What does the future hold for Procurement? - Procurement People
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What does the future hold for Procurement?

I must admit I am not the most technology savvy of people around and this was highlighted recently as I jetted off with my family for our summer holiday. I was surprised to find no TV’s on board our aeroplane despite it being a highly reputable airline operator. Okay it was short-haul, but still no TV’s?

I quickly came across the insert in the pocket seat directing me on how to access the inflight entertainment system via my phone. Apologies to those reading this who this is old news to, but for me I had not come across this before. Just another addition to the world of technological advances we are making!

So what does the future hold for Procurement when it comes to technology? Having done some research I came across the process of RPA, which again I had limited knowledge on. For those not aware of RPA it stands for Robotic Process Automation. At first you may be thinking this is simply a robot to replace humans! However, RPA is much more than that and is actually fast becoming a very accessible and feasible mechanism for organisations to reduce costs and still add value.

In simple terms, RPA is an automated computer which is able to be programmed to undertake simple and repetitive tasks. You can automate the entire supplier selection process in a few simple steps. However, it can be programmed to undertake much more complex tasks, even to the point of an entire negotiation taking place between 2 robots, one on the Buyer side and one on the Seller side.

However, RPA should not be seen as a threat by Procurement Professionals but more of a support function to allow you more time and ultimately enable you to do your job more effectively and efficiently. If used correctly, RPA can take away much of the administrative and repetitive work that allows you more time to focus on other critical business activities which a robot cannot do, for example working with stakeholders to better understand their objectives. RPA may be more efficient in administrative tasks, but face-to-face skills and human interaction will always be needed, especially within Procurement.

The key with RPA is to keep it simple initially. Get to understand how it works and then slowly begin to increase and upscale it. For it to be successful it is paramount that your people within the business are engaged in the implementation phase. With an increasing ageing population one option is to utilise the experience of team members approaching retirement age to work closely with RPA to effectively hand over their experience and knowledge to RPA.

One thing for sure is it is certainly an interesting time! I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has gained exposure to RPA and what their experience has been? Or any other ground breaking technology changes people have encountered? 

By Adam Roughton – Principal Consultant