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What are organisations looking for in a future CPO?

Discussion M

Richard Shelley exec search, interim recruitment, recruitment strategy...

Recently, we hosted an insightful roundtable event on the future of procurement and the skills that future CPO’s will need, with procurement leaders from a range of organisations. Discussions were thought-provoking, and covered a variety of topics.

Most of the panel concluded that while traditional procurement skills are still relevant, modern CPO’s need to be able to do much more – there has been a huge shift in business dynamics and as one of our panellists pointed out; "It is no longer enough to talk about savings and category management." Building relationships with stakeholders, creating and inspiring teams, having broad business knowledge, innovating with new technology and adapting to change are all necessary qualities. So, what really makes a CPO an attractive proposition?


Soft Skills

A huge takeaway from the day was that soft skills are more important than ever. As the Director of Procurement at Yanfeng Automotive Interiors stated, procurement used to be about getting “another 5%, or 10% in savings… …now it’s about building strategic partnerships in the business”.

Michael Whitby, former Group Sourcing Director at Lloyds Banking Group echoed this, reflecting on the "huge emotional element" needed in a modern CPO’s skillset while David Medori of William Hill said "rapport building, emotional intelligence, leadership and empathy", were essential, and that"not being able to communicate across different stakeholders and C-Suite makes buy-in very difficult".

In fact, the views of our panellists ran parallel to research from the European Institute of Purchasing Managers (EIPM), which suggested that "candidates that can combine traditional procurement skills with interpersonal skills such as relationship building are highly sought after".


Broad Business Exposure

Broad business exposure was singled out as a vital skill. The role of a CPO is no longer as siloed as it once was, and consequently requires an understanding of all levels of business. Panellists felt that CPOs not only need to get a better understanding of where the business is going, but also focus on being more visible at board level.

As Vivienne Brackwood, of The National Grid put it, “CPOs should be able to consider what it’s like working in other parts of the business”. This point was echoed by Neil Smith, of Leidos who felt that there was a definite trend towards hiring CPOs from alternative backgrounds. This increase in non-traditional hiring has resulted in a more eclectic mix of professionals coming into the discipline.

In fact, according to a recent report in The Times, dozens of top academics who worked on the CERN Hadron Collider have quit to work in procurement bringing their experience in developing algorithms into supply chains.


Long Term Vision

Panellists cited having a long-term vision as crucial for future CPOs. The pace of change is rapid – and it is only going to get faster. Automation and AI will, more than likely mean leaner and smaller procurement functions and Brexit will have a definite impact on UK supply chains.

Add to that concerns around demonstrating ethical supply and risk management, and it is clear to see that an eye on the future is crucial. While the procurement function used to be a decision enabler, future CPOs need to ensure that it is a decision maker. As Jamie Foster of McLaren put it: “It’s all about how you lead the business to a decision through your work.".


Delivering ‘High Performance’ Teams

Finally, it was agreed that future CPOs will need to create, lead and inspire high performance teams. Panellists agreed that strong leaders are those that can be comfortable in appointing experts in areas where the CPO may be less strong.

Empathy and self-knowledge is also key – as David Medori of William Hill explained; “CPO’s need to attract and retain a team while also getting the best out of that team. That’s about having the people in your team who really want to work for you – you need put yourselves in their shoes and be socially engaged with them".


Have you got the right people in place to handle future challenges? Take a look at how we’ve assisted organisations in building first class procurement and supply chain functions. Or, if you’re in need of a new challenge, visit our jobs page.