A leading procurement expert has urged professionals holding procurement and supply chain jobs to make their roles indispensable in an era of advancing automation.

Tom Derry, CEO of the US Institute of Supply Management, was speaking at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit in Sydney this week. He gave attendees a stark warning: “If you’re the steward of a process, then your job will inevitably be automated.” Many procurement jobs, he added, fit this bracket. For example, he said, every sourcing event will become fully automated in the very near future. CPOs have a duty to help their teams survive this tech-driven revolution by becoming ‘cultivators of talent’ today to ensure that they are can move forward into the rapidly-arriving procurement jobs of tomorrow.

Derry identified three critical skills that procurement pros must be proficient in if they are to remain relevant to their organisations and survive the fast-approaching wave of automation. All are human capabilities that can leverage the optimum potential from new technologies.

Market know-how

Emphasising that this involved more than knowing about prices, Derry said: “Procurement professionals must understand the dynamics that drive the price whether it’s short supply or supply disruption, new technology that disinter-mediates an old technology.”

Strategic acuity

Professionals in senior and executive-level procurement jobs, Derry says, should continuously ask where the business they service is heading, and what its key priorities will be over the next two-to-three years.

Financial shrewdness

The core role of procurement teams is and will remain driving financial results for their organisations. But, a proportion of procurement professionals remain nervous about engaging with financial metrics and the conventional income statement and balance sheet, Derry said. But teams must embrace these to understand how their actions drive financial metrics, such as revenue growth and earning per share. He added, “We must not focus on metrics that are largely discredited like cost avoidance.”

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