Friday, 26 September 2014

Real World Sourcing Series: Procurement Skills & Careers – The Next 10 years Part 2

By Scott Farrance

Following on from my post on Wednesday about the latest Real World Sourcing Series event on what Procurement may look like over the next ten years, this instalment looks more at Peter Smith's ideas about current models and thinking around the role of a "procurement professional".

Peter raised a few different ideas around ‘Current Models and Thinking’’ with regards to the make-up of a modern day Procurement Professional. The first, a four box matrix published in a Spend Matters paper in 2012. The 4 boxes have different skill areas; Leader, Diplomat, Investigator and Analyst. No one person fits into all of them with the same amount of focus, but you will find most staff will find their way into one, with a different skill set and a focus of internal or external.
A second model, courtesy of Kim Goodwin, involved a much larger table of skills and put the onus on individual organisations to decide how important each one was to a specific role. Kim would then map out what each job looks like – a much more in depth analysis of individual roles you would agree, but a lot of planning and interviewing to plot where staff are.

A third, based on a triangle of ‘Skills/Knowledge required’, had 3 different points; Technical, Behavioural and Category Specific. The effect procurement professional will have a combination of all 3, depending on the role and level. However, as definitively different as all 3 are, there are 2 skills in the Category section with seem to be forgotten; Market Knowledge and Product Knowledge. For all the good expert IT, data analysis, EU regulations and leadership skills will do, if you do not know your product and the suppliers who produce them, how do you propose to be an effective procurement professional? In a world where you can Google anything and almost certainly get an answer, there is still no substitute for real life category knowledge.

To gauge how the audience perceived change, a brief questionnaire was sent out to attendees to ask how much the importance of a series of skills had changed in the past 10 years, and if it was more of less important to have these skills. The top 2 results from the list were Strategy Development and Risk Management – perhaps showing that a lot more thought goes into the practice now than 10 years ago. Are we moving away from reactive Procurement and into a work of planning, best practise, calculated decisions and effect Supply Chain Management?

Strategy Development also featured high across the board of ‘Much More Important Skills in 2024’. Perhaps this show that we’ve come a long way, but those in the industry know we have a long way to go? Also featuring high on this list was ‘Communication and Influencing Skills’. This shows that as advanced as our technology has become, and as automated as processes have become, there is still no replacement for the ‘human touch’ when it comes to the world of buying and selling. We may have tools to help us with it, but we still need in-the-know professionals driving these tools and telling them what we want them to do.

Peter had some observations and ideas on what the future may look like for us; a procurement focus on values and risk, not on cost reduction, more buying of services, less of goods, data, technology and information central to everything. Couple those with the impact of technology on direct procurement and the Business taking a strong interest in procurement (not making us the team that sit in the corner) and Peter predicts a very different looking job and career for all of us.

As Peter said, data and information will sit at the heart of everything – there is no doubt about this. Spend analytics can be used for fraud prevention/indentifying bad practise, not just its original intended purpose. The devices invented to assist Procurement practice are evolving beyond their original purpose and will soon play an integral part in any company or organisation. Technology may also mean that low value and risk buying can be outsourced to those with Less Procurement Skills. Technology can ensure this job is done properly and also frees up time for Professionals to work on the ‘other’ parts of their job.

Fitting into the bottom age category on the survey, and working for an e-tendering company, I may be slightly biased in thinking that technology with be the big driver in the next 10 years and further ahead in Procurement. It was agreed that Strategy development, Risk Management, Communications and Market and Supplier Analysis are vital to the job, but only Technology can underpin and drive all of these different skill sets and requirements. I’m in full agreement that we need to focus on the above – and many other areas – to try and perfect Procurement, but elements of technology to assist in all of that, as we move into the 21st Century, will make all of our lives a better place.

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