Earlier this summer, CatMan 2.0TM was announced, and it was a core theme at the annual CMA conference held in Las Vegas last month. Many of the conference topics focused on digital strategies, big data, being closer to the consumer, and the importance of consumer-centricity in the age of the new shopper. Technology was certainly at the forefront of many of the presentations and discussions held during the conference. However, last I checked, we still need humans to interpret data, execute the decisions and support the merchants. For me, the importance of supply chain talent resonated strongly and was truly a key takeaway as we ended the conference.  

The question is: Where do we get the next generation of category management leaders? It has been predicted that over the next 5-10 years we will lose a significant portion of the category management professionals in the workforce today. Based on a study conducted at DePaul University in September 2015, the retention of category management professionals will begin to erode, and by 2020, organizations could lose up to 20,000 category management professionals. With less than 2,000 new category management professionals entering the workforce per year, there is a looming talent shortage of crisis proportions.1

During the final keynote presentation of the CMA Conference, Walmart’s Rana Nall spoke on the challenges of finding talent in the next generation. I had the opportunity to join Rana on stage and spoke about the need for next-generation software solutions to support this upcoming talent pool, known as Gen Z. Today, much has been researched and discussed around millennials, but the fact is, many of the millennials are already in the workplace and represent the 25-35 year-old age group. What about Gen Z?

Gen Z is growing up with technology in their hands, answers at the ready, and an expectation of an automated, real-time world. Today, they are 8 years old, but tomorrow, they will be the leaders for CatMan 2.0 and beyond. Their workplace expectations will be focused on technology, fewer touch points, automated processes and opportunities for growth. For Gen Z, collaboration will be led by social innovation. Our category management solutions will have to incorporate prescriptive dashboards, near real-time answers, and gamification. No longer will the laptop be the key tool for production; category management professionals will be using holographic technology, touchpoint screens, real-time dashboards, and game-like tools to identify the key metrics they are competing against.

There is a call to action. Universities that have category management programs, like DePaul University, University of Texas at Austin, University of North Alabama, Western Michigan University and others, need not only technology, but curriculums that focus on data science, analytics and data research. At JDA we’re developing innovative technology that will meet the needs of category management professionals in the future. JDA Labs is focused on delivering a better user experience, gamification and cloud-based, real-time solutions.

There is a need for talent, and a need for identifying and training this talent. There is a need for software solutions to support the talent of not just tomorrow, but today. If we build it now…they will come!  To learn more about the future of category management, download this white paper or view this video.

1 Presentation October 2015, led by Professor Dan Strunk, Director of Category Management Curriculum, DePaul University.