Raise the Stakes

Having the bravery to make big decisions will define procurement’s success in a digital world, says Richard Clayton at IMPA London

The last minute goal scored by Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany against Leicester last season provided an unlikely but apt backdrop to Richard Clayton’s talk on what the procurement manager of the future will look like.

Kompany’s strike won his team the game and kept them ahead in a title race that they would eventually win. He took the shot on, despite cries from coaches and teammates not to, and despite having little goal scoring pedigree. It’s an apt lesson, Clayton says, for procurement managers as they enter the digital phase.

“Is procurement that different (from football)? I don’t think it is. I think leadership is about knowing how high the stakes are. Knowing whose responsibility it is to take momentous decisions and then based on all the available intelligence, shooting from outside the box or whatever it is in your world. Like every aspect of the maritime business, procurement managers have a huge amount of intelligence that you can base your decisions on.”

Based on that understanding, and as data and tech become the norm, Clayton urged current procurement managers to act with intelligence and to make best use of the tools around them. Having the right mindset and the right skillset, he adds, will be wholly necessary as they transition to leader of the future that will make decisions that affect the whole organisation.

“The future for work in maritime needs to ensure that workers are suitably qualified and retrained to effectively master new technologies and higher levels of automation”

“Data is good. Analysed data is so much better and it is that analysis that will add value for the procurement manager, not just the numbers, the values,” he says. “So for the procurement manager of 2030 digital analysis must be a core skill. Ideally, you will have a single platform for purchasing, standardised procedures, accurate identification of products, reduced waste, cutting costs, expediting delivery. 

“But the basis of that is the digital solutions that you’re offered. Now, for many of us that is available already. I suggest to you that those who haven’t standardised your business practices will find that much harder to control.” 


In January this year, the International Transport Workers’ Federation and the World Maritime University put together a study looking at automation and next generation workforce, examining what the impact on the future of work would be between 2020 and 2040. 

The conclusion was that automation is going to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and that despite high levels of automation, qualified human resources with the right skill sets will still be needed in the foreseeable future. It’s a promising sign for Procurement Managers Clayton said:

“Automation is coming. Initially it’ll be at a low level, but it’ll be rising up the scale. Undoubtedly jobs will be lost, but equally undoubtedly different jobs will be created. The future for work in maritime needs to ensure that workers are suitably qualified and retrained to effectively master new technologies and higher levels of automation. All of which tells me that the role of the procurement manager will inevitably change, although it won’t disappear.”

Clayton believes that strict regulation means a transition from fully crewed vessels to fully automated vessels is unlikely, unless it’s a fully controlled environment. To that end, we’re still likely to have seafarers on vessels in 2030, albeit far fewer. However, we are likely to see an explosion of data-driven intelligence available to the procurement sector, or at least those businesses who had the foresight to invest in the necessary platforms and human resources.

“So two elements, increasing digitalisation and automation, will determine that recruitment into the procurement sector and it must acknowledge different skills,” Clayton said in conclusion.  “But in my view, the key to success in procurement lies in leadership. Knowing how high the stakes are. Knowing when to take responsibility for taking decisions that come with a high degree of risk. And knowing when to stop listening to those voices all around you, pleading with you not to shoot. You only win trophies by taking risks.”