Five or ten years ago, the job spec for a good procurement candidate was easy to write out. CIPS qualified with technical or supply chain experience.
Good at driving a deal, focused on the bottom line, excellent numerical and analytical skills.
That same job spec would look quite different now.
Procurement is now very much seen as a function that improves business processes, mitigates risk, utilises innovative technologies and partners with businesses to design and implement global commercial strategies.
So what skills should modern procurement candidates be prioritising?
Recently, we have seen flexibility from hiring managers to consider candidates with little procurement experience if they have a more rounded skill set. Typically hiring managers will look for articulate, analytical and collaborative professionals who have the emotional intelligence and gravitas to improve stakeholder relationships and forge long term relationships with suppliers.
Over the last 18 months we have filled some junior procurement vacancies with candidates with very little or no procurement experience. In a Consulting environment, where the softer skills are even more relevant, we have even placed candidates into mid-level roles (£50k — £60k) without procurement knowledge if they had previous consulting or project management experience.
When procurement experience is still a pre-requisite from our clients, they look for tech savvy professionals who are able to demonstrate strategic thinking and a track record of improved relationships.
Wider procurement marketplace
This echoes recent surveys of the procurement marketplace.
The 2016 EY report Empowered by Analytics: Procurement in 2025 quotes an e-Sourcing Society survey which identified the biggest talent gaps in procurement recruitment as: Data analytics skills (according to 50% of respondents), Category expertise (35%), Innovation and collaboration skills (35%), Negotiation skills (15%)
The Deloitte CPO survey 2018 found that 51% of procurement leaders believe their current teams do not have sufficient levels of skills and capabilities to deliver on their procurement strategy. And only one-third of procurement leaders currently use technologies such as predictive analytics and collaboration networks.
This highlights the urgency for procurement leaders to add these skills and knowledge to their teams to take full advantage of emerging innovations – including looking beyond procurement for suitable candidates.
Analytics – the future of procurement?
Analytics and the ability to harvest and manage big data are particularly vital future skills. According to EY’s Procurement in 2025 report, the future of Procurement depends on analytics. It states: ‘As analytics becomes more powerful, procurement will become increasingly central to business decision-making’. As this shift occurs, ‘future procurement pros will need to be prepared to lead – rather than simply serve – their businesses.’
This will also bring people from different disciplines into the field, including expect statisticians, physicists, social scientists and financial risk specialists.
Speed and agility
Proxima’s Guy Strafford argued recently that procurement teams will need to embrace speed and agility, moving away from the process-driven ‘seven stage sourcing’ model to meet the modern CEO’s need to react to competitive pressures and real-time market changes.
‘Disruptive procurement’ is also a big buzzword in 2018, identified by management consultants AT Kearney & Insider Procurement managing partner Jeremy Bowley as the need for procurement pros to be open-minded & prepared to challenge ‘business as usual ‘ – transforming procurement practices to drive real business value.
Invest in your skillset
So procurement professionals looking to advance their careers should definitely be investing in their analytical and relationship-building skills, looking at how they can develop agile response capacity within their teams – and thinking about themselves as future leaders.
Equally, candidates from other fields who might not previously have considered procurement as a career option should think seriously about the opportunities it offers for future leadership and working at the forefront of new technology.
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