Hiring Market Trends : The Corporate Procurement Market

This article is an excerpt from the Digital Procurement & Spend Management Insider report published in May 2022 which is available to download here.

In the previous edition of this report from Autumn 2021 we reported that the corporate market was the one market in the digital procurement ecosystem that bucks the wider hiring trends given the relatively small amount of hiring activity on the open market.

We noted that a survey of CPOs from The Hackett Group reports that over 40% of those surveyed had identified the need for specialist digital transformation expertise but had yet to create a role within their organisational structure.

There has been progress, mainly from the procurement profession’s leading CPOs and their teams, but specialist roles dedicated to identifying, implementing and adopting the next generation of procurement tools remain rare, particularly on the open job market.

One notable exception is at Maersk where Paul Bray has used his considerable experience in transformation consulting (Ex Deloitte, IBM Atos) to recruit a team that will work closely with the procurement function to develop the range of solutions at their disposal.

Paul has hired Adam Brown, the former Head of Digital Procurement Garage at BT Sourced and Laurence Reddy, previously at BP where he worked on its SAP Ariba capability to play a key role in this process.

Both are widely respected by their peers and offer a depth of expertise that is still rare in the current market. Many organisations are still relying on consultancies for the sort of specialist expertise they bring to Maersk, but even those consultants tell us their work would be more successful if more of their customers made this sort of appointment.

Adam’s experience of building BT’s Digital Procurement Garage with CPO Cyril Pourrat has given him a unique view of the entire procurement tech ecosystem, and few can match his knowledge of the range of best-of-breed solutions available to the CPO. We asked him for his insight into how he sees the procurement tech market evolving in the next few years:

“By definition, paradigm-changing innovation tends to come from start-ups rather than incumbents. So, if we want to look to the future digitisation of procurement, we need to look at the start-up industry. “Of course, start-ups will typically have investors who demand a return, which means pressure for an exit, either acquisition or IPO.

The acquisition will often be from a large company, such as Microsoft and Suplari, Fieldglass/Ariba and SAP, etc. Once acquired the innovation often slows, as can the responsiveness. If this happens it will frustrate the original customers who bought into innovation and agility.

“Big enterprises like and need a steady state with their systems stack and this almost goes against innovation. This will also mean that the large enterprises will find it hard to innovate. If they implement some cutting-edge tech now and define a TOM to get the best use of it, this will then mean the enterprise as a whole will benefit from an acquisition and the de-risk it naturally brings. However, this will frustrate the individuals who collaborate on a daily basis with the start-up when the innovation and agility naturally slow.

“Big enterprise is complex, both requiring and desiring point solutions that go deep into digitisation of a process because they require (and can afford) the depth. Breadth across the process will be given by multiple solutions all going deep into their areas and aligned with subject matter expertise areas in the organisation (such as risk and security).

“The SME marketplace tends to require a point solution for a specific problem (such as risk, spend analytics, demand workflow) and then a lighter touch on adjacent process elements (e.g., I need deep spend analytics, but also some simple initiative management off the back of the spend).

All of this considered, there is a very high potential for divergence in the digital procurement solution marketplace being driven by investors, customers, ability for the founders and owners to resist a push in a direction they do not want.” It will be fascinating to observe the evolution of the market over the next few years to understand whether Adam’s concerns about innovation are realised.

On the subject of hiring activity at CPO level, whilst the general trend has been for increased vacancies, the market at a senior level appears to be quieter and actual appointments at CPO (board)

level are much lower than we have seen for some time, with fewer than 20 moves in the past six months.We have seen more activity at Procurement Director/VP level, but still much quieter than the general market and, in fact, in Corporate Procurement, for salaries above £120K, there is nowhere near as much movement as at lower levels.