Procurement in 2030: More change coming than ever before

change Dave Jones, indirect and IT procurement leader (personal photo)

As procurement, supply chain and finance professionals are probably aware, eWorld is once again just around the corner, March 4 to be exact. This bi-yearly event attracts procurement practitioners, solution providers, heads of supply chain, heads of finance, academia and third sector organizations from all industries, and as the name suggests, from all over the world. While eWorld seems to have been expanding in attendee numbers and diversity of topics over recent years, this year will see it explode as more and more people from all over the globe can access it online. Networking and learning opportunities therefore only increase.

You’ll see from the agenda that there is an abundance of content streams to choose from. All are run by people rich in experience who are ready to share their learnings and personal take on the great issues of our industry today. One such is David Jones, an indirect and IT procurement leader for several large businesses including Waitrose, Efficio and Vodafone, and until very recently a member of the leadership team with John Lewis Partnership where they undertook a complete digital transformation of the source-to-settle landscape. He is also an ambassador of the Sustainable Procurement Pledge and founder and host of Proctopus, an online group of like-minded people from all over the world who meet to share best practice, ideas and to improve their careers.

David believes that we will see more change in procurement over the next five to 10 years than we have experienced in the last 20. So his session will cover the key trends he sees, what it means for everyone involved with procurement and how you can prepare for them.

We talked to him in a pre-event catch-up to understand more about his session.

Why more change for procurement, and why now?

If we look back over 20 years of procurement,” he tells us, “innovations haven’t been massive. POs, digital catalogues, e-sourcing are some, but nothing has materially transformed the profession.”

So he aims to take a look at what the function will be like in 2030: how what we do will change dramatically and how that will impact solution providers too.

The key changes he expects to see come from:

  • The circular economy: social values, sustainability, CSR, ESG will all lead to a shift in the balance of power from shareholders to a wider range of stakeholders, including government agencies, environmental groups, and so on. No longer will the shareholders be the ones who dictate company strategy, and with procurement sitting at the centre of relationship management, both internally and externally, it is set to really influence the approach a company takes.
  • Information: the amount of data available to procurement is going to carry on increasing, fueling more automation. We will get to the point where the supplier/procurement negotiation process will be automated too, and David will provide some examples of how that might work. There will always be a need for human interaction in that though, so he’ll talk about how we can best prepare for that.
  • Risk management: global instability isn’t likely to get any less stable over the next five years. The likes of Russia-China-America relations, Brexit and economic trends will contribute to that and so the ability to manage risk will become more critical.

That’s just a high-level view of some of his themes, he’ll get into other areas that will impact our industry too, like blockchain. So we were interested in why he picks a 10-year landscape for his outlook on change.

What’s so special about a 10-year view?

David explains his thinking: “Ten years is far enough out for us to experience material change. We need to look beyond two to five years ahead, because for people starting out in their procurement careers, they need some insight into what will be shaping their landscape, what they should be getting involved in now to help them prepare for their future.”

He sees both the role and profile of procurement changing substantially by this time.

“There will be two kinds of procurement functions,” he says. “One will continue to run the tender processes, negotiate the contracts, execute on them, and renew them, but those activities will be increasingly automated, so the need for the amount of people in those functions will be less.

“Another role for procurement will take off, one that facilitates relationships, drives the whole value chain and measures new solutions and technologies in terms of sustainability and carbon count rather than cost and functionality. And, while we think we have a data explosion now, the next 10 years will really require that procurement people are data-literate. It will be about understanding the art of the possible,” as he puts it.

In addition to that, he believes there will be a huge increase in "emotional intelligence" — rather than relying on a tender process to define a result, he foresees a real need to “get in the shoes” of a supplier and truly understand them.

And his advice?

“My advice to procurement is to make sure they are working in a function that is in that second category, investing in technology, understanding the value of sustainability, the circular economy and data. If you are working in a tactical procurement team, you’ll need to rethink your skillsets to future-proof yourself.”

So, with insight and advice for the procurement profession and its stakeholders, David will go on to explore what some of those skillsets will be.

Of course, one way to chart your course for the future is to attend eWorld, which you can do by registering here.

“It’s the accessibility of eWorld,” David says, “that makes it special. Because it’s sponsor-funded you don’t have to be a company director to take part — it’s free to all. And because of that you get a broad range of people and businesses. This variety makes it the place to be to learn about latest trends, opinions and research, and the digital/technical landscape. The event is increasingly adapting to become a broader procurement conference and, of course, now that it’s virtual, it’s becoming more global than ever before.”

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