Spend Matters welcomes this guest post by Nick Lazzara, executive search lead at MRA Global Sourcing.
Strategic sourcing is evolving into an agile group that focuses less on savings and more on adding overall value to business partners. The procurement talent landscape is thus an ever-changing organism with several emerging trends. In this post, we’ll examine three specific skillsets that are in particularly high demand for companies currently searching for procurement professionals.
Sourcing groups are most effective when they have a deep understanding of the businesses they support. Achieving this deep understanding is easier said than done, as each department has its own intricacies and unique challenges. As a result, procurement professionals who have also held jobs within the functions they support, especially in unique verticals like marketing and IT, are high-value targets.
Procurement executives have taken notice that their peers in other functions feel much more comfortable when their procurement contacts truly comprehend their pains and have applicable “war stories” to share from firsthand experiences. With an understanding of these struggles, a more effective strategy can be crafted jointly to achieve optimal solutions. Plus, this type of cross-pollination quickly builds credibility between departments. Nothing gets lost in translation when, for example, a former IT practitioner turned category manager can fluently speak the “bits and bytes” with the CIO and knows the major vendors personally.
At the ISM2016 conference, multiple CPOs spoke about what they look for in team members. One surprising answer came up multiple times: the ability to sell. In this context, selling refers to knowing how to develop and leverage relationships to help internal stakeholders operate like a well-oiled machine. This is an especially crucial skillset in greenfield procurement organizations, as other function leaders are likely unfamiliar with how strategic such a partner can be.
Thus, the modern sourcing practitioner has to be creative and recognize opportunities to break down barriers with tough stakeholders. Sourcing executives seek someone who, for example, realizes they can start the process by earning small projects and over-delivering on objectives, which eventually should lead to more projects. Then — cue the sales piece — they take it one step further by tapping their satisfied stakeholders as references to support their business case to crack into previously unsupported functions. This can establish the procurement group’s brand and elevate its status, both crucial to success and staying power.
As baby boomers retire and millennials overtake the workforce demographics, it’s not a shocker this one made the list. But what companies are looking for is a little more complicated than just a natural comfort with technology. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, with so much data at our fingertips, there are plenty of savings opportunities to be found, but to obtain them requires individuals with tech know-how and a gift for rounding up and analyzing the huge quantity of data circulating globally.
For conducting these analyses, companies desire folks with a keen eye for recognizing and accurately predicting trends. Equally as important is having the heft and communication abilities to tell the story behind the numbers. Data mining is only half the battle, as it won’t get you far unless you can successfully present these findings to executive level leaders in a relatable, succinct fashion.
Several top supply management leaders also told the Wall Street Journal that finding people with this complete skillset is extremely challenging, although no less vital. Given this skills gap in such a high-impact area, it is not a stretch to imagine that this will be a major point of emphasis in the procurement-training handbook moving forward. Professionals who already possess these skills have a leg up on the competition and are very marketable to corporations.
The contemporary procurement group is one that touches many segments of an organization and can add value in several ways. As the function continues to grow and take on more importance while climbing the corporate ladder in countless companies, the characteristics that define an ideal procurement professional are constantly evolving. MRA has found that, in the current landscape, strategic sourcing practitioners who are experts in the fields of their stakeholders, can sell their colleagues on the benefits of working together and possess keen analytical capabilities are well-positioned to be hired and retained.