Procurement Skills and Capabilities – What Do the Survey Results Mean?

Last week, we gave you the results of the survey we ran around the recent BravoSolution Real World Sourcing event titled Skills and Careers – the next ten years. Today, we’ll pontificate about that the results might mean, so do read yesterday’s post first if you haven’t already.

The first caveat though is that we tend to think the future will look like the past, so we’re not very good at predicting really disruptive change. And our sample was no different there, with the future vision not too dissimilar to how people see the situation today. But there are a few interesting points to draw out.

But looking forward, our sample sees procurement as playing a role that is broader and more strategic than currently, we’d suggest. There is a very high emphasis on the interpersonal and behavioural skills around influencing for instance, and working with other stakeholders in areas that go beyond the traditional process based or even sourcing type activities. That is reflected by respondents giving high scores for the future importance of skills and capabilities in areas such as strategy development, risk management and suppler relationship management (SRM) .

However, when we compare that with how they perceive things have changed, people see SRM moving towards something much more collaborative, with more focus on “networking and collaboration” rather than “just” SRM. That is the single capability that really jumps up the priority list from the looking back to the looking forward picture.

“Technology understanding” was also a high scorer when we come to look forward. There’s an interesting debate to be had there. One of the characteristics of modern B2B software, in our space and others, is that it is easy to use and in a sense does not require great “understanding”, certainly of its nuts and bolts. You should be able to just start using it, almost without training or a manual in the best cases. So do we need “understanding”?

Well, yes, I would argue that the successful senior procurement executive of the future will need a good understanding, not of the technical detail but of what technology can do to drive competitive advantage, as well as a sense of how to use the vast array of technology products that we will have on offer in the procurement and supply chain space.

It’s also interesting to note that our sample sees the importance of category management skills on the relative (if not absolute) decline. That might indicate a level of maturity in category management rather than a real decline in its use, although as we’ve noted previously, techniques such a market-informed sourcing, and arguably even some aspects of SRM, may make the traditional 7-step CatMan process less prominent as the centrepiece of procurement activity.

“Negotiation” also saw some relative decline in our sample. Will the machines ultimately replace us in that most human of activities? I’m not convinced by that, although I suspect more of our negotiation in the future will be of a more collaborative nature, rather than beating the supplier over the head for a 5% discount.

We don’t tend to go in for those major “future of procurement” surveys here, but any thoughts? What key skills do you think we’re going to need in ten years time?

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