We must have the remit, agility and confidence to make decisions quickly

We can expect to see volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in supply chains for some time, heightening the need for procurement professionals to keep their knowledge and skills up-to-date. To navigate this path, we need real transparency so as to gain a greater depth of understanding of our supply chains and their vulnerabilities, as well as the know-how to tackle issues when they arise. I believe procurement professionals should focus their efforts on the following:

1. Data and systems. Getting a handle on the right data to increase visibility of potential vulnerabilities continues to be top of most CPOs action plans. CEOs and leaders continue to turn to procurement, and reporting is an effective way of delivering those insights. Data provides foresight and can flag early warning signs so a response can be formulated. I see many CPOs continuing to invest in both data and digital technology to not only capture information but bring some in-depth meaning to it. Procurement and data analysts will continue to be highly sought-after individuals to have in your teams and a critical skill set to build.

2. Collaboration. One thing I hope will continue as we ease out of the pandemic is collaboration, as has ocurred frequently with competing organisations. Whether it is common sector-focused issues or geographical factors, coming together to solve quite complex issues is a powerful force. We heard from Mars, McCormick and PepsiCo at the CIPS Global Conference on their joint efforts to drive sustainability goals in their supply chains. They share common suppliers so a collaborative approach with a single message will reap greater rewards in a non-competitive way when tackling major issues for society, such as climate change.

3. SRM. Deeper, more open relationships with key suppliers have always been a focus for procurement professionals. The pandemic has opened up more frequent, personalised communications with suppliers. Applications such as Zoom have made it easier to regularly communicate with suppliers and allows you to pick up on some cues and body language that could flag potential problems. This year’s CIPS/Hays Procurement salary guide highlighted a greater need for soft skills across all regions; supplier relationship management and leading and influencing stakeholders are cited as top skills required by employers.

4. Agility. Overlaying all of this is the need for procurement teams to quickly respond and adapt to the environment and mitigate risks. This final piece of the jigsaw is often overlooked. You can make the predictions based on the data, your team has the skills to deal with it, but you can be bound up in red tape or delayed with signing off plans. Procurement leaders must be given the remit and have the agility, and the confidence, to make decisions quickly.

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