What will the procurement and supply chain function look like by the year 2030? This is the question that Procurious and Michael Page recently asked industry professionals right around the world in our “Procurement 2030: Makeover or game over?” survey. 

AI and automation are high on the business agenda and the potential implications of the technologies on the workforce are still relatively unknown. We do know that such technologies are indeed being introduced and are likely to become more prominent in the sector as we progress further into the fourth industrial revolution but what does this mean for the industry, businesses in the sector and professionals in the function? 
Based on the findings of the first Procurious report, Jon Weller further explores what the future of procurement looks like in terms of hiring and retaining top talent in the sector. 
Read the first report of the four-part series here: Game over for procurement?

AI: Overcoming challenges in the sector

The top three challenges in procurement, as revealed in the first Procurious report ‘Game over for procurement?’ are not keeping up with technological advances, being unable to recruit and retain top talent, and reputation and brand damage. However, when asked to identify the greatest opportunities, these were also listed as the top three. At the very core of these key procurement factors, is people. More importantly, having the right people on your team. 
As mentioned above, AI and automation are two technologies shaking up the industry. So, it’s important to understand them and what they will mean for procurement teams.
In a recent interview with HSBC’s CPO Jan Fokke Van Den Bosch, he revealed that AI is the aspect of Industry 4.0 that he is actually most excited about. This is because of the opportunities it presents in shifting his team’s focus to more strategic tasks and enable them to work on fostering strong relationships with their key stakeholders across the business.
Ultimately, the introduction of AI will be fundamental in helping to shift the function’s traditional day-to-day role filled with high volume low-value tasks to become a true value-adding business partner. 
The fact is that the reliance on E-Procurement tools is not as critical as some IT firms might have us believe. People skills and the ability to have sensible negotiation is still a key skill, and lacking, unfortunately.
Jan said: “If you could automate the tactical elements even further than we do today, or we could outsource more than we do today, the main focus of the onshore team would be the discussions with our business stakeholders.”
He later highlighted that with the right people in the post, you can also make strides to help shift some of the misconceptions that are held among senior leaders about the procurement function. 
Furthering on his earlier comments, Jan also said that with AI and automation absorbing the more tactical elements of procurement, for procurement professionals: “It’s mainly about understanding business plans, translating business plans and the need for a third party, finding those third parties, qualifying them, and making them available for use.”

People in procurement 

As mentioned above, one of the greatest challenges that the industry faces is finding the right talent. In order to build a team of professionals that are able to drive sustainable cost savings in this somewhat uncertain market, there is a huge need for well-rounded candidates that truly understand what “total cost” means. Candidates that have worked within an operational supply chain, and close to manufacturing, tend to deliver greater value and get the total cost concept more than others.
In terms of hiring this talent, the biggest challenge is finding candidates that can show absolute delivery and have been within the previous role for a long enough period to have taken ownership over their portfolio and gain new skills. The race to progress for many professionals has produced high levels of expectation for candidates, but lacked sustainable delivery for the client in many cases. 
To ensure that you are viewed to be an attractive company to work for, there are a few key aspects that professionals are looking for. First, is to highlight your commitment to the procurement and supply chain function to potential candidates. An easy way to do this is to ensure they have a board representative. Second, nurture your talent. This can be done in partnership with CIPS, or a proven recruitment partner that supports a structured talent management approach. This will include spending the time to share the company vision and market what procurement are doing to support this.
If you are looking to hire talented procurement professionals into your team, why not call your local Michael Page office to discuss how we can help with your recruitment process? Alternatively, submit a job spec and one of our consultants will be in touch. 
Want to learn more about Procurious? Join the network today and connect with over 26,000 procurement professionals worldwide. 
Jon Weller
Senior Manager, Michael Page Procurement and Supply 
T: +44 161 829 0388