Procurement Leaders Have Their Say: The impact of technology

We live in a world where technology can now offer a solution to most issues or challenges, particularly within business, where high tech, often bespoke systems and databases are more advanced and readily available than ever before. With all that’s on offer it would make sense to assume that organisations have the tools to operate more effectively, but is technology really facilitating a smooth transition to success? This quarter we asked Procurement Leaders from some of the UK’s leading businesses to enlighten us on how technology is really impacting their Procurement departments and the Profession as a whole.

Is technology having an impact on Procurement – is it a help or a hindrance?

Responses to this question were mixed although the majority of Procurement Leaders (78%) agreed that technology was having a certain level of impact. For many this was because they were undergoing some form of system implementation, particularly in areas such as resource planning, contract management and e-sourcing. For others it was more about availability of data and the way this was helping better shape procurement strategy.

In regards to whether this impact was helping or hindering procurement teams, Procurement Leaders were embracing the way technology could widen visibility of tender opportunities, enable quicker and easier access to suppliers, simplify data, improve data analytics and facilitate quicker decision making. Challenges arose when it came to functionality and whether the system in question was user friendly and properly implemented. One leader even expanded on this to say that the challenge is ‘retro-fitting’ this over existing multi-million pound systems.

Respondents also felt technology could have a negative influence from a generational perspective, with some older workers reluctant to embrace new systems and liable to put up barriers. Younger generations on the other hand were embracing technology but failing to develop good instincts, favouring intel over intuition.

Of the remaining 22%, technology had not had a significant impact on the business because culturally and operationally, it could not yet be seen to have value and therefore had not been invested in.

What changes have you made to accommodate technology in your Procurement function?

Some key themes arose from this question, with the type of changes being made to accommodate technology falling into three clear categories. The most significant came from adjustments to the systems being used and the processes being followed, with 62% of the Procurement Leaders in our survey having invested in new tech such as cloud based Peer-to peer communication models, spend tools and sourcing systems. There was also a marked trend towards using technology in support of automation across the supply process, particularly around areas such as contract renewals and requests to suppliers.

Another key theme to arise was investment in additional headcount, where Procurement Leaders had recruited specialist IT support to partner their procurement teams through major changes in technology. This had the added effect of making sure those teams harnessed the technology effectively, delivering measurable return on investment.

The final area of change came from coaching a positive mind-set, with Procurement Leaders focusing on changing any negative mentality within their teams by explaining how it wasn’t ‘about technology but how you used it’ and that ultimately ‘people buy from people’.

How will technology change the Procurement profession in the Future?

This inspired varied feedback, although 70% of Procurement Leaders believed technology would have a positive impact on procurement in the future. This ranged from an ability to facilitate flexible working, streamline process and predict requirements to managing procedures so effectively that procurement professionals would be free to focus on the consultative, innovative and strategic elements of their role.

The remaining 30% spoke of the side-effects of having too much reliance on technology. One Procurement Director felt it could have an adverse effect on decision making and warned of the danger in replacing human instinct with figures and statistics.  Others supported the people over technology theme, expressing that IT should not replace proper communication, that ‘people still buy from people’, and that ‘real change is down to the people’.

About the Author


Founder and Director of Procurement Heads. Level headed, solutions focused, highly experienced recruiter with a detailed knowledge of the procurement market and the ability to challenge accepted norms to achieve effective outcomes. Specialist for the Southern region.

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