2030: What Is the Future of Purchasing?

Part 1: Future Perspectives
Purchasing in 2030
Updated on September 2nd, 2021
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It is now a certainty: with the profound changes taking place in our economies and galloping digitalisation, purchasing is set to undergo a metamorphosis. However, the big question is how the purchasing function will evolve. The first signs are encouraging: within ten years, purchasing will be handling tasks with higher added value and double-edged opportunities, and be carving out a strategic niche vis-à-vis the other departments in the company.

Purchasing In 2030: What Is the Outlook?

The transformation of purchasing seems inevitable to the whole business community. Professionals are convinced that the profession of buyer will have changed profoundly within ten years and that it will be flourishing more than ever! This perspective is part of a global evolution that has been going on for several decades, in which the profession has been evolving from a predominantly administrative function to having a strategic role in defending the competitiveness of companies.

With the advent of new technologies, this vision is crystallizing around the automation of time-consuming, repetitive operations with low added value for purchasing teams. It is a fact that, today, buyers carry out tasks which are, in equal parts, as much operational as strategic. To a lesser extent, this same pattern also applies to CPOs who still carry out purely operational tasks, despite what should be their important strategic role!

According to the “Deloitte 2021 Global Chief Procurement Survey”, which interviewed nearly 400 decision-makers from 40 different countries, more than a third of purchasing departments are already relying on flexible automation methods and tools to improve their agility and to manage the volatility of their workload more efficiently. The same study underlines the fact that the automation of robotic processes (Robotic Process Automation) is the digital technology that has been deployed to the fullest extent within the most agile and efficient companies. This is probably because it promises to improve operational performance and employee engagement. These tools can execute routine and standardised processes, based on a few simple rules.

Purchasing In 2030: What Are the Challenges and Opportunities?

Because we are living through unprecedented times, all the attention of the purchasing community is now focused on the major consequences of the current health and economic crisis: economic deflation, the impact of the pandemic, and the resilience of suppliers. If we look ahead to 2030, the picture is more diverse. It turns out that the purchasing profession's greatest opportunities will also be its greatest challenges. In particular, we can cite three main issues that illustrate this paradox.

Technological Advances

Technological advances are extremely promising, whether it is to take over tasks with low added value or to help purchasing teams in their decision-making, but it is still necessary to master these tools!

Recruitment and the Retention of Talent

In an increasingly volatile job market, it will be easy to recruit talented people, but difficult to keep them. Especially since, by 2030, it will be necessary (even more so than today) to manage a mix of different generations in the workplace.

Reputation and Brand Image

With the proliferation of social media and new communication tools, the brand image is as crucial as it is fragile, whether it is used to attract talent or impress customers.

It is interesting to note that these three issues are also intrinsically linked: in the long term, new talent will want to join companies that have successfully completed their digital transformation and are, as a result, benefiting from a virtuous and robust corporate image. In return, it will be these same talented people who will make their own contribution to the digital transition within their company and enhance the company's reputation still further. Of course, the purchasing profession will face many other challenges over the next few years, as a result of industrial disruption, geopolitical shocks, and cybersecurity threats.

Purchasing In 2030: How Do We Think the Profession Will Have Changed?

Within the next ten years, purchasing will not be fully automated or outsourced. Within their company, purchasing teams will be seen more as an agile group of strategic advisors. Far from the negative image of being a “cost killer”, which the profession has been stuck with for a very long time, procurement will have undeniably increased its influence with all its stakeholders and become a "strategic tool" and a genuine “business partner". Given this dynamic, many decision-makers are already keen to change the job title of Chief Procurement Officer to “Value Director”.

This change in aspect can be explained through the way in which their job description has evolved. Reducing costs will no longer be the main priority. Beyond purely economic concerns, buyers will focus on supplier innovation and responsible purchasing, with a view to creating value.

In view of these perspectives, the purchasing profession should focus on showcasing its positive results, demonstrating how it adds value and improves the overall satisfaction of its stakeholders. According to the aforementioned report produced by Deloitte, there is still some room for improvement. If we take a closer look at the key performance indicator that measures the satisfaction level of internal customers, 24% of purchasing departments surveyed do not monitor this performance indicator, while 12% of them do not reach their objectives.

The future of the purchasing function by 2030 is promising, but there are questions regarding the roadmap it should follow and the evolution of jobs within the profession. These are all topics that are addressed in the following sections of this report.

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