The Face of Procurement’s Generation Next by Jon Hansen

Posted on January 23, 2015

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I often talk about the old days of procurement when, speaking with an audience, I would ask the question; “how many of you chose purchasing as a career?”

If one or two hands were raised, it was considered a big number.  It seemed that the majority of “purchasing” people fell into the job (back then it was considered a job as opposed to a profession), mostly by circumstance than by choice.  It reminded me of when we were all kids, and the captain of the team had to pick the guy with thick eyeglasses and two left feet because he had no other choice?  Having a career in purchasing was similar in that no one else seemed to want the job, so you took it.

Like the tagline from that old commercial . . . we’ve come a long way baby!, things are much different today.

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This point was driven home earlier this week when a young woman from what I will call Generation Next (sorry Pepsi), approached me with great enthusiasm about pursuing a career in procurement and supply chain management.  In contrast to the earlier days of dog eared catalogs and a “you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” adversarial mindset, her interest was based on a diversity of global experience that transcended the functional role of getting the best price, to one of strategic organizational impact.

With a 4.0 grade average from McGill University, and a ton of business experience including handling sustainable farming and the procurement of pickles from India, she is the poster person for all that the procurement profession can, and will become in the next few years.

Considering these kind of credentials, it is no wonder that in his latest book, The Procurement Value Proposition: The Rise of Supply Management, both Dr. Robert Handfield and co-author Gerard Chick talk about the definite and definitive chasm between purchasing people of the past, and today’s strategic procurement professionals.

Let’s face it, it is a brand new game, with new rules requiring new skill sets that the older generation does not possess.  This isn’t because they did not have the ability to acquire said skills.  The fact is that the role and value of procurement as defined by those outside of the profession, has changed dramatically.  It has evolved from being a functional job to a strategic position.  Or to put it another way, in the past, you did not require a 4.0 grade average from a prestigious university to become a “buyer”.  Nor did you, early in your career, have to have experience in terms of dealing with a globalized supply base within the framework of a socially responsible mandate.

There are of course studies that, to varying and debatable degrees, attempt to quantify the above evolution of the profession.

For example, in her January 15th, 2014 article Procurement Changes in Past 10 Years, Susan Avery references the following findings from a 2013 industry survey:

  • eighty-four percent of procurement professionals in 2013 have college degrees; the majority of these are business degrees. In 2003, just 67% held degrees. In 1993, the figure was 61.2%. Again, most of the degrees were in business. Ten years ago, 21% had graduate degrees, most of these MBAs. Today, 44% have graduate degrees, again most MBAs.
  • Procurement professionals are roughly the same age on average. In 1993, the average age was 44 years. In 2003, it was 46 years. We didn’t figure an average for today. But 70% of procurement professionals in 2013 are 45 years or older.
  • Given these figures, it’s probably not surprising that many more procurement professionals today report to the Chief Financial Officer than in 2003. Today, 40% call the CFO their boss; 10 years ago, just 6% worked for companies with this reporting structure. More reported to the CEO back then–35% compared to 30% now.

Glean what you will from the above survey and those like it.  As I have said previously, 2015 is a pivotal point in time that will ultimately and forever redefine both the profession and the professionals future for many, many years to come.

By the way, our 4.0 McGill University grad is looking for a position in the Greater Toronto Area. Her name is Jenna Treftlin, and I would be more than happy to provide anyone interested in hiring a top caliber Generation Next professional with her contact coordinates.  Drop me a line at jhansen@pisocialmedia1.com for her e-mail or, you can connect with Jenna directly through her LinkedIn Profile.

One more thing about Jenna . . . she sponsors a village in India where she does micro- financing for women from funds she’s raised.

Tracey's Daughter Procurement

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