What are the prospects for the buying profession?

November 20th, 2018
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On the 15th November, Manutan organised its third annual Customer Event on the topic: "Will robots be the buyers of the future? Anticipating and controlling the impact of technology on BtoB purchases". Now is the time to relive the conference experience with pictures and ask questions about the arrival of new procurement technologies and the opportunities that they present.

Automating a significant number of processes

According to McKinsey & Company, the majority of processes involved in the three major phases of the procurement process (Source to Contract, Procure to Invoice and Invoice to Pay) can be digitalised.

This is particularly true for Procure to Pay, where 88% of processes can be partially or fully automated to facilitate the deployment and use of negotiated contacts, for example by:

  • Facilitating access to negotiated products by using a PunchOut (link to PunchOut vs. hosted catalogue article).
  • Digitalising the validation workflow.
  • Digitalising orders (EDI).
  • Digitalising invoices and automating the order/invoice reconciliation process.

Three pitfalls in digitalising procurement

We have seen significant advances in certain areas, such as the development of e-procurement. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. This is due to in particular to a number of obstacles, which can hinder the digital transformation of procurement departments. By looking at several different studies, Manutan has noted three main barriers to digitalisation:

  • Data — both in terms of quality and the capacity of the systems used to integrate it.
  • Organisation — regarding the involvement of executive officers in order to move towards digitalisation, as well as the resources and skills available internally, which are often more difficult to come across in the market.
  • Computer systems — in spite of the increasing number of solutions available.

Emerging procurement technologies

New technological applications are now available for every area and are emerging at a surprising rate. However, four major technologies in particular are becoming increasingly popular in procurement:

  • Artificial Intelligence with the automation of processes, language processing, predictive analysis etc.
  • Digitalisation in a wider context with S2C (Source to Contract) and P2P (Procure to Pay) processes, as well as digitalisation of the supply chain.
  • Blockchain with the invoice process and contract and delivery management etc.
  • Connected objects with voice recognition and connectivity to the stock management service etc.

Cap on high added-value jobs

Finally, all of these technologies will help tomorrow's procurement officers with time-consuming or low added-value tasks, allowing them to create more value throughout the procurement cycle.

As a result, procurement officers will have more time to:

  • Analyse:
    • Integrate an increasing amount of data
    • Find out how to exploit the technologies and data available in an appropriate manner
    • Define a strategy
  • Gain a deeper understanding:
    • Develop relationships with all stakeholders
    • Engage in a regular consultation process with internal users
    • Outline the user life cycle
  • Deploy:
    • Provide training and support the change
    • Give meaning to the approach
    • Check all of the processes
  • Progress:
    • Initiate a continuous improvement process
    • Create a feedback culture
    • Improve skills across the team
  • Stay informed:
    • Research technological advances
    • Obtain competitive, environmental and regulatory intelligence
    • Pro-actively provide users with information


To find out more about buyers of the future, visit our event page and/or sign up for our blog newsletter.