In many respects, these seem to be challenging times. I observe many commercial, contracts and procurement groups struggling to build momentum and indeed suffering cuts, because they are not adjusting to business needs. The question is whether the function can adapt and take on a wider role, or whether that wider role will be performed elsewhere. The need is for individuals to focus on the areas of the future, not those of the past, and to show a grasp of the emerging agenda driven by new technologies and digitization.
Just as the threat lies in technology, so do the opportunities. We must understand and use the systems that will define and support leading-edge supply chains. These enable a growing reliance on external sources of supply, with corporate size increasingly measured on revenue, not numbers of employees. Coordinating and integrating across these multiple, interdependent relationships will be key to survival. Another growth area will be SRM, due to the need for a more blended approach to supply management and innovation.
This means, for the right people, growth industries will be those where either there is significant disaggregation (and therefore dependence on commercial integration) and those where there is extensive regulatory / reputational oversight (and therefore dependence on integrity). As a result, I think there will be major opportunities in industries like pharma, financial services, insurance and perhaps telecoms, where better structured and well managed relationships will be critical. To a degree, that will also flow into IT and IT services, especially for companies that rely heavily on aggregation of suppliers and delivery of outcomes.
Capital goods and infrastructure industries should also need more commercial resource, but probably with a focus on building more effective supplier /project selection, negotiation and delivery management. As margins continue to operate under pressure, the theoretical savings generated by traditional procurement and 'risk management' provided by traditional contract management need to be turned into the ability to oversee contracts that deliver value, efficiency and improved margin.