Procurement Changes in Past 10 Years

By Susan Avery

January 15, 2014 at 1:57 PM

As many of you may know, I used to write for Purchasing magazine and did that for 25 years before coming to My Purchasing Center. People like to ask me about changes I’ve seen in that time. I usually respond by talking about technology’s impact on the work procurement professionals do and how it’s helped the function become more strategic. 

When I was putting together the article “My Purchasing Center Profiles the Procurement Professional” late last year, I used as a guide to develop questions for a survey an article researched and written by Jim Morgan when he was Editorial Director Emeritus at Purchasing magazine in 2003. For his piece, Jim did the same thing--he used an earlier survey to formulate some of his questions. In his update, I’m sure he tossed out a few questions just as I did. 

Anyway, where the questions from both surveys are similar I’d like to compare some responses now to show My Purchasing Center readers where and how procurement--or purchasing--has in some cases evolved and in others pretty much stayed the same. Jim always called the function purchasing, never procurement. For him, procurement had a military connotation. 

A quick review of responses from 2013, 2003 and 1993 shows procurement professionals today are better educated and more experienced. Here’s a point that’s especially news worthy: More hold certifications. In 2013, they’re responsible for bigger budgets. 

On the question of gender, men represent roughly the same percentage of the procurement workforce as they did 10 years ago. The figure was 68% in 2003. Today it’s 67%. But 20 years ago, it was 82%. For a while there, more women were entering the profession. Then, it seemed to level off. Anyone have an idea why?

Procurement professionals are roughly the same age on average. In 1993, the average age was 44 years. In 2003, it was 46 years. We didn’t figure an average for today. But 70% of procurement professionals in 2013 are 45 years or older. 

Eighty-four percent of procurement professionals in 2013 have college degrees; the majority of these are business degrees. In 2003, just 67% held degrees. In 1993, the figure was 61.2%. Again, most of the degrees were in business. Ten years ago, 21% had graduate degrees, most of these MBAs. Today, 44% have graduate degrees, again most MBAs.

Ten years ago, procurement professionals had about nine years of experience. Results of the 2013 My Purchasing Center Profile survey show 80% have worked in procurement for more than 10 years. 

In 2003, many purchasing professionals came to the profession by way of inventory (63%), production (55%), quality (42%) or engineering (31%). Today, 70% tell us they started in another field. Thirty-eight percent have production experience, 27% worked in inventory control, 26% in engineering. and 26% in finance. That finance figure was 15% in 2003. 

More procurement professionals today than probably ever before are certified. More than half of those who responded to our survey  (54%) have at least one professional designation, whether it’s from the Institute for Supply Management, the American Purchasing Society or Next Level Purchasing. In 2003, the figure was 21%. That’s significant, and says a lot about the way procurement pros approach their careers. In addition to certifications from these associations, they also hold professional designations from such other groups as APICS.  

Over the years, procurement pros have become responsible for larger budgets. Even accounting for inflation, the numbers are impressive. In 1993, procurement budgets averaged $11 million. In 2003, the figure was $31 million. Today, 27% are responsible for budgets of more than $100 million. 

Given these figures, it’s probably not surprising that many more procurement professionals today report to the Chief Financial Officer than in 2003. Today, 40% call the CFO their boss; 10 years ago, just 6% worked for companies with this reporting structure. More reported to the CEO back then--35% compared to 30% now. 

While I have no hard figures for comparison, it seems to me that procurement professionals are working in a wider variety of industries today than they were 10 or more years ago. Jim Morgan did not ask his readers questions about the size of their companies, the industry that employed them or the commodities and categories they sourced. Then, when I was an editor with Purchasing, I also wrote the magazine’s annual Salary Survey. That poll asked those kinds of questions. If I remember correctly, a larger percentage of readers worked in miscellaneous manufacturing, metalworking and process industries. According to the My Purchasing Center Profile survey, in addition to the manufacturing industries, procurement professionals today work at companies in a wider variety of industries including healthcare, education, pharmaceuticals, and financial services.  

In 2003, they bought a lot of metals and chemicals. In addition to these commodities, today they source a wider range of goods and services, including Information Technology, professional services and corporate travel. Procurement was and is responsible for buying MRO items and office products. 

Anecdotes from both 10 years ago and today show that not much has changed with some aspects of procurement. Then, as now, procurement professionals say their biggest challenges are having accurate forecasts and having to do more with fewer resources (people). More automation or use of technology can only help improve the profession--in both 2013 and 2003, they say. 

Negotiations with strategic suppliers are the most satisfying part of the job for procurement pros in 2003 and 2013. 

Today’s procurement professional is working toward the ultimate goal of a position as Chief Procurement Officer or CEO. No matter what, they tell My Purchasing Center they want to make a difference. Procurement pros also were striving toward the pinnacle of their career 10 years ago. 

Then, 83% said they would choose purchasing as a career if they could start over again. Today, the figure is 80%. 

As many of you also know, I have never worked in procurement (although all of our other bloggers at My Purchasing Center have experience in procurement or supply chain management!). Maybe your observations are different than mine. What are you seeing? How has the profession changed in the past 10, or 20, years? We’d love to know what you’re thinking on this and any other issue in procurement. Respond to this blog or email me at   

Also see the article: My Purchasing Center Profiles the Procurement Professional










Tags: purchasing Supply chain management Careers Procurement sourcing
Category: Blog Post

Susan Avery


Susan Avery is Editor-in-Chief at My Purchasing Center. She writes articles, blogs and white papers and manages and creates other content for the online procurement and supply management publication. She produces and moderates roundtable discussions, podcasts, webcasts and video interviews. Susan has 30 years experience covering procurement and supply management for Purchasing magazine and 

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