Today more than ever, there are new challenges impacting procurement executives and their respective teams. In a published article appearing on Industry Week, Tom Derry, CEO of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) addressed three of these challenges.

The first is the prevalence of security threats to corporate networks, IT applications and data. While cyber threats are an ongoing concern at just about any firm, such threats take on added significance because of the mission critical sensitivity between supply chain and procurement processes. Recent high level cyber-attacks on firms like retailer Target several years ago involved penetration via supplier portal logins. Think for a moment of the sensitive corporate information shared with suppliers related to products, production levels or quality, let alone the ability of hackers to penetrate into other corporate systems and data files from a singular point of penetration.

A second challenge is the need to build a sophisticated procurement team, one that supports the different skills required to manage today’s far more global and complex supply networks. As Supply Chain Matters has observed in our commentaries related to supply chain talent management, talent acquisition and re-skilling, experience in function is trumped by the need for a refined set of skills.  Team effectiveness comes from the balancing of hard skills related to cross-functional supply chain business process and decision-making needs. Such functional skills increasingly require (1) knowledge of product design; (2) introduction and management practices, and (3) hands-on information technology and information management skills.

Hard skills are now coupled with required soft skills in areas such as win-win contract negotiations, diversity of international business cultures, supplier collaboration, plus project and team management. As Tom Derry points out, procurement has evolved from one of tactical buying to that of strategic supply management where more and more innovation and risk resides across tiers of the value-chain.

The third area on need is rightfully described as the broadening of financial acumen. Indeed, as our readers have more than likely discerned from our industry supply chain commentaries, no longer are procurement professionals policing costs but rather assisting in facilitating a number of required business outcomes: a) product innovation; b) speedier time-to-market; c) business continuity responsibilities that include avoidance of strategic supply disruption as well as managing supplier consolidation brought about by mergers or acquisition.

More and more, supply chain and procurement is gaining a direct C-level voice and accountability for results, and with that comes the need for broader and deeper financial acumen.

ISM 2015 Conference LogoISM will be conducting what is termed as the Supply Management Conference of the Year, ISM 2016, which will be held from May 15-18 in Indianapolis, Indiana. As noted in a prior Supply Chain Matters commentary, this year’s conference features some great keynote speakers, including former Ford CEO Alan Mulally. Mulally will talk about how keeping supply chain in the C-suite was critical to one of the biggest corporate turnarounds in history.

This year’s ISM2016 session tracks have been designed to directly focus on changing skill needs within procurement and supply management along with the sharing of best practices including mistakes to avoid. That includes specific sessions focusing on talent management and skills enhancement.

For more detailed information on ISM 2016 learning tracks, sessions and registration, you can visit this dedicated conference website link – – or double-click on the ISM S016 Conference icon to the right.

This Executive Editor is planning on attending ISM 2016 and I look forward to interacting with our various blog readers and up and coming procurement leaders at the conference.

Bob Ferrari