Procurement's place at 'centre of the spider's web'

Automated processes, sustainability, supplier-centricity and becoming an information centre are the key procurement trends for the next decade, according to a procurement leader.

Speaking at eWorld Procurement & Supply, Dave Jones, procurement consultant and former leader at the John Lewis Partnership, outlined four major future trends that will shape the procurement function.

1. Automation

Jones said there's going to be “a lot of change coming between now and 2030,” especially around advancement in technology used, and firms need to prepare.

“Lots of roles in procurement will die out, roles that are doing tactical procurement – for example, purely content management and people running tenders again and again – will no longer be required.”

However, while “the future of procurement is definitely machine intelligence combined with human creativity, they haven't yet invented an artificial intelligence computer that can really bring that creativity and emotional intelligence”, he added. 

Jones advised procurement professionals to work with businesses that are investing in those tools yet still realise the importance of creating a development path for the future profession. 

The rise of blockchain use was also highlighted as a key element in transforming how information flows, especially for tracing ethical raw materials and preventing counterfeiting.

2. Procurement: the information centre

The procurement function will be of even more value in the next decade as it cements itself as the centre for information and business relationship management in companies, said Jones.

“Procurement will be the centre of the spider’s web: we're the only people in our organisation that link customers, stakeholders, competitors, and suppliers together in a web of relationships. We're the people that can join the dots, spot the patterns, spot the opportunities, unblock issues, and bring these various groups together."

However, procurement needs to know how to access the data available to benefit from the future “avalanche of data”.

“We will increasingly be working with data scientists. As we get access to more systems we'll move from an auditing role to a proactive compliance role,” he added.

3. Sustainability 

Jones said: “Green will definitely go mainstream. Procurement needs to understand the triple bottom line, the balance is shifting away from profit and it's moving towards people and the planet.

“Financial reporting will include sustainability measures, and in many ways it will be equally as important for all of you to understand this space and how procurement can add value and take control of improving this area in the organisation.”

4. Supplier-centricity 

Becoming customer of choice and developing more strategic relationships will be critical to achieve long-term benefits beyond profit. 

Jones warned: “A lot of organisations are still managing their relationships quite tactically. If we look at the previous 12 months with Covid, those organisations have really struggled to access PPE and sanitisation resources.

“Organisations need to ensure that they're giving their suppliers easy access to innovations, they aren't just running procurement process after procurement process. You need to be a relationship broker who can balance the risk of particular decisions and getting the best value.”

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