After covering the prospects of digital procurement and the preparation required, Michael Page and Procurious use the 3rd part of their study* to focus on skills. Which procurement skills can be replaced or automated by new technologies and which will remain inherently human?
Procurement in 2030: Automation vs. humanisation
A decade ago, the major strategic decisions for the procurement function were twofold, involving the questions of outsourcing/insourcing and centralisation/decentralisation. Today, this is no longer the case. For 52% of respondents, the major strategic question is automation or humanisation?
Procurement Managers must differentiate between tasks that need to be done by humans and those that can be completed by new technologies. Some purchasing processes can be standardised and automated, but human relationships and the resulting procurement tasks cannot be replaced by a machine, such as collaboration, innovation, understanding of the customer experience, engagement with stakeholders and partners etc.
Procurement in 2030: Essential skills
The authors of the study modelled the potential to automate essential procurement skills.
As discussed in the previous part, it seems that strategic and relational skills are the least likely to be automated, with the top three as follows:
- Determining the needs of internal customers
- Developing a procurement strategy
- Creating value for stakeholders
On the other hand, the study highlights the skills that are most likely to become automated, including in particular:
- Data collection and analysis
- Market studies
- Use of purchasing tools and technologies
Let's remember that automation is already underway and that, in some companies, these skills are now being managed by cognitive or artificial intelligence.
Procurement in 2030: Interpersonal skills
The authors modelled another variant—the potential to automate soft or interpersonal skills—which are essential to procurement, and the results are even more surprising.
While some interpersonal skills remain intrinsically linked to being human, such as building relationships, influencing others, creativity and innovation, respondents identified four main skills that could most likely be digitised, some of which you wouldn't expect. These are communication, problem solving, leadership and negotiation.
However, new technologies have their limits. Although modern robots can hold relevant conversations and facial expression recognition systems are being developed, professionals are still reluctant to give them tasks that go beyond "routine" communication. For example, writing tactful emails is not within the scope of technology, which at present is unable to demonstrate empathy.
As for leadership, Hugo Britt, Content Manager at Procurious, puts things into perspective:
« The surprise finding that “leadership” is seen as ripe for automation is concerning. If managing others simply consists of tracking progress and performance, this role could very well be taken over by a piece of software. But real leaders bring a whole suite of soft skills to the table, including the ability to motivate others, inspire, lead by example and take a genuine interest in the well-being of their team. »
These findings remind us that staying up-to-date with developments in procurement is essential, as is continuously learning in order to anticipate the needs of the profession and ensure that our careers move in the right direction.
*Study conducted with 590 purchasing professionals