How to improve skills across your procurement team

December 12th, 2019
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Procurement has everything to gain from the widespread adoption of e-procurement tools. In particular, three areas will benefit significantly from the digitalisation of procurement:

  • Supplier management and the ability to harness more innovations
  • Procurement productivity
  • Integration with other departments and involvement in the company's strategic planning

However, in order to benefit from the advantages offered by digitalisation, the skills of team members working in procurement departments need to be adapted accordingly. Procurement Leaders recently held a virtual round table on this topic to identify the best ways to move forward.   

Procurement leaders who participated in this round table answered four questions to outline a set of skills to assist with the digitalisation of procurement departments. These were:

Aligning the procurement department's priorities with those of the company

As a company undergoes digital transformation, procurement departments become increasingly integrated into a value chain that links them to the majority departments within the company. This is why the challenge of improving skills within procurement teams cannot be separated from the quality of their relationships with other departments.

As a result, strengthening a procurement department's capacity to align with company-wide issues is a starting point for improving skills within procurement departments. To achieve this objective, procurement departments must ensure that employees have three core skills:

  • Awareness of the economic environment culture and knowledge of the company's customer priorities.
  • Open-mindedness and the ability to accept compromises, to make it easier to make real and lasting adjustments to interface procedures.
  • Knowledge of a small number of indicators shared with the business

Aligning company departments is not the only benefit to be had from acquiring these skills. Open-mindedness and an understanding of issues happening elsewhere also have a positive effect in terms of:

  • Bringing cross-departmental projects to a successful conclusion.
  • Saving time for everyone during interactions.

Choosing a technology that is consistent with the goals of the procurement department

When asked "Can strong skills make up for an unsuitable Procure-to-Pay solution?", procurement leaders answered, "No". For them, successfully digitalising procurement departments depends on both human and technological capabilities.

The two are linked:

  • The role of people in the team is to increase the productivity of digital equipment.
  • The role of digital equipment is to boost collective intelligence and the responsiveness of procurement departments

The procurement department's skill and ability to increase its added value within the company are strongly influenced by the efficiency of P2P solutions combined with the expertise of teams. This is especially true in terms of interpreting the data collected and investing the time saved on recommended automated value-added tasks.

Developing an aptitude for change within and around procurement departments

Without a doubt, the most important skill to be developed is entrepreneurial spirit. For the procurement decision-makers gathered by Procurement Leaders, the ability to push the limits—and certainly the desire to do so—are the skills that should be encouraged the most within procurement departments.

What is entrepreneurial spirit? It is defined as a requirement based on three different elements:

  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Acceptance that risks need to be taken

In other words, the experts consider entrepreneurial spirit to include the ability to design and execute projects correctly. There is no doubt that procurement departments have much to gain from daring to look beyond their department.

Procurement leaders should be warned, however, not to go too fast or too far, at risk of losing part of the team or worse yet, finding that there is a lack of consistency between them and other departments in the company.

Having talented digital experts within procurement departments

The digitalisation of procurement departments encompasses a variety of situations:

  • Accelerating invoice processing which leads to productivity gains.
  • Applying big data when analysing the value of major purchases which demonstrates a tangible development

The skills required to implement the processes in these two examples are not the same.

Depending on how the procurement department is organised, training everyone in data analysis is not always necessary. Procurement leaders suggest that having a small number of experts in the team with a good understanding of the most relevant digital issues is sufficient.

In conclusion, it is important for procurement departments to improve the skills of their team members.

  • All employees should improve their ability to interact within their surroundings, particularly with other departments across the company.
  • All employees should develop a nose for innovation and their desire to push the boundaries.
  • Some employees must also improve in being able to use the most advanced digital resources.

The second lesson we can take from the round table organised by Procurement Leaders is that improving skills within the procurement department also relies on the right choice of digitalisation solution. The proficiency of the procurement department comes from the expertise of its people, combined with the performance of e-Procurement technology.

The question of skills in procurement departments is an issue that goes beyond adapting to the latest technological changes. To learn more, watch the video "Which soft skills are essential to procurement?"