Where will your Procurement career be in five years?

Gone are the days when your generous corporate employer or government department would pay for you to get a degree. Training funds are tight, so nowadays it’s often all up to you. If you want to take an expensive course to upgrade your skills or change direction in your career, you may have to fund it yourself; so choose carefully.

Generally, project management skills are particularly useful and, therefore, desired in categories such as real estate, facilities management and technology. Routine tactical and transactional procurement jobs, on the other hand, are being outsourced to low-cost countries and outsource platforms. Generalists doing three-bids-and-a-buy activities are being replaced by data-entry clerks working with e-procurement catalogues. Remember: the best jobs are those where skills are in short supply.

1. What are employers looking for?
Company recruiters and agencies are looking for transferable skills, those that can transcend industries and procurement categories. They search for keywords and phrases in your CV such as: “stakeholder management”, “supplier relationship management”, “e-procurement”, “analytical”, “negotiation” and “sustainability”. The focus for employers is on how well you can adapt to changes in the business landscape and use your knowledge and experience to help organisations achieve their goals.

2. What are the areas that are in demand?
The more complex procurement categories such as I.T. and technology, marketing, professional services and media are hard to fill. This is partly because applicants need to understand the category and the supply market, but also because of the need for strong stakeholder management and communication skills. There are job openings now that didn’t exist five years ago and employers complain that there is a skills shortage in some of the newer areas. As a result of this scarcity in skills, you can command a premium in the market if you can hone in on where there is a shortage of suitable applicants.

3. Sustainability
This is a catch-all term used loosely to cover a range of “green issues”. It is not only about reducing carbon footprints. Companies are hiring specialists to focus on sourcing and managing utilities including alternative sources of energy. Initiatives include: reducing the cost and usage of fuel, water and power; recycling and waste management; and minimising the overall environmental impact. These areas are important in terms of brand image, with discerning consumers demanding that companies take their environmental responsibilities seriously. There is, therefore, a very real risk to reputation if sustainability issues are ignored.

4. Change management
The implementation of new contracts and the resulting supplier changeovers have always been a headache in large organisations and the satisfaction of the end-user is not always considered or managed well during these periods of change. As a result, there is a need for individuals who can explain the need for new initiatives and manage the “human side” of change. An understanding of cross-cultural differences and having well-developed interpersonal skills are basic requirements for this role.

5. Data analysis
Although financial and statistical analysis is a backroom sort of job, it is vital to the success of a procurement organisation. “Big data” is a hot topic: how to clean it; and how to slice-and-dice it and tweak it for reporting and decision-making. Spend categorisation is the first step in strategic sourcing and category management. Further down the line, measuring and tracking savings is an area that is in great need of expertise. Business analysts with these advanced skills attract a premium, as a recent job advert indicates:

“We currently have an exciting opportunity for a Procurement Finance Lead. This individual will partner with the Global Procurement Lead to develop sourcing strategies, improve quality of supplies and services, and deliver economic efficiency.”

Employers like these look for evidence that a candidate can focus on profitability and cash flow, and not just manage down current costs.

6. Strategic thinking
This is about seeing the big picture and is rated as one of the biggest skills gaps in procurement today. Successful applicants will have a more developed and integrated view of the overall business gained by an openness and curiosity about the outside economic environment. The move is away from tactical activity towards research, innovation and ideas that create value and even challenge the corporate strategy.

An effective supply market analysis for a product or service starts with an overview of the global market and industry trends. The outcome is a comparative analysis of the major players and an industry report on which you base your sourcing decisions.

7. Supplier relationship management (SRM)
Companies that have strong relationships with their top suppliers reap cost benefits from continuous improvement to new product innovation. As a result, many large organisations are recruiting for this role rather than assuming that it just happens within procurement categories and at an operational level in the business.


Contributed by: Elaine Porteous, a regular contributor to Bespoke Procuremment Bulletin, and a freelance business writer and commentator on supply chain and talent management


Article first appeared in Bespoke Procurement Bulletin: