Millennials Will Transform Procurement — Not By War, But Attrition

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Although barely dry, all that ink covering 2017’s “procurement trends and predictions” will soon give way to a conspicuous rehash of the same stuff for next year. You can set your watch on it. Apparently, some things never get old (e.g., risk, collaboration, transparency, finance and globalization).

So with four months left to go, I figured I’d put my safest, long-term prediction on the table. Driven by the certainty of death, it’s an absolute lock.

Over the next few years, lots of fresh faces are going to enter the procurement profession. And if we can get them to show up for work, this new breed is going to bring a new attitude with them that finally puts a stake in the heart of the old-school buyer. Procurement’s transformation will be driven by these kids, not because they aren’t afraid to buy tech and use it, but because they will embrace the change that comes along with it (then toss it, rinse and repeat). In other words, millennials will become the force that finally changes procurement — not just its face but its mindset and heart.

That’s right: The future of procurement are ear budded smartphone addicts who only hang out where there’s a strong network connection. Like their predecessors, they’re edgy, narcissistic and controversial, but they will differ in at least one meaningful respect: they not only embrace change but their wanderlust can’t imagine an environment that doesn’t.

Their success will not be measured on the back of successful price concessions but against a multidimensional, team-based approach to managing supply networks. It’s right up their alley, as it’s a management approach that relies on constant, trusted communications.

The twenty- and thirtysomethings aren’t mired in zero-sum thinking. “Win-win” isn’t just an expression to them, but words they live by — because they were raised around networks. They will make no bones about moving from one employer to the next, as they watched their parents learn about the perils of single employer loyalty the hard way. Procurement not only offers all of those business majors a landing spot, but it provides them an enterprise-integrated and dynamic place to learn some valuable ropes.

Here’s what we know: Whether private or public sector, you cannot rely on traditional procurement mechanisms to build things that have never been built before. Despite that knowledge, our profession has a tendency to keep pushing the same principles, precepts and axioms — recasting the same set of actors — while expecting different results.

The younger generation’s gift to procurement will be its willingness to nix versus fix.

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