Welcome to the Future: Your Job in 2020

March 14, 2016

This guest post comes to us from Elaine Porteous, a freelance business writer with a focus on career management in Supply Chain and Procurement.


In Supply Chain, there are job roles now that didn’t exist 5 years ago. In four years’ time there will be job openings that don’t exist today. You may not recognize your 2020 job title from where you sit in 2016.

  • Companies will hire and retain those people with global industry expertise that is both broad and deep. You will need to have a solid understanding of your industry dynamics and all business functions – that means more education and lifelong learning.
  • Traditional and tactical roles and functions will be outsourced to third party service providers or agencies by 2020, you might be dragged along. Supply chain directors and business unit leaders will be freed up to concentrate on key strategic issues, relationship-building and growing revenue.
  • Key suppliers will become real partners. The buying company and the most important suppliers will work together on product innovation, continuous improvement and streamlining of systems and processes. Collaboration is the watchword.

What will employers look for?

Companies are looking for transferable skills, those that can transcend industry sectors and company functions. They want to know how well you can adapt to changes in the business landscape and apply your knowledge and experience to help their organization grow.

Some of the new areas that are in demand:

1. Sustainability

This is a catch-all term used loosely to cover a whole range of “green ” and environmental issues. It is not all about recycling. Companies are hiring specialists to focus on managing utilities including alternative sources of energy. Initiatives include reducing the cost and usage of fuel, water and power.

Employers are keen to reduce their overall environmental impact through better waste management and reducing emissions. Transportation is the second largest source of greenhouse emissions after electricity generation. These areas are where the impact on brand image is very high and where there is real risk to reputation.

Tip: Read the business news; keep track of innovations such as fracking, solar power and alternative energy sources. Understand the underlying issues and be ready.

2. Change management

The implementation of new solutions and supplier changeovers has always been a headache in large organizations. Conflict in a contract changeover can completely de-rail it. The satisfaction of the end-user is not always considered nor managed well.

There is a need for individuals who can explain the need for new initiatives and manage the “human side” of change when implementing projects. Things often go wrong in implementation, even after extensive communication. An understanding of cross-cultural differences and having well-developed interpersonal skills are basic requirements for this role.

Tip: Brush up on your project management skills. Work on your professional attitude and improve the way you communicate with stakeholders. Study body language, cultural differences and behaviours.

3. Technology gurus

Rapid advances in technology within supply chain mean that someone in the organization has to be on top of developments and know how they can be applied in your environment. Be alert to new software and solutions that are being introduced to your industry and work out how they could be applicable to you. There’s lots of talk about agile supply chains – someone has to research the inputs for the solutions. You will need to understand the I.T. terminology and cut through the sales hype.

Tip: Research is not all about Googling, learn how to do it in a structured, organized way. Get out there in the marketplace and refresh your knowledge often. Understand cost drivers, sources of supply and the market forces in your industry.

4. Big data analysis

Although financial and statistical analysis is a backroom sort of job, it is vital to the success of a well-functioning organization. “Big data” is a hot topic, how to cleanse it, how to slice-and-dice it and tweak it for reporting and decision-making. Spend categorisation is the first step in understanding expenditure. Further down the line, measuring and tracking savings is an area that is in great need of expertise. Business analysts with these advanced skills will attract a premium. Employers will look for evidence that a candidate can focus on profitability and cash flow and not just manage down current costs.

Way back in 1982 book “Megatrends”, author John Naisbitt penned the famous quote, “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” This is particularly relevant in supply chain where data is often unstructured, out-of-date, wrongly classified and in different formats and locations. If that sounds familiar, it won’t get better.

Tip: Brush up on your skills now, take a course. You will need to be able to interrogate and sort masses of data, create complex formulas, work with look-ups, pivot tables and graphics. Without doubt, you will also need to be able to translate the data into usable information and management reports.
Employers have identified that there will be a skills shortage in some of the newer areas, why not identify one of them? You can command a premium in the market if you can home in where there is a shortage of suitable applicants.

Where will you be in 2020? logo_icon

Elaine Porteous is a freelance business writer in procurement and supply chain with a specific interest in career management. Contact her at dugport@icon.co.za and see her website at www.elaineporteous.com

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