More than half (51%) of jobs could be performed by machines in the next few years, according to research by consultancy McKinsey. While this sounds extreme, it is important to understand that predictions like this refer to job activities, not actual roles or positions.There is no doubt that jobs and roles, especially in procurement, will evolve because of the opportunities new technologies will bring to the workplace.
We see the biggest changes coming in the administrative tasks the function currently carries out. To give you an example, back in 2004, We were setting up shared services for SAP. It was not the most interesting task. I spent my days looking at two screens in a shared services centre.
It’s a task I would like to see having a high degree of automation and artificial intelligence attached to it. By doing so, time will be freed up for the team to focus on the more value-adding, and more enriching activities. Procurement chiefs should be spending their time finding new innovations.
A focus on talent
As part of this change, Procurement heads also need to focus attention on talent.
There is a need to be realistic about the potential of individuals. Not everyone is going to be able to become a data architect. People need to work with the technology and adapt to the changes. Procurement chiefs need to support their teams during this change and determine which tasks will be done by machines and which are best-suited to humans.
Millennials, those born between the mid-1980s and the turn of the century, will have a big influence on the changing nature of procurement. As such, procurement chiefs need to ensure they understand them. If you ask a millennial what they want to do professionally, you may not hear: “I want to start in procurement, become a buyer, and work my way up to be the Procurement heads.”
Career progression for them is not linear. Millennials want to work with purpose and understand what exactly they are doing to help the company. They might wish to work in a particular role for eight or nine months, perhaps a year. But, after that they may want to try something new, to learn new skills and find the next exciting opportunity.
The function has a great opportunity to be a talent pool and source of opportunity for the business. Procurement chiefs need to support their teams in their careers and understand that they may not stay with the function for a long time. For Procurement heads, preparing for the digitization of the function involves preparing for a different type of team.