Top Technical Skills in the Digital Age of Procurement

Explore the top technical skills purchasing professionals should have to be successful in the rapidly changing digital age of procurement.

By Hugo Britt | July 18, 2023


Technical skills are changing in procurement. Not long ago, purchasing professionals were expected to master the various stages of the sourcing cycle, but the reality is that AI and ML-driven automation are creating the need for an entirely new skillset.

Developing this new spectrum of skills will set any procurement professional up for success in the digital age. 

Top technical skills

This article will cover nine of the must-have technical skills practitioners should focus on developing to avoid getting left behind in this new era:

  1. Technical know-how
  2. Finding ways to work smarter
  3. Bring spend data to light
  4. Master data analytics
  5. Harness the power of AI
  6. Mitigate risk
  7. Reduce waste and promote sustainability
  8. Keep track of the regulatory landscape
  9. Stay agile and adaptable

The procurement landscape is quickly changing thanks to the explosion of AI and machine learning. Practitioners will need to develop an entire new skillset in order to remain relevant and successful.

1. Technical know-how

In this age of rapid digital transformation, it’s essential for procurement professionals to be tech-savvy. Familiarity with procurement software platforms, e-procurement systems, and vendor management systems is a must.

These tools streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and ensure better collaboration with suppliers and stakeholders. Get comfortable with navigating user-friendly interfaces and learn to leverage the power of cloud-based solutions to drive better outcomes.

2. Working smarter

There’s nothing “soft” about continuous improvement and finding ways to work smarter. Look for opportunities to automate repetitive tasks and streamline processes. Embrace tools that offer workflow automation, electronic signatures, and centralized document management systems to reduce manual effort and increase productivity.

Seek out best practices and lessons learned from experienced professionals in the field to optimize your workflows. Emphasize collaboration and communication with cross-functional teams to foster efficiency and transparency. By constantly seeking ways to work smarter, you’ll not only enhance your own productivity but also contribute to the overall success of your procurement operations.

3. Make invisible spend data... visible

Invisible spend refers to the expenditures that occur outside of traditional procurement channels such as non-contracted purchases, one-off transactions, or decentralized buying. Spend data can be hidden on people’s desktops, email attachments, spreadsheets, or even filed away in paper format, requiring some pretty sharp detective skills to uncover.

Leverage data analytics tools and techniques to capture this hidden spend and collaborate closely with finance, operations, and other relevant departments to gain a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s purchasing landscape. 

By shining a light on invisible spend, you can identify potential cost-saving opportunities, negotiate better contracts, and implement more effective procurement strategies. Transforming invisible spend into visible and manageable data will enable you to make data-driven decisions and drive significant value for your organization.

4. Master data analytics

Data is the new gold, and procurement professionals need to become skilled data miners. Gone are the days when the procurement team would always handball a data question to a separate data analytics team. Today, everyone should have a good understanding of how to put their spend data to work, including:

  • Analyzing and interpreting large volumes of data can uncover valuable insights, enabling strategic decision-making.
  • Understanding key performance indicators (KPIs) and applying data visualization techniques to help you communicate complex information effectively.
  • Harnessing data analytics tools and techniques to allow you to identify cost-saving opportunities, supplier performance trends, and potential risks.

5. Harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is transforming procurement. Procurement professionals who can leverage AI technologies will have a significant competitive advantage. Familiarize yourself with AI-powered platforms that automate repetitive tasks such as supplier discovery, contract management, and spend analysis. By harnessing AI, you can free up time for more strategic activities, nurture supplier relationships, and improve overall procurement performance.

Take the time to understand how to get the most from procurement AI. Learn about the data it is working from, the possibility of bias, and how it is being supervised.

6. Mitigate risk

Effective risk management is a critical skill for procurement professionals in a world of increasing uncertainty. Develop an understanding of risk assessment methodologies and tools. Learn to identify and assess risks throughout the procurement process from supplier selection to contract management.

Mitigating risks related to supplier reliability, geopolitical factors, regulatory compliance, and cybersecurity will safeguard your organization’s interests and minimize potential disruptions.

Developing and mastering these top technical skills will allow procurement practitioners to continue to drive value for their organizations.

7. Reduce waste and promote sustainability

As the world becomes more conscious of environmental and social sustainability, procurement professionals have a vital role in reducing waste and promoting sustainable practices. Familiarize yourself with concepts such as circular economy, green procurement, and sustainable supply chains.

Look for opportunities to source products and services that minimize waste, use eco-friendly materials, and align with your organization’s sustainability goals. By incorporating sustainable practices into your procurement strategies, you’ll contribute to a greener future and create a positive impact.

8. Keep track of the regulatory landscape

Regulatory and compliance requirements can be incredibly challenging to navigate, making it one of the “hardest” of hard skills. Staying updated on the ever-changing regulatory landscape is crucial to ensure adherence to legal obligations and mitigate potential risks.

Keep a close eye on industry-specific rules, such as environmental regulations, labor laws, and data protection requirements. Engage with legal and compliance teams within your organization to stay informed about new legislation and its impact on procurement processes. By proactively staying abreast of regulatory changes, you’ll not only protect your organization from potential penalties but also position yourself as a trusted advisor who can navigate the procurement landscape with confidence.

9. Stay agile and adaptable to change

None of the above skills will get you far unless they are combined with a key soft skill – adaptability. In today’s fast-paced world, agility is the name of the game. Procurement professionals must embrace change, adapt to new technologies, and continually up-skill.

Stay up to date with industry trends, attend conferences, join professional networks, and take advantage of online courses. By nurturing a growth mindset and actively seeking opportunities to learn, you’ll position yourself as a valuable asset to any organization and ensure your skillset never reaches its use-by date.

There is a lot to handle when running a procurement function but you don’t have to do it alone. Learn how partnering with a GPO can help you increase cost savings, manage supplier relationships, mitigate risk, and more:

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