Future-Proof Your Procurement Career

Explore 5 ways to hedge your bets to future-proof your procurement career as AI radically changes the sourcing landscape.

By Hugo Britt | July 20, 2023

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As the AI race accelerates, two schools of thought are emerging about how to future-proof your procurement career. One side recommends full immersion into the world of AI, learning everything you can about this game-changing tech with the potential to transform the very concept of procurement. The other side urges people to double-down on soft skills such as leadership, persuasion and empathy that make up the uniquely human elements of our profession.

But why not hedge your bets and do both? The top procurement functions of the future will be those that are able to strike a balance between leveraging technology and nurturing human expertise to gain a competitive edge in a changing landscape. Similarly, the most successful procurement professionals will be able to navigate a machine-learning script just as easily as they handle complex human relationships.

5 Ways to future-proof your procurement career

In other words, don’t make the mistake of becoming an AI expert with no human skills, or becoming adept at human skills without any knowledge of AI.

Let’s examine how to hedge your bets to future-proof your procurement career as AI radically changes the landscape.

Avoid becoming an AI expert with no human skills, or becoming adept at human skills without any knowledge of AI. Hedge your bets to future-proof your procurement career as artificial intelligence radically changes the landscape.

1. Don’t assume there are any parts of your job that AI will not touch

It can be tempting to believe there are certain parts of the job that AI will never be able to automate, but this approach has been proven wrong time and again. It’s not just about automating repetitive and mundane tasks.

For example, Walmart has deployed AI-powered chatbots to negotiate and close agreements with thousands of suppliers. Microsoft Azure has experimented with an emotion-recognition AI tool that could tell if people were happy, upset, surprised, and more.

Cognitive procurement shows incredible potential to synthesize massive pools of data to come up with strategic recommendations.

2. Stay ahead of the automation curve

Adapt to automation by staying ahead of the curve and embrace emerging technologies as more procurement tasks are automated. The next time you are at a procurement conference, chat with the technology vendors to find out what they’re offering. You may be surprised to discover automation has moved well beyond the basics of purchase order creation and invoice processing.

Today, AI and machine learning can be used for everything from demand forecasting to supplier performance analysis and risk management. Stay curious to position yourself as a valuable asset to your organization and remain competitive in the job market.

3. Level up your digital skillset

None of us – not even ChatGPT – have a crystal ball that will reveal what sort of technology skills we will need in the future, so the best advice is to develop a continuous learning mindset and to stay agile. That being said, there’s a fundamental skill that will never be obsolete: data analysis.

Knowing your data, where it can be found, how to clean it up, and how it can be leveraged are key technical skills for an AI-enabled future in procurement. There are plenty of different ways to acquire new digital skills, from formal education, on-the-job training, being self-taught, gaining new industry certifications, or participating in webinars and conferences.

4. Hone your human edge

Adaptability, resilience, and a proactive mindset will empower procurement professionals to navigate change and seize emerging opportunities in an automated landscape. Think about the skills you will need to succeed in your role: critical thinking, effective communication, relationship-building, empathy, and negotiation skills will always be vital for successful collaboration with suppliers and your internal stakeholders.

5. Finding partners

One of the best ways to future-proof your career is to surround yourself with the right people – this includes your professional network, your supplier network, and the strategic partnerships you embark upon.

Partnering with a group purchasing organization (GPO) like Una can do wonders for enhancing procurement’s value proposition and make a massive impact through saving money, time, and effort. Even AI would struggle to match the speed-to-savings offered by a GPO partnership where it isn’t uncommon to achieve double-digit savings across multiple categories as soon as you join.

Adopt a proactive approach to future-proof your procurement career. Ensure your continued relevance and success by striking a balance between technology and human skills, staying ahead of the automation curve, leveling up your digital skillset, and honing your human edge.

Embracing automation as an ally rather than a threat will empower you to focus on strategic activities, provide added value to your organization, and thrive in the brave new world of AI-enabled procurement.

See how to get the most out of a GPO relationship by downloading our popular playbook:

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