The changing face of procurement and why key skills are so critical in addressing industry needs
Despite the worst of Covid-19 being over, South African businesses continue to feel the impact of the country’s depressed economy. Still recovering from a decade of state capture which cost the nation hundreds of billions of Rand as well as the financial fallout from the pandemic, companies now also have to endure near-constant loadshedding and union wage strikes that severely disrupt operations.
These problems are exacerbated by global supply chain issues stemming from the war in Ukraine and China implementing harder lockdowns as new Covid-19 outbreaks emerge. Mitigating these challenges is certainly not easy, especially with inflation rising every other month, however many businesses are managing to do so by investing heavily in procurement and supply chain management professionals.
This is confirmed by findings contained in the 2022 edition of the CIPS (Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply) Procurement Salary Guide of South Africa. The survey of more than 7 000 industry professionals from around the globe, produced annually by the CIPS in partnership with British recruitment and human resources multinational Hays, found that 65% of South African respondents believe the perception of procurement has improved in the past year. Furthermore, 69% say they feel valued within their organisation while being engaged from the time a project starts.
Procurement professionals are no longer simply part of an organisation’s organogram but considered essential to operations by top management. Notably, as climate change becomes an ever-growing threat, they also have the opportunity to play a role in shaping an organisation’s sustainability footprint, both upstream and downstream through the purchasing decisions they make, influencing product design and using data to help win new business.
According to Sara Bux, General Manager at CIPS South Africa, 67% of South African respondents in the CIPS Procurement Salary Guide feel that directors and heads of department understand the value procurement brings to their organisation, both at a strategic and talent level. ‘The light that the pandemic has shone on the strategic importance of procurement has also highlighted the skills needed to thrive in the role and drive further value,’ Bux says.
The procurement industry is going to great lengths to encourage investment in development in these skills. ‘Even in normal times, demand is difficult to predict with real certainty, but now business must be even more serious about investing in proper demand planning. This includes getting the right people, systems and skills in place to do this effectively,’ says CIPS CEO Malcolm Harrison.
In the ever-changing procurement environment, laser-focused technical ability supported by fine-tuned soft skills are key attributes needed by successful procurement professionals. According to the findings of the CIPS Procurement Salary Guide 2022, there are three main skills that are needed throughout the profession: These are negotiation, supplier relationship management and sourcing.
Harrison believes excellent negotiation skills underpin successful procurement and are highly sought after by hiring managers. ‘Ensuring your organisation provides training in negotiation skills will not only be important for retaining talent but is also key to tackling the challenges that lie ahead for the profession.’ The different job levels in procurement also call for different skillsets.
For advanced professionals, leadership and negotiation are paramount, while negotiation and sourcing are vital skills for professionals. Managers need excellent negotiation and supplier relationship prowess, whereas sourcing and supplier relationship management need to be prioritised by those on the operational side of things. Tactical specialists should possess superb communication and sourcing skills, among others.
‘With new challenges come new skills needed to capture the opportunities that inevitably follow change and disruption. Professionals need to stay up to date, keep pushing themselves to learn new things, acquire new skills, work more creatively, and keep innovation at the heart of what they do,’ Harrison concludes.
Make 2023 a year of growth by brushing up on essential skills for procurement professionals.