Digitalisation has arrived in procurement. More and more industry experts are talking about Procurement 4.0, referring to the growing impact of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and blockchain on the entire enterprise.

Artificial intelligence in procurement 4.0

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can support the spend management system and make it more efficient. However, companies first need a set-up for cost and contract analysis before using AI at this level. This change includes the implementation of e-sourcing and configured procure-to-pay solutions. As a result, the technical buyer takes a back seat.

The role of the strategic buyer, however, is growing because they form an important part in the digitalisation of the company. On one hand the costs shrink with the same amount of work, while on the other, the procurement specialist has more time for strategic and tactical tasks. Nicolai Mikkelsen, Executive Director of Procurement and Supply Chain at Michael Page in Switzerland, even goes so far as to say that "a good strategic buyer will ultimately bring more profit to the company than a sales expert,".

The role of blockchain in procurement 4.0

By contrast, blockchain is still new territory for most medium-sized companies. This technology primarily protects transactions against fraud in invoice management. From the beginning to the end of the process, invoices are verified by both suppliers and customers. Cyberattacks and other fraudulent actions become useless, since blockchain, in simple terms, consists of information in decentralised blocks.

Invoices are not stored in a single place, but their individual information packages are spread across a network. Thus, the system protects against espionage, theft or even technical failures.

To take advantage of these technologies, procurement 4.0 is marginalised at the heart of a company's decision-making process. Of course, this also affects the job description and profile requirements in strategic procurement.

New profile requirements for strategic buyers

By automating technical tasks, the responsibility increasingly shifts to strategic and tactical matters, and because of this it is all the more important that candidates are well versed in their market and sector. The most important element for a position as strategic buyer is specialised professional experience with specific products in specific markets and sectors.

With the soft skills of purchasing and negotiation skills as well as analytical thinking, the strategic buyer becomes the organisation’s secret weapon in achieving the best possible deals.

In addition, strategic buyers need a technology-savvy attitude and interest in modern tools. Nicolai Mikkelsen sees here an opportunity for candidates to stand out from the crowd:

Technology drives us forward at all levels. And procurement specialists are taking on an important role by driving the digitalisation of the company. People with experience in change management and who have already worked with modern technologies gain a good head start.

Now, this does not mean that companies expect candidates to have the technological understanding of an IT expert. But they should be able to recognise and understand the strategic potential of technological innovations and integrate them into processes with the help of an IT team.

Companies in Poland recognise the importance of the role and adapt their strategies step by step which offers you new prospects for a promising career in procurement. Do you recognise yourself in the profile requirements?

If you are looking for new challenges as a strategic procurement specialist, take a look at our current vacancies and apply today.