From IT Sourcing to CPO - Making the Leap Just Got Easier

The future of procurement as a strategic function has never looked rosier.  There is a bullish sense of positive change across all social media platforms amongst the procurement community.  

So, what does that mean for future senior procurement leaders? 

At the heart of this movement is the potential for technology disruptors, and a fighting chance of data accuracy and currency, to better prove value in the organisation and make an impact on the bottom line.  A procurement professional with the deep understanding of the technology industry, both traditional and digital, will be in a strong position to take on the mantel of CPO, as technology becomes the underpinning enabler to all categories of spend.

The experience and industry knowledge will serve many purposes for the aspiring IT sourcing specialist:

Facing into the procurement function

As a profession, procurement has traditionally experienced underinvestment in systems to support the engine room of the procurement activities.  The ROI has proven challenging at times due to product functionality and usability, poor data and an apathetic user community.

A CPO with a technological background has a great insight into the challenges faced by poor system implementation and can harness this experience and use the lessons of the category to great effect. An understanding of the dynamics of the market place for software and SI vendors means they are well placed to secure the right solutions with a degree of commercial astuteness. And of course they understand, and can focus on, the criticality of change management in the project implementation.  

Facing into the customer

Increasingly tech-savvy end users and business leaders can present a challenge or an opportunity to the procurement function. And as technology begins to infiltrate and underpin all traditional spend categories, the successful procurement professional of the future will couple their expertise in their traditional category alongside category-enabling technology developments.  The ability to demonstrate and deliver category strategies that futureproof the products and services that are sourced will be a key success factor.  The IT sourcing professional keeps abreast of the pace of technological change and seeks to interpret the impact on category strategies.  A drive to extend this thinking out to all spend categories will be a key benefit and differentiator for the aspiring CPO.

Whilst there is no expectation that a CPO becomes a tech guru, the increasing interface with the technology demands of the various operations of a business means that those with their finger on the digital pulse will find those strategic dialogues easier and will add more value.  This could represent a significant building block for those CPOs aspiring to elevate the function to a strategic business enabler.

 Facing into the Supplier

In the KornFerry Insitute report  ‘CPOs in the C-Suite’ COOs and CEOs scored substantially higher than CPOs on empathy, energy, and confidence.  The mature vendor relationship management skills required, and expected of IT procurement leaders, by CIOs, will contribute to the development and appreciation of the importance of empathy in third party relationships.  In an increasingly automated world, the means to leverage the human element, both internally and with providers could become a powerful differentiator for the strategically focused CPO.  Finally, the pace of change, that is inherent in the IT category right now, can only support the IT procurement professional in bringing that discipline of agility and pace to the procurement function.