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Why Procurement leaders must act now to tackle the digital skills shortage

by Alex Saric

The role of procurement has transformed over the last decade, from cost-cutter to a vital ally that can inform and enable business strategy. COVID-19 has only served to cement the procurement department’s status as a key stakeholder. Procurement leaders now have a seat at the top table when it comes to making decisions on supply chain opportunities and risk.

There has also been greater investment in procurement technology and digitisation, giving procurement professionals more visibility across the supply chain, and the ability to analyse data and make better informed decisions. As a result, the skills procurement professionals need today have evolved to become more technical and analytical.

However, in our latest study of UK-based procurement, supply chain and finance professionals, 86% of UK businesses claimed they had faced barriers when developing digital skills in procurement. As such, organisations need to ensure they have people with the right skills in-house, and tools that are easy to use, so employees can make the most of their technology and data. In fact, a large majority of respondents believe that greater digitalisation (84%) and better digital skills (83%) in procurement would have enabled UK businesses to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak more effectively.

Procurement transformation has widened the digital skills gap

The report found that procurement transformation is well underway for most. As part of ongoing digital transformation efforts in procurement, businesses have started to introduce new technologies such as data analytics (55%), cloud-based platforms (53%), automation (35%) and AI/machine learning (30%) in the last 12 months. Consequently, 84% say that the skill set required from procurement professionals has shifted from procurement-first to digital-first.

However, UK businesses are finding it difficult to upskill employees and bring on new talent at the same pace and make the most of these technologies. The study found 88% find it challenging to hire the right digital skills to work with technologies such as AI, cloud-based platforms, or data analytics.

Despite awareness of the need for digital skills, major challenges remain for businesses trying to close the skills gap. The findings reveal that a shortage of digitally savvy talent (31%), a lack of training for technical and soft skills (28%) and a lack of understanding of the skills required (13%), are the main barriers preventing businesses from developing the digital skills they need.

Smart procurement tools can shrink the skills gap

In a post-COVID-19 world, procurement teams will need to have the skills to react and proactively address the shifting sands across the supply chain mitigating risk, identifying new opportunities, and collaborating with suppliers. However, procurement is struggling to gain access to those skills and make the most of emerging technology.

Developing the right talent is vital for businesses, as respondents recognise improving digital skills can make procurement more strategic and help them gain a competitive advantage, so businesses need to act now. If they do not, they risk falling behind competitors, losing market share, and struggling to identify risk and opportunities in the supply chain ahead of time.

In order to catch up on skills and keep their seat at the table in strategic discussions, procurement departments need to ensure they develop the right skills in-house, and deploy easy to use tools to help teams manage procurement transformation and improve access to actionable insights. By taking a smart approach to procurement, businesses will give teams the tools and skills needed to thrive in the new normal and gain a competitive advantage.

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Author

Alex Saric

Chief Marketing Officer

Alex has spent over 15 years of his career evangelizing Spend Management, shaping its evolution and working closely with hundreds of customers to support their Digital Transformation journeys. As CMO at Ivalua, Alex leads overall marketing strategy and thought leadership programs. Alex also spent 12 years at Ariba, first building and running the spend analytics business as General Manager. He then built and led Ariba’s international marketing team until successful acquisition by SAP, transitioning to lead business network marketing globally. Earlier, Alex was a founding member of Zeborg (acquired by Emptoris)where he developed vertical Procurement applications. He began his career in the U.S. Cavalry, leading tank and scout platoons through 2 combat deployments. Alex holds a B.S. in Economics from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an international M.B.A. from INSEAD.

You can connect with Alex on Linkedin

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