With energy costs in the top three expenditures for most companies, procurement and supply chain jobs in the energy supply sector are under unprecedented pressure to undergo radical change driven by new data-analytical technologies, an energy sector executive explains.

In an article for CSO(Chief Sustainability Officer) magazine, the Head of Business Development at Open Energy Market, Simon Skillings, writes that in the recent past, procurement recruitment firms operating in the sector sought talent who could show negotiating skills, industry knowledge, and an ability to foster good business and supplier relationships. Today, they also need to harness the power of digital technologies to analyse spend data, identify and anticipate supplier risks, conduct market explorations and deliver measurable cost reductions.

Digital procurement technologies, such as AI, are becoming essential to energy procurement practitioners, delivering real-time insights and analytics to permeate routine decision-making with solid data models. Skillings is clear that procurement and supply chain jobs are now in the midst of a significant disruption driven by AI and IoT. This technological revolution is placing an onus on these professionals to understand, as he puts it: “the ‘how’, ‘why’ and ‘where’ investment in technology should be made, and not just join the procurement revolution through a fear of missing out.”

It means that new-gen procurement practitioners must review their approach to buying, to pinpoint sticky processes that need to be modified, and find ways not simply of reducing costs but removing cost from the process itself. Being able to make sense of digitally analysed data is, Skillings says, now crucial to the procurement task, although expert, specialist knowledge of the energy sector and its facilities also remain essential. Procurement recruitment agencies specialising in the sector face tough challenges. Demand for the new-generation, digitally-savvy professionals is outstripping supply, Skillings says, adding: “To be sure you don’t miss out on accessing the right talent for your business, it’s important to adopt a culture that welcomes, not fears, technology.”