Procurement teams and their scope have changed considerably in the past decade into a highly complex function capable of harnessing the talents of the right people with the appropriate skill. Undoubtedly only the businesses with agility and flexibility have been able to tackle rapidly developing challenges.

But recently, the most disruptive events we have seen in a lifetime (e.g. Brexit, geopolitical upheaval, continuing competitive cost pressures), combined with the outbreak of the global pandemic which disrupted supply chains from every angle, are now highlighting the ongoing pressure for transformation for what could be a new breed of Chief Procurement Officers.

Let’s look at just three interrelated procurement elements pre and ‘post’ the pandemic; what might be the new normal for the CPO, and what should they be prioritising for their business.

Technology remains key

With complexity multiplying in the current Coronavirus crisis, there are some practical actions for more impact and improvement:

– Continue the drive to go digital – automate operational and tactical processes to the most possible extent to focus more energy on managing complexity and to expand relationships beyond existing touch points.

– Define a bold digital vision, but execute digital programs carefully step by step and recognise the impact at each stage on the organisation, internally and externally, especially with the disrupted supply chains we are seeing and will continue to experience. With the ‘new normal’ as backdrop, clarity of objectives is essential to carry stakeholders with you.

– Actively pool interest with other Procurement and related leaders and IT experts to get ahead of coming trends, using the greater level of goodwill in the Post Covid world to break down cross-partisan boundaries.

It is well documented that in 2019, technology was rightly at the very top of the priority list for many CPOs (and businesses generally), with other considerations somewhere behind. For 2021 and beyond it will remain key, but additionally, the CPO now has to tackle the urgency of supply side risk, fluctuating supply chain disruption and importantly stakeholder diversity and environmental strategy to boot.

Being seen to promote all of these will stretch CPOs considerably and their teams need to be matched accordingly.

Futureproofing through talent investment

Advancements in technology and the focus on digitally integrated activities and processes are encouraging CPOs to employ often younger, agile and tech-savvy talent. Millennials will no doubt become the face of the same corporations.

Align talent investments with business needs. Take account of talent shortages ahead of the curve and map the future talent market in line with longer term strategy. Consider the changes to working practices, the drive for ‘purpose’ emerging beyond the pandemic, and closely ally decisions with HR to mitigate impact of the ‘post Covid’ world.

However, things need to change across the picture; we know procurement isn’t promoted well enough amongst young people, especially women. CPOs need to look closely at the brand image of their business and whether it works specifically for them in terms of attracting what is a competitive talent market.

“We know procurement isn’t promoted well enough amongst young people, especially women.”

The function needs to be more visible and look appealing – certainly at university level – and the career path should be promoted to a socially responsible generation as a way to create positive social and environmental change.

Greater need for ‘human’ abilities

The above has put additional and urgent burdens on today’s CPO, but the upside is hopefully increased visibility at all levels within the business.

Procurement leaders have the opportunity to raise their profile and communicate their importance and the impact they can have on the business performance, overall business strategy and ultimately the impact on the end user. They need to ensure there is an acceptance internally to disrupt and transform, from top to bottom.

Complex business processes need to be translated in an engaging manner and as a result, there is an opportunity for CPOs to demonstrate they are great communicators with strong leadership qualities in times of need.

Ironically, it seems the relentless advancements in technology have correspondingly resulted in having a strong influence on other, often subservient strands of the role; a greater need for ‘human’ abilities when it comes to recruiting talent and protecting and supporting broader business objectives.

And we thought robots were here to steal our jobs.

You might also be interested in our article ‘A seat at the table – the ongoing procurement dilemma’

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