A procurement team that can take advantage of the opportunities that digital tools present looks very different – in terms of capabilities, roles and structure – to one that is unable to capitalise on the advantages technology offers. A recent virtual roundtable discussion, hosted by Procurement Leaders, focused on how organisations are changing the skill sets in their teams to meet this need to transform: who they are hiring, the roles they are creating and the ways they are adapting their teams.
If you can align your digital projects with other functions around the business, they are much more likely to receive the green light. It’s a story we’ve heard time and time again, but how many procurement executives practise what they preach? We all know digital projects are more successful when they align with the wider organisations’ goals and complement other strategic projects but, of course, this is difficult in practice. One attendee said a good place to start is to align closely with their business intelligence/analyst team, rather than using such staff for ad-hoc requests. Doing so will often help save time and generate ideas to complete projects effectively and efficiently. Thinking about where you can help them, as well as where they can help you, will help to strengthen those internal relationships.
Before we delved too deeply into the types of skills procurement professionals will need in future, we veered into an all too common challenge for procurement teams: having the right systems in place. The attendees shared the view that skilled and talented teams can do so much without the requisite technology. If teams are going to evolve and develop, they will need tools that can support this. If you yet don’t have the right systems in place – and, let’s face it, that’s the case for most of us – staff need to be empowered to flag issues and make changes. Sticking with an old technology supplier for ease will not set teams up for success.
The group then discussed the types of skills that would be needed in the next five to 10 years, including "entrepreneurial" capabilities. Being entrepreneurial can mean different things to different people but, in general, attendees described this as the ability to turn ideas into action. This can include creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects to achieve objectives – perfect for procurement. While this sounds very positive, one attendee suggested this skill could be too disruptive for some less mature functions. If a new hire tries to move too quickly for the business, the impact of their work will be limited. Company culture is also important. Businesses that support innovation are more likely to welcome entrepreneurship and the ideas that result are more likely to be successful.
A lot of the conversation focused on soft skills so, towards the end of the discussion, we touched on data-focused and technology skills. The consensus on the call was not everyone needs to be a specialist in these areas. Teams only need a number of specialists while other staff should have some understanding of the systems used.
This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.