Management jobs will disappear – does that include procurement?

I’ve never come across Gigaom website before until the Outsource Magazine Twitter account highlighted this excellent and thought-provoking article at the weekend (thanks, Jamie or whoever does your Tweeting!)

The article in question is titled “Trouble on the fringes: How the cloud will commoditize the upper middle class” and is written by Ashwin Viswanath of Informatica, a US data integration and management  provider.

He argues that cloud based software, big data, and easy to use software platforms will mean the death of many jobs that are currently perceived as management or professional level - ‘upper middle class’ is maybe US terminology in this context, as in the UK it is hard to know exactly who might define themselves in that precise manner!

Anyway, his argument is that many skilled jobs and roles can be automated out of existence, or made so easy for users or line managers to perform that the professionals who supported those managers will no longer be needed.  So he takes three tangible examples – SaaS sales people, demand generation marketeers and HR – and talks about how technology will reduce the need for and / or transform those roles. For example, here’s how he sees one element of HR being affected:

Because of the rapidly iterative nature of cloud applications, future innovations such as incorporating industry benchmark data into HCM (human capital management) benefits modules are not far away. Then software will use that data to alert management of any potential churn of high-value employees so that the business can retain them. Thanks to the seamless integration between such benchmark data, benefits modules, and the core ERP system, finance managers can perform many of the duties of benefit analysts, and the finance department will assume the duties of defining and modifying future benefits and pay packages.

Now I don’t know whether we should be flattered or insulted that Viswanath does not include procurement in his list of jobs to be affected – he doesn’t mention that he’s going to cover us in part 2 either (when product management, IT, and R&D will come under his spotlight). Maybe he doesn’t think procurement is at risk, or maybe he just doesn’t think we’re important enough to feature!

In any case, his arguments would certainly seem to apply to many elements of procurement, and we’ve also written about this very issue. I suspect we will increasingly come back to it too, as the trends that are driving this change are only going to grow stronger.

There’s no doubt that better, easier to use software, and the ability to handle ‘big data’ and really complex analysis with a reasonable processing cost and time, will take away much of the current procurement workload. The days of category managers spending weeks putting together complex Excel spend analysis spreadsheets are largely gone already; market and supplier research will be done via asking a few key questions to the ‘Google Analyser’ or whatever it will be called. Budget holders will run their own RFXs or auctions with idiot proof intelligent systems to guide them through the sourcing process.

So we better get on with defining some different roles for procurement, adding value in ways that the machines might find it harder to replicate. There’s a real challenge for CIPS and ISM, the industry academics, as well as us bloggers, analysts and of course leading practitioners.

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