What makes a great CPO? A broad range of experience and skills

Gurjit Degun
3 April 2014

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3 April 2014 | Gurjit Degun

Purchasers who aspire to be a chief procurement officer should make sure they gain a wide variety of experiences.

That’s the advice from Paul Jones, director of indirect procurement in Europe for Kellogg's, who said: “Gone are the days where I think someone should just work in indirect procurement. The best way is getting the real skill set to become CPO one day.”

Speaking at the ProcureCon Indirect conference in London yesterday, Jones said to reach the next stage of their career, purchasing professionals may sometimes have to move sideways or even down a step. “They have to have certain competencies,” he added.

“From a recruiting point of view, I always tell people it’s a little bit like playing pool or snooker where you’re not just thinking about this shot, but playing your next shot as well. So you’re not just recruiting this role, it’s the one after that. So you’re looking for people who can grow and can develop.”

When questioned whether purchasers should recruit people without a procurement background, Jones said he is looking for diversity and people with different skills to complement the team. “If there is an opportunity to get somebody from a media background [for example], that would be great,” he said.

However, Nick Jenkinson, head of indirect procurement at Aryzta, said this can be very hard. “It’s not easy to find people,” he said. “We tried to find someone in a marketing role at my previous company but we still struggled – we were getting good marketing people or good procurement people. Trying to get the right mix of commercial skills and the right relationship skills was very difficult.”

Jenkinson also said although he is a strong believer in knowledge and skill set, rather than category experience, he is looking for category specialists for his new team at Aryzta. He explained this is because the company’s procurement function is going through “quite a big transformation and we really need to educate the business in what procurement is”.

He said: “I am looking for that category specialism as well, albeit very much focusing on the people who can drive change and who can understand those cultural differences and can manage to really drive those stakeholder relationships because that’s a really difficult area that we’re going to face. It is a very fine balancing act. You’ve got to get that balance between delivery and the people who are change agents.”

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