How Will Technology Change the Landscape for Procurement in the Future?

I don’t want anyone to think I’m in a miserable mood at the moment but after my whinge about bad tender documents recently, I was looking back in my notebook and remembered a session at the recent (generally very good) ProcureCon Berlin event that left me similarly worried.

It was a panel discussion about procurement technology and "How Will Technology Change the Landscape for Procurement in the Future” was the promising title.

But it got totally bogged down in a discussion about data. Now of course, better management of large quantities of data (“big data” if you like) is a good and topical theme, but it is by no means the only aspect of technology that is going to change things for procurement departments and people.

There was talk of using data in performance management, and “category data scientists” using self learning systems, which started to get interesting. But it didn’t really go much further, and it also seemed to be heavily focused on direct materials procurement, which frankly is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the global procurement landscape.

But what was almost more worrying than the disappointing discussion was at the end, when the audience were asked for questions ... and came there none. Not a single question. I was so surprised by this – and also I didn’t really know where to start – I didn’t put my hand up, so on we all went to the next session. Does that show a lack of interest in technology by the delegates? Or such lack of confidence in the topic that everyone was afraid to ask a potentially dumb question? I don’t know, but it was odd to say the least as generally sessions at ProcureCon draw plenty of audience involvement.

As the discussion started, I had jotted down a few points that I thought might come up. I’ve listed them below – I’d stress this is not a carefully though-out, official “Spend Matters says this is how technology will change things” view, just a top of my head brain dump done in a couple of minutes. None of these got discussed, so if you are interested in the topic, and want to look further at what may well come to pass, you might want to consider these.

  • The link between artificial intelligence, user self-service / guided buying, personalised “catalogues” etc.
  • Fully automated sourcing (machine to machine identification, “negotiation”, contracting)
  • eInvoicing and complex supply chain finance options
  • “Market informed sourcing” / optimisation for the most complex sourcing initiatives
  • Risk management – global information sources accessed and used to inform buyers
  • Collaborative, social media type tools to drive SRM, supplier innovation and collaboration

And that might also define a few topics for us to look into on Spend Matters in 2016, and I’m sure we will come back to some of them at least!

Share on Procurious

Voices (4)

  1. Simona:

    As sales and marketing in cloud platform startup operating in procurement, I find myself spending a lot of time educating. There is a lot of skepticism and quite a few barriers still up with regards to “work tech” for some reason. In procurement and finance especially, the very same technology people love in their personal lives is somehow perceived as “voodoo magic”, not to be trusted when it comes to work process. It is a challenge but one we take on gladly as I do strongly believe (and are proving with each client we help) that tech will in fact improve procurement and the (work) lives of people working in procurement. Tech will help give time back to all levels of the P2P dialogue and that time can then be used for growth instead of paper pushing.

  2. Mark Lainchbury:

    Look along any High Street.

    Shopping is dead and only service providers (Coffee Shops, Hair Dressers, Nail Bars. Banks, Estate Agents etc ) remain.
    The public are getting educated (why pay £400 retail for a coat, made for £40 in China) and want to buy from as close to, the manufacturer as possible.

    Purchasing just needs to adapt/adopt the new tools and “get with it”.


    1. Bill:

      Spot on

  3. Dan:

    I’m hearing a lot of how technology is going to change (and possibly lead to the end of) the procurement function. However, in any procurement there are two sides – the buyer and the seller. Do you have any thoughts on how technology is going to change the sales side? It strikes me that if there is going to be little change here (as people might prefer the human element of sales), then this could have an effect on the development of the procurement side?

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.