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Procurement is the Secret to Life Sciences Digitization

Posted on July 2018

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Procurement is fast becoming a more dynamic area for the life sciences industry, with innovations such as blockchain, machine learning and digitization shifting it from a back-office function to a board-level, strategic discipline. Professionals with the skills to drive improved procurement performance are in short supply. A recent CPO survey from Deloitte[1] found that almost 90% of respondents perceived talent to be the single greatest factor in performance, with 62% also identifying a large to moderate skills gap in analytical abilities in this field. A majority (60%) of Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) felt a lack of skills in their team was blocking a move to more strategic procurement.

Why is the need for commercial sourcing growing within life sciences and what opportunities does this create for skilled professionals?

Fulfilling needs, solving problems

The basic functions of procurement are easy to understand: finding goods and services of the best possible quality at the best possible price, from a reliable supplier. The emphasis is on finding savings, reducing risk and improving transparency. Commercial sourcing and procurement includeseverything from technology solutions to market research, advertising, speaker programs, patient assistance programs, conferences and advisory boards.

The new role for procurement develops the field further, moving from simply fulfilling a need to developing a deeper understanding of customer problems and finding ways to improve competitive advantage, strategic vision and efficiency. The demand for more skilled professionals is in keeping with the rapid growth of this sector: Gartner estimates that the supply chain management market alone is set to exceed $19bn by 2021.[2]

It makes sense to place procurement at the heart of business strategy, along with other key areas such as R&D, sales and marketing. Including procurement professionals throughout a project or campaign enables them to align targets, develop stronger relationships with suppliers, and inform strategy using key data insights.

The vital role of procurement to digitization

The life sciences industry places real value on commercial knowledge. Candidates with direct experience of the commercial side of the industry before moving into procurement are very much in demand, especially if they can demonstrate a 360 degree understanding of marketing and have connections within the industry.

Candidates who understand tech innovations such as AI, machine learning and blockchain, especially if they have a proven record of implementing solutions using these technologies, command a premium within the space.

Most life sciences companies are developing digitization strategies, and these initiatives can falter if underlying processes lack the flexibility to handle the scope, scale and requirements of digitization projects. According to a Couchbase survey of 450 leaders in large companies, 90% said digital transformation projects had fallen below expectations, delivered only minor improvements or failed completely. A lack of business agility was the prime reason cited for this underperformance.[3]

Top attractions for candidates

There’s a limited pool of qualified candidates with the skills and experience to drive procurement to the next level – so what can companies do to attract and retain the best talent? Remuneration is one of the most obvious ways to secure professionals. Procurement specialists in life sciences enjoy salary ranges that are significantly higher than in other industries, along with great benefits and bonuses.

Candidates also look for rewarding roles that meet a real need for patients, such as explaining how a new drug or treatment can improve the quality of life for patients with a particular condition. As in all positions, the possibility of taking on an executive role at some point is also a major attraction.

Where candidates have experience of sourcing a particular tech solution, they are likely to wish to use this in the new role. For example, a candidate might have previously sourced a solution from IQVIA, SHF, Optum, ZS or Truben. Where a new employer mentions these solutions in a job description, this can prove to increase applications for a role.

Why niche knowledge matters in life sciences procurement

It’s not easy to find skilled candidates for a strategically important, technically complex role within a highly competitive marketplace. DSJ has an in-depth understanding of the life sciences market, which enables us to put forward candidates who are likely to be a good fit for a position.

For example, we pay attention to which companies are expanding or specializing, who is exploring new niches within the market and what the hiring preferences are within different organizations. We build relationships with companies that enable us to deliver a consistent quality of service.

To discover the best new commercial procurement talent in this space, email Axis Rutledge at





DSJ Global is a leading specialist recruitment agency for procurement and supply chain professionals. We know that procurement and supply chain is the critical business driver in any business. We exist to take care of one of the market’s most significant challenges: talent acquisition. Today, we provide contingency, retained search and project-based contract recruitment from our global hubs in London, Berlin, Switzerland, New York and Chicago.

We pride ourselves in keeping our professional network up-to-date with any changes that will shape the future of work or affect the hiring process. Visit our website to discover more invaluable insights, including exclusive research, salary guides and market trends.

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