The Future Of Procurement Is Powered By People

Great article from Amy Moore at SAP – finding the right people and retaining them is going to be the key to unlocking digital growth. Original article is published in Digitalist.

Winning the talent war. Plugging the skills gap. The touchy topic of talent, in the world of sourcing and procurement, is often described in terms that would make anyone’s heart race. So it’s refreshing to see Oxford Economics explore the issue in an infographic filled with stats, facts, and clearheaded analysis.

Oxford’s research into the future of procurement—a survey of over 1,000 senior procurement executives and non-executives from around the world—reveals that the function is indeed becoming more collaborative and strategic and that these changes are made possible by technology. At the same time, when executives cite their top two investment priorities, what are they? Recruitment of new talent and training programs to develop current employees. This may mean that the last mile of procurement transformation will indeed be driven by people—people that are enabled by technology and excited by the prospect of a profession that offers more opportunities to be strategic.

What about that skill gap? The top three skills that executives say are at least moderately difficult to find is strategy and business acumen, technology, and negotiation. Practitioners acknowledge some lagging skills in these areas, as well—with roughly half of the respondents saying that they are either not proficient or only slightly to moderately proficient. With most practitioners saying that they decided to enter the procurement function because they were recruited out of business school or a graduate program, it may be time for these educational institutions to do a better job “advertising” procurement as a profession with rich opportunities to practice and improve high-value skills.

Most of the practitioners surveyed indicated healthy satisfaction with their jobs. They largely did not enter procurement just because they thought it would be a good springboard to other parts of the business.  54% plan to stay in the function long-term. And 56% are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs—which is much higher than the average worker satisfaction rate reporting in SAP’s Workforce 2020 study.

Furthermore, it turns out that satisfied employees may do at least four things differently than the others. It’s hard to know which is the cause and which is the effect, but it’s promising to see that satisfied employees tend to:

  • Have a clear understanding of all lines of business
  • Say that recruiting new talent is a priority at their business
  • Report they are proficient in a broad range of skills
  • Say that they were recruited with an offer of competitive compensation

Maybe it’s not that there’s a war for talent in procurement. Maybe we should call it a war for satisfied talent. Or how about we leave out the battlefield metaphors altogether? To my eyes, it looks like it’s less about winning a war, and more like running a race. One executive that Oxford interviewed said, “If the head of procurement has a good, strong vision, and the team understands what that vision is, there will be more common ground.” Every race needs a finish line—and this executive sums it up perfectly. A common, strong vision for what the future of procurement can hold is what’s going to get students, new recruits, employees, and teams pumped up and racing forward.


Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 21 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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