There is widespread professional agreement that the skill sets of today's and tomorrow's procurement managers need to evolve rapidly to succeed in a growingly complex supply chain world and to meet the growing expectations of companies for their procurement function.
According to recent research by Kay Bayen of the European Institute of Purchasing Management (EIPM), businesses will need more procurement professionals capable of stepping into the role "category manager" and capable of thriving in a matrix-style reporting structure.
What is a category manager, exactly? According to Bayen and EIPM, a category manager is defined as “someone who is in charge of defining a strategy for the [procurement] category, a market intelligence expert of this category and who is capable of communicating this strategy for implementation at regional or global level. This person should work upstream in a cross-functional/cross-organizational manner to influence important decisions while being fully up to date on important input from internal and external sources in order to define strategy.”
Some executives are concerned about the availability of talent to meet these new skill demands. Bayed talked to one procurement VP who said, "There are many people who can perform operational sourcing but few people are skilled at managing supplier relationship management and strategic sourcing.”
That will take professionals with a broad mix of skills, Bayen says, noting that "This means that the category manager position with dotted line reports, mainly lead buyers, requires functional expertise as well as managerial expertise – hard, technical skills as well as softer, people skills."
We'd add strong financial analysis skills, broad supply chain thinking, and a few others into the mix.
Another executive told Bayen that these emerging roles may not even nominally reside within the Purchasing or Procurement organization.
“We call this a value-orientated role. This person may not even belong to purchasing; in fact they shouldn’t be working within a functional silo," said one executive. "Instead, the person should be a ‘process owner/expert’, someone who supports various functions and is at ease with complexity and ambiguity."
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