholders, they're actually able to understand, question, and articulate back to the stakeholder in a much more comprehensive way. This actually ends up leading to a much better procurement result.”
When firms were talking about technology such as cloud, it was difficult to find people with cloud experience and the same is happening as new technology emerges, Dhanoa continued.
“You've now got the challenge with things like 'low code/no code'. Where do you find them? They don't exist. You can get them out of Microsoft now. They don't have the procurement skills but that's the easy part to teach. That's why this hybrid approach, or the individual that has the hunger to learn, is what we're tapping into. Procurement standard operating procedures, you can train them on the seven-step or nine-step process.
“When you find those individuals, holding on to them, it's another challenge. You've got to keep them, and they're normally the ones that are on to the next shiny toy.”
However, Dhanoa said ultimately leaders needed to recognise and accept that people are “not going to come to your business for a 10-year career anymore”.
“There's nothing stopping us from starting to think like that, other than ourselves,” she said.
During a panel discussion on developing and managing talent, Cory Thwaites, executive director procurement at Tecom Group, said his firm had been hiring people from different functions and training them in procurement skills.
“We were struggling to find someone with marketing experience but we actually took someone from a marketing background and trained them up to do the procurement aspects,” he said.
However, Thwaites added that retention had been one of the largest challenges he’d had to face during his time at Tecom.
He said: “For a lot of companies in the [MENA] region, procurement is not that mature. We bring people in and show them what real strategic sourcing is like, what real category management is like and how they can analyse spend and work with difficult stakeholders, and try to give them some procurement skills to keep them interested.
“Then in three or four years' time, they're a well-rounded procurement individual and if they want to look for something else, you're happy that you've been involved in development and you just get the next person in.”
Jim Carter, commercial director, Submarine Delivery Agency at the Ministry of Defence, said analytical skills were also becoming increasingly in demand for procurement talent.
“One of the things we've found is in demand is people with really good analytical skills. It's probably always been there, but I think there's a greater need for people with a deep understanding of the supply chain now, both because of the Covid pandemic but also looking ahead to EU transition. Those analytical skills that can do that scenario planning, can understand what the risks and resilience of the supply chain is looking like, are really valuable,” he said.
Melinda Johnson, commercial director, Department of Health and Social Care, highlighted the importance of the public sector offering competitive packages compared to industry.
“In recent years, we've introduced new approaches to the packages that we can offer. Salary options are competitive with industry, and this has helped us not just to attract people but also to retain people.
“The great thing about Government Commercial Function is that it facilitates careers. It helps with career management proactively by organising moves for individuals or development opportunities at key points in their career. And we're growing our own talent as well from apprenticeships to graduates from universities.”
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