Procurement recruitment specialists would do well to ensure that candidates seeking procurement jobs are well versed in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic automation so that they can be freed to concentrate on higher value activities.

That’s the core message of a new article by IBM’s CPO, Bob Murphy. Murphy explained that emerging cognitive technologies cannot only lift burdensome repetitive tasks off the shoulders of procurement staff, releasing them for more distinctly human activities such as supply chain and stakeholder relationship management, but can function as robot advisers helping procurement staff to adapt swiftly to fast-shifting market conditions.

Murphy’s main theme is that AI and robotic automation do not replace human activities – they facilitate them instead. The more transactional functions of the procurement process, he explains, are being digitally automated, freeing human staff to develop uniquely human skills.

The so-called “soft” skills he has in mind include enhancing human communication skills to craft closer and more trusting stakeholder and supplier relationships. Machines can’t do that. Only humans are equipped to practice the kind of active, intelligent listening that augments value propositions, and to demonstrate a true understanding of a stakeholder’s requirements from their perspective.

For IBM, procurement leaders need two critical skills:

  1. Digital literacy: The ability to use data analytics to yield true insights, the embrace of robotic processes to ensure human capital is used for maximum impact, and harnessing cognitive computing to digitise processes from one end to the other to wield properly interconnected insights.
  2. Relationship building: IBM believes that while procurement leaders must be adept at using technology to extract meaningful insights, they should also concentrate on developing Emotional Intelligence (EQ) as opposed to exclusively focusing on intellectual intelligence (IQ). EQ informs their ability to talk meaningfully with clients. As Murphy puts it: “Listening is critical – when we’re talking, we’re not learning. Project management, empathy, innovative thinking and an agile mind-set are also critical skills at IBM.”

If you have experience in AI or any other technology then enquire about your next interim procurement role here