Year of the Network: Procurement trends for 2019

For Procurement, 2019 looks set to be a year when collaboration and network-forming take centre stage.

The rise of digitalisation affects supplier management and the skills needed for the new generation of procurement leaders. The theme connecting all these trends seems to be an increased need for collaboration and agility, reflecting the ever-growing size and speed of data networks. So what can we expect for Procurement in 2019?

Developing future talent

The move towards digital transformation calls for people with data management and analysis skills.

This is certainly something we’ve seen at Bramwith, with more data-driven businesses being open to taking on people with data or business analyst backgrounds for Procurement roles.

Bramwith manager Declan McElroy said: “There is the caveat that data analysts tend to be more focused on the numbers and less so on presenting their findings. Therefore, when sourcing potential candidates we make sure they have both the numerical skills and the softer skills needed for stakeholder management.”

AT Kearney flags this mix of skills up in its report on the future of procurement, pointing out that automated environments call for a blend of “analytical” and “creative” thinking modes as roles evolve.

With companies already fighting for procurement talent, how to adapt to the changing skillsets the future will demand?

In-house training can be a vital investment. Johnson & Johnson has programmes in place to capitalise on new talent and grow its next generation of procurement leaders, preparing employees for strategic Procurement roles from the start of their careers.

Supplier management

Strategic, agile thinking and the ability to collaborate will also be key to supplier management in 2019 and beyond.

Robert Freeman of Future Procurement points up the importance of co-creation rather than competition– working in alignment with all key stakeholders (including suppliers) to develop and deliver products, services or systems that deliver value for the final customer.

Digital transformation

The increasing importance of network-building and collaborative working is partly due to the ongoing digital transformation of Procurement. We’ve blogged previously about the platforms contributing to this, from Blockchain to the Internet of Things.

In a landscape of increased automation, with routine processes being handled by machines, humans will need to apply a greater strategic skill to higher-level activities — AT Kearney points to ‘shaping supplier behaviour, leveraging competitive advantages and cultivating winning ecosystems.’

Accenture’s 2017 Digital Procurement report predicts a further evolution in the next two to four years, in which ‘data from outside a business’s own ecosystem will provide even more advanced decision making.’

This echoes innovation advisor Greg Satell’s idea of competitiveness now being based not on ‘the assets and capabilities you control, but what you can access’.


More data available along the supply chain also means greater transparency, which is crucial for the future of sustainable procurement.

EY’s 2016 report on the state of sustainable supply chains finds that by 2025 consumers ‘will consistently give preference to products or services whose impacts have been found to be less damaging to the environment, human health or society’, with the quest for extreme transparency continuing. Again collaboration is the key to achieving this, with 70% of companies interviewed for the report pointing to multi-stakeholder collaborations ‘enabling them to make progress towards more sustainable supply chains.’.

Risk management

The theme of resource-pooling and connectivity also extends to risk management. Risk management platform Resilinc’s report on the first half of 2018 found that supply chain disruptions continued to grow at an ‘alarming rate’, with extreme weather the single most impactful event type.

Evaluating supply chain vulnerability and using platforms that supply real-time data on the supply chain allow companies to mitigate such risks, but a study by Jacobs University Bremen and the Funk Stiftung foundation finds that collaboration between customers, suppliers, competitors and governments  can also ‘substantially shorten the time it takes companies to recover from a disruption as well as significantly reduce financial consequences’.


In conclusion, we believe the future for Procurement looks ever more connected. Procurement leaders will need to ensure their teams have the skills to exploit the benefits of mass data networks and to collaborate beyond their own business ecosystems. A more interconnected Procurement world is an exciting prospect and one with the potential to really tackle serious issues like sustainability. Are you ready for it?

Get in touch with me on if you’re looking for candidates with the key skills to give your  team the edge next year.

Image courtesy of Unsplash



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