Defining the future of the procurement and supply profession

By: AM Mahomed

Over the past year, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) has taken a close look at emerging changes in business and markets globally, and analysed a variety of trends to identify opportunities for the procurement and supply profession and the next generation of professionals.

As a profession, procurement and supply management is on the brink of dynamic and disruptive change resulting from volatile trading environments, increasing complexity and the influence of information technology.

Procurement and supply leaders are moving towards a broader influence across the entire supply side, giving a clear line of sight over the entire value chain.

To maintain competitive advantage, it is important to be able to predict the future. This becomes a difficult moving target to achieve when considering the rapid changes in the market place and the pace of technological advancements.

Building some level of predictability means anyone with a responsibility for procurement needs to take a strategic approach. This implies a focus on market development, having a keen risk instinct, and a deep understanding of challenges faced now and in the future. Procurement professionals need to develop resilient mindsets, build strong relationships and have strong networks of support to fulfil their roles. Displaying emotional intelligence (EQ) is also paramount.

Technology and automation will continue to have a huge impact. Many of the transactional activities the profession has been performing will cease to exist and will become part of automated functions in which artificial intelligence, robotics and drones will play a significant part. Supply chains will become more optimised, and processes within the movement of goods will become redundant, affecting the number of staff required to perform the functions that have become automated.

The management of an enterprise's data and making sense of the vast amounts of data now available require specialist expertise. In addition, cyber risk is on the rise. Hacking and the loss of precious data is increasing at a phenomenal rate, with dire consequences for those not prepared. Block chains and artificial intelligence are serious disruptors to the way business is done that also results in changed business models.

The role of non-qualified buyers and the fact that more non-procurement individuals are doing buying or sourcing, change the roles people traditionally played.

CIPS SA, as a professional body that has tried to bring non-professionals into the fold, has realised that procurement officers need to be treated differently. They may also require further upskilling and sometimes even cross skilling to make them relevant to the new tasks at hand.

These procurement officers will need the right knowledge, skills and capability to procure in ways that are ethical, sustainable, resilient and effective, while working closely with other allied professionals and experts.

As trans-disciplinary approaches are required, specialists from various disciplines are likely to be brought in for their specialist skills as part of the new 'gig' economy. It is estimated that around 50% of all work will be part-time by the year 2030 and the majority will be 'gig workers'. Procurement professionals are likely to form part of the gig movement.

Supply chains are global and intricate. All procurement officials will need to understand the cost of mitigation at various points, from the early negotiation of contracts stage to beyond the signing and implementation stage. Knowing how the true cost of risk transfer works means closer collaboration with finance teams and working smarter to mitigate against failure or overruns.

The impact of Brexit on supply chains cannot be underestimated; Brexit reflects the global move from globalisation to greater protectionism and closed-off borders. This will impact negatively on free trade.

Procurement teams are agents of innovation and are ideally positioned to understand the many social and technological advances on the horizon. They can take the lead in developing and driving appropriate policy development.

Sustainable procurement implies the adoption of recognised codes of conduct for suppliers, audits to manage change, and the creation of incentives to do things better. A professional licence - already mandated by some businesses - means rogue activities can be challenged and may result in the loss of that licence. Social value has become a new force where localisation provides the impetus to uplift communities and local economies. Procurement professionals need to manage the ecosystem of supply chains, where a reliance on slave labour is traced and suppliers are driven to do the right thing proactively. The Modern Slavery Act of 2015 has drawn attention to this global scourge and moves to eradicate it in all its nefarious forms.

For all this to happen, the perception of procurement needs to change from 'order taker' to 'change leader' as professionals become the guardians of the enterprise. The professionals themselves must also see themselves differently, engaging with all role-players across internal departments and the gig workers who come in from time to time.

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