Head of content and community, Procurement Leaders
Procurement is digitalisation: in a commercial context, the two concepts are so intertwined it’s becoming less possible to distinguish between the two.
Now, it doesn’t feel controversial to point out that procurement cannot succeed without executing an effective digitalisation strategy. That isn’t to say a successful procurement executive doesn’t also need to be a leader of people, an influencer in the business and a relationship-builder; but they can’t do any of these sustainably and credibly without digitalisation.
Anyone in the commercial world will say the journey to digitalisation isn’t just about machines, it’s about people. But what they really mean is skill sets that make up a procurement organisation are changing, team cultures are changing, new roles are being introduced and jobs that can be automated increasingly are.
The latter point is an emotive issue. But it’s part of the balancing act the modern CPO has to pull off: to be a leader, they have to understand and embrace digitalisation, but also build the capabilities around them to make that vision a reality. Even that oversimplifies it somewhat: they have to transition from what they have in terms of people, software and hardware, towards a completely new vision of procurement.
George Westerman, from MIT Sloan Management’s Center for Digital Business, suggests progress in digitalisation within business would come from the harmonised development of digital and leadership capabilities. That thinking helps crystallise the challenge for procurement: be a leader that can lead digitalisation or fail.
This might be a huge test, but it’s also an opportunity. Become “digital masters”, as Westerman terms it, and your teams will lead change in business, become architects of value chains and shape the world. The technology available today represents a chance to completely reimagine the function, and a watershed moment for functions and leaders that can’t – or won’t – be part of that revolution.
“Technology gives you so much power, so what are you going to do with it?” asks Graham Wright, VP of global procurement at IBM. There is no more pivotal question for procurement functions than that.