What Will Procurement Look Like In 100 Years? Part 1 - “Seriously Good”

Posted 29/10/2015

Ever wondered what your Great-Grandchildren will be doing if they followed you into the procurement profession? Well I thought it’d be fun to find out,  so I asked the team at Future Purchasing to see if we could give a collective view to give you a really good indicator of what the job will be like to help you understand whether you should be encouraging them to the profession or not !

The big questions going through my mind were: would Category Management still be plugged? Will SRM still be the holy grail of procurement? Will getting 3 quotes still seem to be a smart thing to do? Will we still be talking about Marketing procurement as if it’s something totally different from everything else? Will Direct and Indirects still be mentioned? Will we still debate the merits of sourcing, procurement, purchasing and agonise over the right title (OK well perhaps agonising is slightly exaggerating but you know what I mean!), Will we still meet with suppliers or will it all be done using the  ‘Communicator’ (for those StarTrek fans out there) / Information Superhighway all the way ?!  Will anyone care? Will the profession be subsumed into Logistics and be gone again for ever?

Following interviews and deep analysis of the responses 3 very different scenarios emerged which I’ve dubbed: “The Seriously Good, The Disturbing Bad and the Slightly Mad ..? “

100 years from now – The Seriously Good

1.      Strategic Procurement.

No longer will anyone question whether Procurement should be at the top table as Procurement will be a highly valued core strategic function with clear Board representation. Following the foundations we have all laid in the late 20 th and early 21 st century our descendants will be eternally grateful. In fact in 2115, the big film blockbuster, beating all records is called “The Procurement Professionals” – oh yes.

2.      Procurement analytics and systems.

Well utopia has been reached – all spend data will be freely available, with a forward view for the next 5 years enabling excellence for planning both internally and with the supplier base all categorised neatly for everyone’s complete understanding.

And of course all Users will be buying off on-line catalogues, backed by intelligent systems benchmarking suppliers and offering one-click solutions.

3.      Procurement Team.

Simply won’t exist as a function as it currently does.  The activity will be undertaken in profit centres (BUs), with a flexible approach to make versus buy decisions.  Procurement teams will be massively smaller focussing on the important stuff only.  Procurement expertise will be led from what is now the Developing world as costs and technology improvements allow.

The team that is left however delivers fantastic value to the business through high quality people.  Involved in all expenditure decisions though excellent use of business and procurement systems, procurement teams really understand how the business operates and how the supply chain can be optimised to deliver business success. 

Those roles left in the UK and Western world in general will be highly sophisticated – trouble-shooters, strategic thinkers to support the expertise centres based in the Developing world.  These Western based roles will take their highly efficient ways of working to ever more creative heights meaning that whilst these roles will be fewer, they will be highly sought after, highly paid roles. 

4.      Category Management

Cross functional working will be wholly standard, to the extent that there will be no need to discuss whether procurement should be at the table or not, they just are – as are all other functions. People are aware which disciplines do what and the value they each bring with their expertise.  So all spend will be subjected to cross functional inputs and perspectives and ALL category/Supplier decision making will be transparent and easily auditable.

Category Strategy development will be automated. Companies will buy in pre-structured category strategies that will be customised for their environment by entering a small number of answers.  All companies will achieve category management excellence and their optimum targets of cost reduction/revenue up and risk down. Sponsors/teams will be able to set specific targets and then immediately be presented with the strategic options and tactical opportunities to deliver.

5.      Supplier Relationship Management.

Trust with suppliers will be achieved as a matter of routine and buyer/supplier relationships will be highly efficient and effective. The value delivered will be fully optimised, increasing creativity and reducing costs dramatically.

Additionally there will be a constant pipeline of innovation between buyers and suppliers with ideas and opportunities a normal way of working, continuously created, prioritised and implemented in a highly objective and disciplined way.

And as far as supplier performance management goes, this would be quantified and data included in the intelligent systems, influencing future business winning. No surprises, just good, clean reward for good product and service.

And overall Procurement and Business teams really understand how suppliers operate and work with them as equals.

6.      Education.

Everyone is able to work like this because procurement / commercial relationships/ HR, Marketing and ‘trade’ etc. gets taught in schools alongside maths / finance / economics from the age of 7 upwards and is inherent in all teaching using commercial examples constantly. Art classes are just as likely to draw discussion forums as an apple on a plate.  This has many different advantages but in all cases makes awareness of the need for effective trading relationships a “given”.

So in summary, happy days indeed.  We couldn’t decide whether this would be well paid or not for the majority across the globe working in 22 nd century procurement but settled on that it would be paid enough to live happily ever after, without stress and with total job satisfaction leaving us time for a wholesome work/life balance.  A definite yes to encouraging the Grandkids to the profession!

Watch out for next week’s blog – Part 2: "100 years from now - The Disturbingly Bad"

Tagged by topic: The Future of Procurement

  by Allison Ford-Langstaff

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