Chief Procurement Officers Need a Seat in the C-suite

September 7, 2021

COVID-19 accelerated the inevitable, speeding enterprise transformation across digital channels, particularly in financial services and commerce. Yet, the pandemic also disrupted the infrastructure that delivers goods and services - supply chains have been regularly stalled or interrupted, with periods of extended uncertainty.

Even when healthy labor was available, manufacturing and retail operations shut down in the Spring of 2020 due to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). As the pandemic continued, other shortages set in ranging from corrugated boxes to glass to lumber. Supply chain challenges were further exacerbated by logistical challenges, as carriers allocated space based on priority or relationships, leaving many suppliers unable to ship goods at all. Other crises like the Ever Given ship stuck in the Suez Canal made a bad situation worse.

With new variants keeping the pandemic in full swing, companies are continually evaluating spend, flow and diversity of their purchases and suppliers. Now is the time for the CPO role to be at the forefront of business transformation. For the C-suite, CPOs can determine, optimize and diversify the spend for organizations, ultimately acting as strategists that influence bottom line profits and cost reduction.

The CPO is Vital for Business Transformation

A CPO and her or his team establish continuous, sustainable flows of resources, services and raw materials needed to sustain a business. Just as the role of the CIO in the last 10 years shifted to become a strategist for embracing technology for digital transformation, the CPO remit is broadening to mission-critical operations. Procurement is no longer the tactical management of vendors - CPOs are active contributors to their enterprise’s strategic investment, direction and potential growth. The CPO role is being redefined as a change agent, where leaders are partnering across their business to drive new ways of operating and implementing emerging technologies that leverage data and automation for a clearer view into enterprise spend.

Sustainability and Diversity in Supply Chains are now Non-Negotiable

While primed for improvement and change, COVID-19 raised sustainability and diversity of supply chains as a compelling differentiator. This is particularly timely given Biden’s Made in America initiative, where CPOs are leading advocacy of diverse supplier inclusion and prioritizing sourcing from locally-owned businesses. These goals and objectives have C-suite support and are clear expectations to improve supplier diversity outcomes.

Advocating for the Use of Automation and AI

As digital tools from video conferencing to content management and real-time communication channels improved enterprise productivity, emerging technologies are disrupting and improving procurement processes. CPOs are embracing more engaged, advanced digital strategies. The CPO role is adapting as an early adopter of technology to empower their teams to scale, deliver savings, compliance and customer satisfaction.  

Welcome to the role’s “new normal.” The CPO is now progressing as a strategist to solve supply disruption, deliver on sustainability and diversity commitments, and adopt digital strategies. For the modern CPO, there are exciting milestones ahead.

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