I'm late again this year in wishing all of the Strategic Sourceror's readers and Source One's customers a Happy New Year. But as you all know, January brings new budgets, new projects, and lots of inbound activity that require attention.

2013 marked a year of stability, and maybe even some growth for most businesses. But, in the supply chain and strategic sourcing industry, it seems that 2013 marked the year that we hit mainstream. I've never seen so many nightly news channels, blogs and even print newspapers mentioning the words supply chain, logistics, procurement and supply constraints as we saw last year. Sure, a lot of it was negative press (natural disasters disrupting or destroying products), but a lot of it was positive as well.

Over the last few years, Apple, almost single handedly, raised the average Joe’s interest in such bland topics as manufacturers capacity and supplier demand as it continued to push its iDevices. People appear to be receptive of those stories, and the mainstream media followed the quick and easy stories and wrote about LG, Motorola, Samsung and the other electronics manufacturers. The public liked those stories so they expanded coverage to talk about car manufacturers and food companies. Now, barely a week goes by without the Wall Street Journal quoting an “analyst” that has a completely speculative and non-informed quote about something to do with supply chain.

But it’s not just the media that has taken supply chain awareness mainstream. Businesses across the world are seeking supply chain professionals in record demand. The job postings for procurement, supply chain, strategic sourcing and supplier relationship management professionals have exploded, with dozens of jobs listed in just about any small region. In prior years a query on Monster or CareerBuilder for those terms would be lucky to yield one or two positions within a 100 mile radius.

And the higher education market is listening to that demand. Colleges across the country are scrambling to offer supply chain programs. An article in business week in the middle of 2013 mentions 9 major U.S. business schools that launched supply chain management programs in just the last three years. And since then, I recall at least 3 other big schools announcing their new programs or enhancements to existing programs. In the mid-tier colleges it seems that two new schools a month are announcing programs. I do wonder where all of these professors and textbooks are coming from, but we’ll save that for another blog post.

But the explosion in our industry is not just about being able to tell your friends and family what you do for a living and have them actually understand (75% of my friends and family still define my job as “something to do with computers”). No, as evident in the uptick of hiring, the explosion has forced companies to reexamine their own internal processes, systems AND people.

Unfortunately, for many people, they may not survive this new explosion. For certain people, the ones that still see their job as a tactical role of placing orders and pushing things through a templated 3 bid RFP process, things are going to change. In many companies, “Purchasing” was the old dumping ground of where they stuck that loyal “grade c” employee that they just couldn't get rid of. But those days are gone; our industry, technology and processes have evolved. I predict that we’ll see a lot of turnover in the next few years in purchasing, procurement, logistics, sourcing, SRM and other supply-chain supporting positions. As companies reexamine the way they've been doing things and realize that they are frequently leaving savings opportunities on the table, they’ll look to improve their resources (technology or people). But, for those hidden professionals have been just waiting for their voices to be heard, now is their time to shine. I’ve conversed with dozens of procurement professionals over the last few years that had excellent ideas on ways to improve their companies, but just could not get the attention they needed to enable organizational change. These are the people that I expect will be the next news makers, and the quickest to rise within their organizations.

I also think we are going to see more outsourced BPO in our line work. But this BPO isn't the call-center or back-office processing type of stuff; no we’re talking BPO for strategic sourcing, supply relationship management, “centers of excellence”, and the like. We, at Source One, have already seen a huge uptick in the amount of companies looking for highly strategic BPO providers for supply chain projects. It’s exciting stuff, but I still struggle with the marketing of the terms: “Business Process Outsourcing Strategic Sourcing” or is it “Business Process Strategic Sourcing Outsourcing” or do we just go with “Strategic Sourcing Outsourcing”?

So there you have it. In short, I think 2014 will bring:

  • More qualified entry-level candidates with relevant degrees from both notable and local institutes of higher learning. 
  • We’ll see some existing professionals get weeded out from the place they've been hiding and either commit to improving their skill sets or finding a new career 
  • We’ll see other professionals rise to the challenge and demonstrate to their companies just how much they've been missing out by not listening to the “procurement people” 
  • We’ll continue to see departments that have traditionally operated in a silo starting break down and ask procurement teams for help for the first time ever (I’m talking to you, IT, Marketing and HR) 
  • An increase in the adoption of consulting firms or BPO providers in supply chain 
  • An increase in the demand for third-party benchmarking data beyond the generic stuff that top 3 "analyst firms" produce
  • We’ll probably see more mergers and acquisitions of supply chain software and consultancies as the big providers scramble to catch up to an industry that is moving much faster than they are.
How'd I do, what did I miss?

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William Dorn

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