Rise of procurement demands a new breed of multi-skilled, strategic thinking, Tech-savvy procurement professionals

27th May 2024

Rise of procurement demands a new breed of multi-skilled, strategic thinking, Tech-savvy procurement professionals

Procurement is on the rise and there is growing demand for a new breed of procurement professionals, according to Debbie Tagg, chief operating officer of Smart Procurement.

“Gone are the back-office penny pinchers of old. Procurement professionals today are strategy shapers, value-generators, innovators and relationship builders involved in all aspects of the business, and who have a seat and voice at the executive table. The field of procurement has evolved from a transactional function focused primarily on cost savings to a driver of business strategy, innovation and sustainability. With supply chains facing ongoing challenges, and more businesses recognising the importance of risk management and ethical sourcing, the role of procurement professionals is going to become ever more critical,” Tagg states. She asserts that in South Africa, the introduction of the Public Procurement Bill will further elevate and test the profession. “As Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said: ‘the sheer number of acts and regulations which addresses procurement issues makes it very difficult for conscientious officials to get a clear understanding of them’.

“This is a new era for procurement and the rise of our profession is only just beginning. Traditionally, procurement was seen as a back-office function, centred around purchasing goods and services at the lowest possible cost. That has changed, driven by factors like globalisation, technology, sustainability and risk management,” Tagg says.

“Today’s procurement professionals must navigate diverse markets, regulations and risks. They must have a deep understanding of global supply chain dynamics and strategic sourcing. The advent of digital tools and platforms has revolutionised procurement processes, enabling greater efficiency, transparency and data-driven decision-making. Technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) have further enhanced procurement's ability to manage complex supply chains. Today’s procurement professionals must be more technology savvy than ever before.

“Rising awareness of environmental and social issues has pushed procurement to the forefront of corporate sustainability efforts. Ethical sourcing, supplier diversity and sustainable procurement practices are now integral to many organisations' strategies.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of robust risk management in procurement. Supply chain disruptions highlighted the need for agility, resilience and contingency planning, further elevating the strategic importance of procurement. To mitigate risks, procurement professionals today must be adept relationship builders, cultivating and maintaining mutually beneficial partnerships with suppliers.”

In South Africa, the new Public Procurement Bill, aimed at overhauling the country's public procurement framework, presents new challenges and opportunities to the profession, Tagg says. “Education and skills development are crucial to ensure that procurement professionals can rise to the challenges and seize the opportunities,” she stresses.

Recognising this, Smart Procurement has enhanced and expanded its education, networking and knowledge sharing offerings for the profession. The organisation has been connecting and educating procurement and inbound supply chain professionals across Africa for more than 19 years. “Our aim is to ensure that Africa keeps pace with the latest global trends and best practices in procurement through our communications platforms, training and development initiatives.”

The 11th Annual Western Cape Procurement Conference takes place in George from 10 to 12 June 2024. “This year, we shift our attention to the pivotal role of procurement in shaping resilient communities and fostering sustainable infrastructure in the Western Cape and beyond. The conference will explore how procurement, through strategic practices and collaborative partnerships, can drive positive change and contribute to the growth of our local communities. We eagerly anticipate the convergence of public sector procurement professionals, local economic development experts and business stakeholders dedicated to advancing the economic landscape of the Western Cape,” says Tagg.

KwaZulu-Natal’s largest supply chain and procurement conference will return to Durban this year after a four-year hiatus. Hosted by eThekwini Municipality in partnership with Smart Procurement World, the fifth KwaZulu-Natal Smart Procurement World event will bring together stakeholders committed to enhancing the region’s infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities to drive sustainable growth and enable supply chain resilience. This important gathering takes place at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre from 25 to 27 June 2024. It will be held under the theme “Strengthening Infrastructure and Manufacturing Supply Chains for Future Growth”.

The 18th Annual Smart Procurement World Indaba takes place in Johannesburg from 9 to 12 September 2024. This year, the annual Sustainability Summit Africa will run alongside it. The indaba is South Africa’s largest procurement and inbound supply chain event. “The DNA of Procurement” is this year’s theme. Tagg explains this: “Just as the DNA carries the genetic information that shapes living organisms, the DNA of procurement intricately weaves through every aspect of the supply chain, determining its structure, resilience and ultimate success.”

This is the fourth annual Sustainability Summit Africa. “The event’s growing success reflects the increasing importance of sustainable procurement practices, which are critical not just for achieving environmental goals, but also in ensuring the longevity of small businesses and the economic stability of organisations, communities and regions. Sustainable procurement impacts an organisation’s human rights, labour rights and good governance; its enterprise development initiatives; transformation and gender parity programmes; social and community priorities,” says Tagg.