4 New Skills You Need to Succeed in your Procurement Career

As AI seemingly takes over the business world, do you have the skills in your procurement career that are required to work with our new robot overlords ?

Automation and data analytics are becoming more integrated into procurement workflows, and procurement skill sets must also transform. Being a well-known Excel jockey may not be enough anymore.

A procurement career is moving from transactional to analytical. CPOs are looking for team members who are adept in strategic problem-solving and relationship management. Procurement skills, tools, and priorities are moving to align more closely with strategic business goals.

In a survey of UK businesses, Ivalua reported that 84% of procurement leaders say the skill set they need has shifted from procurement-first to digital-first.

So, what does it take to succeed in this new digital era of procurement?

A New Definition of Success

If it hasn’t already, your company will shift from tracking POs in massive spreadsheets backed by hours of manual entry to using automated, intelligent tools to manage much of the transactional work. Spreadsheet prowess and product knowledge may take a back seat to those who can align procurement with the company’s vision.

The procurement team will need people who can build relationships among business partners and vendors while driving performance during economic uncertainty.

Investing in yourself to improve in these areas could boost your career prospects, so here are four areas procurement leaders have identified as skills gaps for the near future

Digital Skills

Being an Excel wizard is becoming less relevant. Instead, up-to-date digital skills to work with technologies such as AI, cloud-based platforms, and data analytics will be more in demand. Given that 75% of the respondents in the From Insights to Impact: Driving High-Performance Procurement report from Procurious and SpendHQ said they doubt the accuracy of the data they present, there’s significant room for improvement in utilizing data.

Those with the skills to leverage insights derived from technology and artificial intelligence and communicate effectively with stakeholders are the new face of procurement.

However, it’s not as easy to find a tech-savvy person as it seems. In Ivalua’s study, 88% of companies find it challenging to hire people with digital skills to work with technologies such as AI, cloud-based platforms, or data analytics.

There’s a wide range of digital and analytical skill sets, from expertise in specific software to data analytics and presentation skills. Your organization may provide opportunities to upskill or cross-skill existing staff or look to outside hires to fill the gaps. If you have those kinds of skills, a procurement job could be a prime spot to build a career in a new field.

Soft Skills

The pandemic and the shift to online and hybrid work styles have left many corporate cultures scrambling to keep up. The old days of informal mentoring from experienced pros are difficult to do via Zoom. It has been harder for younger people who entered the workforce during the pandemic to hone soft skills such as solid communication and networking.

In a recent survey, nine of the top 10 procurement skills, such as communication and stakeholder management, were considered soft or social. In the past, a business analyst may have been stuck in Excel all day giving updates to managers. Now, they may be called on to present to senior managers via video or in person.

Soft skills are one area where your natural personality could be an asset. It’s relatively easy to teach someone to use an ERP procurement tool. Being a good team player is harder to teach.

A professional with strengths in those skills but less technical experience may be a more attractive hiring or promotional candidate over someone with a deeper technical background.

Your leadership abilities could emerge with something as simple as knowing the signs of a meeting that’s about to be derailed and getting it back on track.


As automation and artificial intelligence become more central to procurement, human judgment will be critical for companies to function in accordance with ethical and ESG guidelines. Ongoing human oversight will significantly reduce the possibility of inadvertent automated decisions that could cause unexpected problems.

Despite the emphasis on technology, ethics was the top-ranked skill for success in future procurement roles in a recent survey, with nearly 60% of leaders naming it as their top priority.

Pressures and expectations – combined with a lack of technology and staffing shortages – can lead procurement teams to fall short of their own standards.

In the report Procurement Under Pressure,, 32% of respondents admitted their teams cut corners in sourcing criteria and suppliers to ensure product supplies. Lowering due diligence or standard will likely lead to ethical, sustainability, or quality issues.

Ethics is an employee engagement issue as well as a regulatory one. People want to work for a company they can be proud of. They don’t want to deal with public problems, with pressing questions from family and friends about a sourcing issue that hits the media.

Well Rounded

Being well-rounded incorporates many aspects of leadership, collaboration, communication, relationship building and other so-called soft skills.

A well-rounded worker is able to see the big picture, looking at trends and evolving customer needs. These are the things humans do well, adding value that artificial intelligence cannot follow.

Being seen as a team player and good communicator can boost your career path more than technical skills. It can be disconcerting to see someone who doesn’t know as much as you do move ahead because they are better at talking about their contributions and talents.

As technology transforms procurement work, organizations – and workers – must consider the need for soft skills like leadership and strategic thinking, as well as technical skills like data analytics. Technological transformation is not just about technology; it’s about the broader business implications on roles and responsibilities. Rather than fear the future, learn how to make automation and artificial intelligence tools work for you.

For more insights on the future of procurement, download the From Insights to Impact: Driving High-Performance Procurement Report.