The future’s so bright …
Whether you’re lying awake in the middle of the night sweating about tomorrow’s workload or daydreaming about all the fun things that you’d like to do on your upcoming vacation, it’s hard not to think about the future.
Once upon a time, I was obsessed with the past. I would expend an inordinately large quantity of mental energy replaying situations and events in which I felt that I could have and should have done things differently. I would obsess over small things (“I wish I would have told that joke during that conversation”), large things (“I should have majored in business”) and everything in between (“I shouldn’t have eaten that entire stack of pancakes”).
Several dozen self-help books and years of experience later, I’m all about focusing on the things that I can control—the present and the immediate future. I even try to exert some control over the long-term future by setting goals and reviewing them on a regular basis to see which ones I’ve accomplished and which ones still require some work.
But even the most proactive people have to deal with future uncertainty—circumstances and events that are completely out of their control and that are equally difficult to predict. Right now, the uncertain future of the economy is a source of anxiety for many individuals and organizations (ours included). Some economic experts are predicting a recession; others say that we’re already there. Regardless of where people stand on the issue, it’s hard to resist weighing in with a prediction of the nation’s economic future.
It’s human nature to wonder what the future might look like. I’m sure all of us have asked ourselves questions such as: “In 10 years, will I still live in the same house? Will I live in the same city? Will I work at the same place? Will I be working at all? (Or will a long-lost relative bequeath me $10 million in his or her will?) Will I be happy? Will I be healthy? Will I age well? Most importantly (for some of us), will I have any hair left?”
In my view, attempting to predict the future is more than just a diversion. It’s a way for us to feel like we have some control over the uncontrollable. It’s a way for us to map uncharted territory, to prepare ourselves for the bumps, potholes and roadblocks that might lie in the road ahead. Weather forecasters predict the future every day. I don’t know about you, but it’s comforting to be assured that I won’t need to bring my umbrella to work today—because weather forecasters are never wrong.
If this issue of Government Procurement has an unofficial focus, it’s the future. In Michael Keating’s cover story, “The future of procurement,” experts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP), the National Association of State Procurement Officials and others look into their crystal balls to tell us what they think might be in store for the profession. The outlook is a bit mixed.
Overall, the public sector won’t be adding many new purchasing jobs over the next 10 years. On the flip side, there are sure to be a fair number of job openings due to the retirement of baby boomers, which means that the profession needs to groom its next generation (and as NIGP’s Brent Maas points out in the article, recruiting efforts are under way).
For those of you already in the profession, there will be opportunities to grow professionally, especially as automation and IT decrease the need for “purchasing clerks and paper pushers” and increase the need for “true procurement managers” who can play a more strategic role in their organizations. And if you thrive on professional development, you’ll be happy to hear that certification and continuing education are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in the purchasing profession.
In another article in this issue, “Don’t let volatility in raw material markets get you raw,” Paul Ghere describes a price-modeling process that enables procurement departments to make fair and effective price adjustments based on fluctuating raw material costs over the life of a multiyear contract. The process is a common-sense approach known as “should-cost,” and it has helped Ghere’s employer take control of one of the most vexing variables in procurement contracts: volatility in raw materials markets.
Both of these articles address issues concerning future uncertainty. But they contain another common thread: They describe the procurement profession as a challenging, dynamic field in which to work.
Purchasing professionals aren’t clerks or paper pushers. You are highly trained, strategic-thinking managers, team players and problem solvers who use your training and skills to provide a continuous supply of critical, strategically sourced goods and services to your customers.
Looking at the future with that lens, I’d say you might want to invest in a good pair of sunglasses.