Procurement goes digital: technology, talent and insight

The world has gone digital with people more connected, living life faster and being more efficient and productive than ever. But this fast-paced modern world is not just present in our personal lives. Digitalisation is presenting new opportunities for businesses to predict and respond more effectively to customer and market demands.

However, unlocking these opportunities requires new approaches to the way we connect with people and access information that will fundamentally change how buying and selling get done.

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SAP Ariba’s recent survey of leaders in procurement, finance and supply chain functions from organisations in Europe and North America provides a glimpse into the significant transformation that digitalisation will drive. These are the four key future takeaways.

Big data and predictive analytics are procurement priority number one

Nearly three quarters of respondents (72%) told us that big data and predictive analytics ranked among their top priorities. These were closely followed by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 (43%), followed by automation (39%), cloud computing (38%) and business networks (33%).

Other important priorities cited were artificial intelligence (AI) – which includes machine learning, robotic process automation, cognitive computing – at 22% and robotics, machine-to-machine communication,bBlockchain, 3D printing and augmented reality.

Talent management is the key challenge

It’s a widely held opinion that a company is only as good as the people it keeps. Yet the ability to attract, develop and retain talent remains a struggle for organisations, with 55% of respondents in the US, 49% in Germany, and 41% in the rest of Europe, citing this as their key challenge.

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Procurement can be a talent pool for the rest of the organisation, but only if it invests the time and resources to develop people who can provide deep insights into an organisation, shake up the business model and build functional expertise.

Automation will transform operational procurement

Despite what you may hear on the rumour mill, robots aren’t going to take over the world. But nearly three quarters of the respondents (73 percent) believe automation will have a significant impact on operational tasks in procurement.

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and the IoT will eliminate mundane tasks and bring focus to strategic activities. In the process, procurement will become more efficient and strategic.

Procurement will evolve to look and run differently

As the procurement function becomes more data driven, new roles such as data scientists and data architects will be added to harness the power of information and create business advantage.

More than half of the people we surveyed in the US and Europe (57%) identified developing new skills and talent as a top priority. Aided by new technologies like IoT, AI, machine learning and blockchain, procurement will also become more efficient and collaborative.

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The majority of businesses cited digitising processes across their supply chain as a key initiative, while more than half indicated they are pursuing new ways to collaborate using digital networks and technologies.

These insights point firmly towards the fact that the digitalisation of business is real, and it is here to stay. Big data, business networks, AI, machine learning, blockchain and the IoT are the onramp to innovation and success.

Forward-thinking, innovative procurement and supply chain organisations that think fast can not only drive bottom-line savings, but contribute to the top-line of their organisations by fuelling innovation that leads to growth. Those who stall will find themselves being lapped by the competition.


Sourced by Dr. Marcell Vollmer, chief digital officer, SAP Ariba


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...