CPO Crunch: Win friends and influence people

David Rae

Fancy strategies are all well and good but stakeholder relationships are the place to start

One of the privileges of being in this role is the opportunity it offers to have regular conversations with CPOs about their visions for the function and the strategic journeys they are on. It’s inspiring and helps to inform many of our own strategic product decisions.

It’s conversations like these, as well as the many other community interactions we have, which have informed the development of our long-term product theme, Horizon 2030: Glide Paths for Sustainable Growth. And it’s interesting just how many of the CPO strategic visions I hear about resonate and align.

As a reminder, our five glide paths are focused on performance, partnerships, ESG, digitisation and resilience because (thanks to the conversations that take place in the community) we believe they are the areas that procurement has the opportunity to deliver most enterprise value.

Thankfully, CPOs tend to agree, something that was again confirmed last week when a consumer-goods CPO took me through his strategy for the coming years.

Like our glide paths, his plan focuses on five areas – or ‘pillars’, as he refers to them – with a very similar focus. Partnerships, sustainability, digital are all represented, as are efficiencies (cost improvement, OTIF, functional ROI – in other words, the traditional deliverables of procurement value).

With procurement having the opportunity to create so much value in non-traditional areas it’s important for the foundations of what we do to be represented on these roadmaps, even if they don’t get the limelight or bring much by way of excitement.

Getting the foundations right helps to build the credibility we need to launch additional – potentially more valuable – programmes in future. It’s an exercise in building allyship.

And here, a separate conversation with a CPO who has recently changed organisations is worth mentioning.

Moving from a highly mature function to one that is less so, he explained the work that lies ahead. A focus on core-process digitisation and cost optimisation for starters.

But one thing he said resonated strongly. His team, while needing new capabilities and enhanced experience, has nurtured extremely good relationships with key business stakeholders. “That’s the hard bit, the rest we can apply a formula,” he said, only half in jest.

It was a good reminder that while we can develop the best strategies, with the fanciest slides, loaded with the most impressive jargon, unless procurement has strong, trusted and mutual relationships with the business they will come to nothing.

And it’s here that every functional strategy should start, period.

World Sustainability Awards

The official deadline of the World Sustainability Awards passed this weekend and at last count entries were set to pass all previous records. It’s another indication of the increasing importance of sustainability to corporate agendas (not that one was needed).

CPOs have such a key role to play in this journey we’re on – I look forward to reading how collaboration across functions is leading to sustainable impact. And, if you or your sustainability colleagues entered, I wish you the best of luck for the next stage.

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