The Exhibit Hall at the ISM2019 Annual Conference in Houston.

The supply management landscape is becoming more complex, and professionals must handle disruption and challenges that range from talent management and skills development to emerging and advancing technologies, tariffs and trade issues, and disparate global regulations.

Attendees at ISM2019, Institute for Supply Management®’s (ISM®) Annual Conference this week in Houston, come from a variety of industries and roles. They comment on the future of supply management, the challenges on the horizon and the likely impact on organizations.

Ability to touch all areas of the business: “We are the only function in the business that has the ability to be as diverse as we are,” says Timothy R. Fiore, CPSM, C.P.M., Chair of the ISM Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “No other function can supply that. It hasn’t been that way forever. And we’re better for it.”

Technology and data management: “The biggest value we’re going to offer centers around technology and transparency of data,” says Marcelo Novaes, CPSM, CPSD, global category manager at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Philadelphia. “It’s making sense of the data — and using that data to make better decisions.

“Savings isn’t going to go away. But the real difference will be the ability to use the data to make better business decisions.

Having the right skills: Mariano Siseles, global category agent at GSK in Philadelphia, adds that while “data and analytics are key, you also need people to process the data.” Finding talent with the right skills is challenging, he and Novaes say.

Diego Trejos, senior procurement specialist at Laureate Education Inc. in San Jose, Costa Rica, says, “The value you add is how you interpret the data. Software can’t tell you how you’re going to run the company.”

He continues, “Technology is getting better and faster — and it’s taking people out of processes,” freeing them up to do something more valuable for their companies.

The Amazon effect: “Last-mile retailers, like Amazon and Walmart, are changing how we deliver everything,” says Eric Pichon, procurement manager at AARP. They’re also changing how retail items are sold and what is sold: Think of mattresses, for example. “You can buy a mattress online now,” he says. “That’s completely different than in the past.” Another change: Where items are sourced. “The whole logistics backend has changed,” Pichon says. “The world has gotten smaller.”

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