Our recent research study “Procurement 2025: Is digital transformation driving more effective procurement?’, found that a key factor among the several internal and external challenges to the digital transformation of procurement is having the right people in place to make it work.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of procurement leaders point to lack of talent as the greatest barrier to realising the power of machines. This is compounded by the implementation of new technology not being properly supported by vendors – an issue for two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents. Few procurement heads believe technology is not fit for purpose, with this being the least-cited barrier to progress.
Skills for success
To achieve the potential benefits on offer, organisations first need to take a step back and redesign processes, giving due consideration to the optimal relationship between humans and machines. Competency is key. A fundamental issue is that many teams are investing in technology but not looking for the core skills needed to make the technology work for them.
Capitalising on the benefits of technology will require people with a specific skillset, such as data scientists who are highly analytical but who also have a technological mindset and can, for example, understand how software is built. Having an awareness of concepts such as relational databases will enable people to be good data stewards. And as the lower-value work becomes more automated, people will be freed up to spend time on more strategic tasks – although some might be exposed.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of procurement leaders point to lack of talent as the greatest barrier to realising the power of machines.
Don’t let FOMO influence your decision-making
All too often fear of missing out (FOMO) – rather than a defined need – is driving people to make technology purchasing decisions. An additional consequence of this approach is that it is leading procurement functions to make the wrong decisions and impeding their ability to realise the full benefits of technology. It’s often the case that people recognise the challenges they are facing but instead of solving some of the basic, underlying issues, such as data visibility and integration, they opt for new gadgets as the simpler, more exciting approach, believing it will be the panacea to all of their problems.
Technology providers may be directly contributing to the problem. The majority are product and sales-focused, and not all have become outcomes-oriented. Licence models incentivise a culture of ‘sell and walk away’ among providers, but clients are becoming increasingly frustrated by this approach. It means the benefits of technology become even harder to achieve – and that is difficult to change unless more providers start taking a genuine interest in the outcomes desired by their clients.
Procurement as a business partner or blocker?
Technology and talent go hand in hand and are crucial to creating high-performing procurement functions, meaning the future skillset in procurement will need to change significantly. Get this right and technology and talent can help procurement occupy its desired position as a value-adding business partner, get it wrong and they can be severe blockers.