Organisational uncertainty and risk are prevalent as technological progress are accelerating at an expositional rate - this we know, it’s the adjusting that’s often the biggest challenge. A recent conference brought to the mind just how little this rate of change allows for precedence and relevant case studies to learn from. You can mitigate the negative effect of this by planning and preparing for new scenarios and embrace change when it does happen, but you need to have some sort of guide, which is why those gurus of the tech world are a valuable voice in the procurement community.
The common thread of this month’s eWorld Procurement and Supply conference was to help us understand the impending changes in procurement and what can be done to mitigate these risks. Namely, assessing the impact of new technologies and new skills needed for the changing organisational structures. As the technology vendor community gathered in Central London, these challenges remained exciting and pressing.
Technology is very influential in the modification of any economic process. State of Flux, the procurement and supply chain consultancy, reported a trend in firms using technology as change catalysts becoming one of the most important six pillars of SRM. Along the same lines, it was not a surprise to hear many speakers echo Procurement Leaders 2016 tech trends reports (Procurement Leaders members can access the Trend Report by clicking on this link), which predicted major disruptions are cloud computing, 3D printing and Big Data as potential major disruptions.
An interesting analysis about Artificial intelligence (AI) came from the e-procurement firm, Science Warehouse. Their Procurement Trends 2016 study reported 6% of respondents were concerned with the impact of AI in the next 5 years. However, they believe it will be a big disruptive impact in procurement: “AI is already widely used, underpinning big data applications and having a significant impact in areas such as spend analysis, data processing and search tools. [Science Warehouse] expect AI in all its forms to have an increasing impact in coming years and predict that it is the area most likely to disrupt procurement”.
Soft skills are hard to find
Technology and talent are increasingly part of the same sphere and this hit home over the course of the day. Artificial intelligence (AI) may reduce procurement specialists’ need for cognitive capabilities in analysing what the procurement outsourcing & consulting company, Optimum Procurement Group, call ‘hard trends’ – for example demographic data suggest the aging ‘baby boomers’ will increase the public spending in public health facilities. This would modify the capability requirements of procurement professionals.
Certain roles and skills could be redundant in the future, yet, AI are not sophisticated enough in dealing with soft trends – i.e. something that may happen depending on several interdependencies - which requires more complex and agile analysis. Qualitative and soft skills are increasingly important capabilities in the procurement professionals.
In addition to technical advancements, new skills are needed because of the changing organisational structures. The role of procurement is also going through an exciting period of change, whereby procurement is devolving and becoming deeply embedded in an organisation’s strategy. This means procurement professionals are required to take on new responsibilities and engage with a wider range of stakeholders.
Procurement Leaders identified many skill gaps are soft skills, which include creativity, business acumen and emotional intelligence. Upskilling and cross-skilling competency skills are harder to train so the role of technology becomes unclear.
That said, there is a lot of optimism that change is coming; change in how talent in procurement develops, change in how individual roles interact with technology and change in what is possible. The question is how fast we, as a community, can adapt to this change.
This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.