The past several months have brought many ups and downs for procurement pros in the U.S. and, indeed, around the world. However, the issues that led to these problems are, by and large, probably not going to go anywhere for much of the year ahead.

With that in mind, the following trends will certainly be ones to watch in the procurement and supply chain sectors in 2021:

Outsourcing and global supply chains will become less common

One of the biggest issues many companies dealt with at nearly every step of the procurement process since the novel coronavirus pandemic began is the unpredictability of those supply chains, according to Finances Online. For that reason, businesses have increasingly tried to diversify and shorten their chains in recent months, and that's a trend that will continue for some time. Large percentages of organizations in various fields still have at least some reliance on outsourced work and supply chains stretching thousands of miles.

Good partnerships will be critical to ongoing success in 2021.Good partnerships will be critical to ongoing success in 2021.

More companies are putting tech first

At the same time as companies are trying to find new ways to meet their supply needs, they are also increasing their investment in technology that allows them to get increased visibility into their operations, Finances Online added. The pandemic seems to have shone a particularly bright light on issues related to businesses not having enough data from their partners up and down the supply chain; more are now moving to correct that.

COVID will continue to create problem areas

Of course, this all comes with the caveat that in some parts of the world, and the U.S. in particular, the COVID crisis is holding steady or even getting worse, and that will continue to have a major impact on procurement efforts around the globe, according to Spend Matters. Unfortunately, many of these issues remain highly unpredictable, meaning purchasing professionals will need to plan for a number of contingencies on an ongoing basis.

Relationships become even more important

Even as companies are beefing up their efforts to create and monitor tracking data throughout the supply chain, they also need to make sure their interpersonal connections are holding strong, Spend Matters advised. Having good relationships with suppliers and other partners will be vital to any company's ability to quickly and easily pivot when the need arises, and that will be critical to success as the new year progresses.

Regulatory changes could be coming

Regulations — including those related to international trade — have changed quite a bit in the past few years, and more changes should be in store, according to The News Hub. With the new year will likely come a new U.S. president, which itself represents a sea change. To be sure, procurement professionals will likely have to keep a close eye on these developments, but the good news is that many of them are likely to be at least somewhat predictable as the U.S. moves to normalize trade relations in 2021 and beyond.

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