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If you’d been sleeping for the past decade, it would be hard to figure out in an instant just how much had changed in the procurement workplace. But you’d get your bearings pretty fast, and likely with a smile on your face as a result. Gone (at least theoretically) would be applications for frontline users that required hours or even days of training – tools would be as instinctive as any shopping tool now. Gone would be the tyranny of the desktop as the primary technology interface – smaller notebooks, tablets and larger smartphones would take their place. And gone would be calls to IT to find out about why the scheduled downtime for a given application had extended a few hours beyond schedule into the workday. What’s IT? Well, maybe that last one is an exaggeration.

But hopefully you get my point: How we interface with colleagues outside of face-to-face interactions, interact with business applications such as transactional buying systems or contract management tools, and consume information has changed entirely. Of course some private sector and public sector organizations are still upgrading their infrastructure to take advantage of all of these new abilities. But it won’t be long until they make the switch. Still, I would argue even greater change is going to make its way into public procurement activities from a workforce perspective in the coming decade than what’s happened in recent years. Here are some of my ideas about what is coming down the pike based on the early-stage technology companies (many in stealth mode) that I’m getting to know:

  • A radical re-invent about the way we purchase services. Emerging technologies will make it easy (and compliant) to purchase contingent staffing, freelance hourly labor and even specified deliverables (e.g., design “this”, fix “this”, etc.) online just as we are increasingly buying various goods and SKUs today
  • New collaboration tools that not only unite different messaging and communications platforms (e.g., Slack), but also enable collaboration with co-workers and suppliers in new ways. Imagine the concept of “social networking” like Facebook or Linkedin applied to identifying new suppliers for a highly specific fit/need just as such services identify potential “friends” or “colleagues” today. Such capability is coming sooner than you think.
  • New consortia type approaches (built on technology) to managing supplier standards and compliance centered on safety, environmental and labor factors – that unite procurement organizations across different agencies, departments, states, local government and non-profit institutions
  • Group purchasing organizations and contracts built specifically for the needs of niche markets (e.g., NGOs, non-profits, local government) that not only showcase attractive pricing, but also optimal terms
  • Analytics tools that are transparent (i.e., running in the background) until they are not, surfacing recommendations and even plotting out – dynamically – our daily schedule and activities

The future procurement workplace – and workspace – has gone through a radical shift (even if some organizations have not fully implemented the latest capabilities already) in the past decade. But the coming ten years is going to be even more radical. I’m ready. Are you?

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