10 Skills Every Procurement Specialist Should Have

February 8, 2023 • Procurement • 6 minutes

Procurement specialist skills are typically focused on three things: managing the delivery of goods and services, ensuring the quality of procured goods and services, and negotiating reasonable prices. While these responsibilities will certainly not be fading any time soon, there will be a call for these professionals to fill other roles within the company.

But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about the definition.

What is a procurement specialist?

A procurement specialist is a professional responsible for obtaining goods and services for their organization. They make sure that purchases meet quality standards and are cost-effective. Their role includes supplier negotiations, contract management, and overseeing the procurement process.

The mission of a procurement specialist focuses on the following objectives:

  1. Holistically managing risk
  2. Enhancing sustainability
  3. Improving supplier relationships
  4. Onboarding new technology
  5. Sharpening organizational financial acumen
  6. Leading in innovation
  7. Collaborating with key stakeholders
  8. Increasing cross-department transparency
  9. Optimizing around key performance indicators (KPIs)

Top procurement specialist skills

Procurement specialists have the opportunity to become strategic, adaptable professionals with a whole new set of skills in their toolbox. Here are some of the top procurement skills that will be most valuable in the coming years.

1. Holistically manage risk

While procurement officers are already heavily involved in predicting, managing, and mitigating risk, the approach to procurement risk management is shifting. Procurement teams now need to view compliance as a more holistic focus, managing total risk exposure, risk mitigation investments, and risk transfer pricing.

Risk management needs to expand throughout the organization with governance structures ensuring that every department is completely on board. A company’s agreements will likely need to be reexamined and potentially redrafted to reduce the overall exposure to risk, in addition to ensuring the way these contracts are managed is secure.

A procurement officer’s view of risk must become all-inclusive as the business world becomes digitized and faster-moving.

2. Enhance sustainability

Where procurement was once focused primarily on simply managing cost, procurement officers now need to create sustainable supply chains. Sustainability for supply means stable suppliers with consistent, steady business.

Continuous use and reuse are important not only for cost savings but for business and economic benefit. The transition from simply consumption to a more circular economy will enhance business relationships between companies, promote growth for the overall corporate entity, and bring a sustainable pattern of procurement that can be carried into the future.

3. Improve supplier relationships

An integral part of establishing a sustainable supply chain is improving the relationships a company has with its suppliers. Procurement specialist skills are already engaged in establishing and maintaining supplier relations, but the extended relationships and trust will become more critical with sustainable procurement. Continuous, solid relationships increase the chances of good deals and quality while decreasing supply chain risk.

4. Engage with the global market

The digital economy today encourages new and innovative companies to rise up all over the world. An effective procurement specialist will not only keep their eyes open for these organizations on a global scale, but will also learn the best method for dealing with international suppliers.

Localization and understanding culture and language are critical elements that will help businesses expand on an international level.

5. Onboard new technology

With so many companies transitioning to digital workflows, procurement specialists need to have skills in new technologies in order to perform their job effectively. Such technologies will include risk management software, contract lifecycle management platforms, spend analytics, report generators, and many others. Being familiar with this technology will streamline the procurement process, improve collaboration between departments and other companies, and result in more efficient and effective procurement strategies.

6. Sharpen organizational financial acumen

Working as a procurement officer demands a versatile skill set, including handling finances appropriately. The link between finance and procurement needs to be stronger than ever, with procurement professionals serving as a strategic aid to finance and having a firm grasp of the finance principles that govern their company. Business processes are moving faster, which means procurement also needs to move efficiently and be able to rely on their own knowledge in addition to finance’s expertise.

7. Lead in innovation

While procurement officers will not be called upon to develop new technologies, they should be aware of the developments in engineering, design, and product. They will want to be aware of what the best products are on the market. Understanding what new technology is of most use to the company — then procuring that technology — will help procurement professionals’ companies to develop new innovations and compete in the market today.

8. Collaborate with key stakeholders

Both external and internal collaboration is increasingly important as businesses become more connected. These collaborative efforts will be crucial for procurement teams to understand what the necessary goods are for their own company, what goods and services are the best, how to effectively manage their time and contracts, and how to properly outsource certain key functions of a company. The synergy created by interdepartmental communication will increase output, sales, revenue, and overall company efficiency.

9. Increase cross-department transparency

Procurement officials need to be savvy in the realm of public relations. Because of social media and transparency laws, including Sarbanes-Oxley laws governing internal control, procurement practices need to be easily accessible, traceable, and explainable. Utilizing contract management technology, Salesforce software, procurement software, and other digital solutions increases transparency in a company by making records easily available with a full audit trail. Procurement teams need to be able to effectively navigate discussions with consumers, regulators, and the press, in addition to their current suppliers.

10. Optimize around key performance indicators (KPIs)

Once information has been gathered, whether from internal sources or from external sources, procurement professionals must improve their ability to handle and analyze KPIs. KPIs indicate the level of performance of a company — whether the procurement official’s own company or a supplier they are researching.

If the procurement specialist is researching an external entity, then the KPIs will be an important indicator of risk. If the company has a poor record of reaching its goals or is unable to meet standard KPIs, then that company may pose a greater risk. Understanding KPIs will continue to be an important method for improving risk management in the future both internally as an organization grows and externally as the supplier list expands.

Conclusion: Procurement roles are evolving rapidly

Procurement specialists, traditionally viewed as the gatekeepers of cost, quality, and supply, are now emerging as the unsung heroes in guiding companies through uncharted territories like digital transformation and global sustainability. Ironically, in a role often seen as focused on conserving resources, they are now key drivers in propelling businesses towards innovative, bold futures that redefine traditional corporate landscapes.

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