Talent deficit holding back digital procurement

13 May 2021

Two-fifths (42%) of companies are looking to accelerate digitalisation of procurement in the wake of Covid-19 but a talent deficit is holding back plans, according to research.

A survey by supply chain planning software company ToolsGroup and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) canvassed more than 200 supply chain professionals.

Most (97%) respondents, which were drawn from manufacturing, retail, consumer packaged goods, aftermarket parts, wholesale distribution, and third-party logistics (3PL) firms, had suffered a business impact from the pandemic. 

But while 42% of organisations said the pandemic had accelerated digitisation plans and 90% described themselves as somewhere along the digital journey, talent deficits threatened to slow progress. Two-fifths (42%) said they were handing staff or skills shortages poorly or very poorly. 

A similar proportion (41%) said skills deficits among staff in areas like change management, decision-making, and technical planning were the main obstacles to making changes.

Data quality/lack of data (34%), Covid-related uncertainty (28%), an existing rigid technology structure (28%), and fear of change (28%) were also cited as roadblocks. 

However 54% described themselves as “reaping the benefits of digital transformation” and said that they were managing Covid-related demand and supplier uncertainty “very well”.

But only 13% of those who said they were either “evaluating” or “not pursuing” digital procurement made the same claim.

The authors of the report said this indicated digital technology and processes may be enabling better management of disruption.

The key driver for digitalising was ability to keep up with evolving customer behaviours and expectations (44%), followed by increasing automation to focus staff on higher level activities (43%), and overall desire to improve business performance (42%).

Improving customer service levels (39%), improving reaction to unplanned disruptions (35%), and increasing supply chain resilience (34%) were also cited as important factors. 

Caroline Proctor, chief marketing officer of ToolsGroup, said: “In our 2019 survey, the biggest factor holding back digital transformation was ‘fear of change’. Today we see a sharp contrast as Covid-related demand uncertainty has accelerated digitisation to enable future resilience.”

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