Skills Implications – The Rise of Digital and Sustainable Procurement

In our bi-annual Procurement and Spend Management Insider report we have consistently talked about the skills needed for the future of procurement, particularly digital procurement. 2020 saw the rapid rise of the ESG agenda in supply chain and further acceleration of the adoption of digital procurement tools.

Both trends had been around for a while, and are now more interconnected than ever with the rise of businesses like Circulor and Ecovadis, but the pace of change has materially changed in the past year as we’ve seen in this research.

So we are no longer talking about the future of procurement when we discuss digital or ESG because the future is here, and it’s called the present. This is procurement in 2021. You, your teams and your colleagues can either get on board or you and your employer can get left behind as the more agile, digitally enhanced businesses with a clear environmental and social purpose thrive.

In terms of further evidence to support this theory, management consultancy Hackett Group asked Procurement leaders if they recognise a need for more tech-centric roles in their teams. Here are the results:

It is clear from this that roles such as that of Digital transformation program manager are recognised by the leadership community as being important. For many, this function is effectively run by their advisory partners, but on the evidence of those that have specialist in house roles in this area, their management of the advisory businesses, specialist contractors or internal resources are vital to the successful adoption of procurement tools, whether they be full suite solutions or a range of best of breed, specialist tools.

There is now a significant talent pool of people who have undertaken this role on behalf of end users. There are also consultants who would like to go into this sort of position so they could see projects through to completion and ideally push for ongoing pursuit of best practice.

The frustration for the people we know in this space is that there are so few organisations who currently have dedicated in house roles. There is growth in this space but it has been slow so far. We hope and expect that will really start to change now.

The other roles that score heavily in this research like RPA or AI/ cognitive specialists, and data architects are also on the rise but again at a disappointing pace. There is a much smaller talent pool of people who can point to experience in this area dedicated to procurement and supply chain but they do exist.

In each of these areas we hope to see accelerated growth in demand for the skills but it will be constrained by the availability of skills. The answer to that question lies in the ability of CPOs to attract sought after external talent and/or train and develop these skills in house.

The best examples we see involve hiring an expert who has been down this path already in their career who can then influence those around them in a new organisation to become a catalyst for upskilling colleagues and ultimately the function as a whole.

The key is to know who the early adopters are, the companies who have got it right and then understand who their trailblazers are. If you can find a way to attract them into your organisation you can do great things.

It’s a similar story when it comes to identifying people who have been at the heart of innovative projects that have materially changed the impact procurement and supply chain teams can have on environmental and sustainability initiatives. Many of them have joined the wonderful Sustainable Procurement Pledge initiative created by a group of visionary leaders, the growth of which tells its own story.

Looking at the achievements of some of the members of this initiative supports our belief that great hires in these areas can be a catalyst for raising the contribution of procurement and supply chain teams, raising the bar across the function and helping leaders to position their functions at the heart of the sustainability agenda.

If you know which companies are already at the forefront of these initiatives, you can identify the people who can make a real difference to your organisation. It’s all about prioritising your objectives and attracting the talent that will enable you to deliver on those aims.

Procurement Leaders – if this resonates with you then Edbury Daley can help you make real progress when it comes to identifying, attracting and ultimately hiring high performing specialists in these areas.  Please contact Andrew Daley via andrew@edburydaley.com or Peter Brophy – peter@edburydaley.com