Agnes Greaves of Russell Reynolds Associates told CPOs businesses are adapting to new landscapes by hiring across functions © Peter Spinney
Agnes Greaves of Russell Reynolds Associates told CPOs businesses are adapting to new landscapes by hiring across functions © Peter Spinney

Future CPOs may have no procurement background

Businesses may find their future chief of procurement does not come from a buying background, CPOs were told. 

At a roundtable event in London, Agnes Greaves, MD at consultancy Russell Reynolds Associates, explained that companies are seeing traditional hierarchies flatten as business models are reimagined to accomodate digital transformation. 

One of the ways companies are adapting is to hire across functions to bring in new skills to address problem areas. However, hiring one person with a background in innovation is not going to have the desired effect if the business is not adapting as a whole. 

“You would be amazed at how non-digital some organisations are and what is needed to move along that curve. But many want to run too fast. We will again often have a company saying, ‘Can we just hire somebody from Facebook or Google?’

“That's great from an innovation perspective, but the likelihood is that it will break too much glass in the process and the organisation won't be able to go on that journey with you,” Greaves said. 

The event, called Today’s Digital Landscape and the Impact on Managing Talent, was organised jointly between CIPS and Russell Reynolds Associates

During a discussion, CPOs discussed how digital transformation was impacting talent management.

Procurement leaders discussed the importance of allowing young talent to move across functions to build their skillsets and enable them to become the future CPOs of their organisations. 

Alex Jennings, CPO at DS Smith, said: “Using this method, I think they [talent] remain inquisitive but it's also not new. When I was at Toyota 25 years ago, every two years everyone in a responsibility was moved for the growth of them as individuals and the growth of the company. It creates loyalty and it creates a company understanding.”

Some added while technology can make processes more efficient, there is still a need for strong relationship building. 

Alf Noto, CPO at Deutsche Bank, said procurement played an important role in making sure the right suppliers are in place to support a move to digitalisation. 

He added: “Procurement has been using the technology and digitising how we do simple things like RFPs and more operational tasks to be more efficient. 

“But I still think there's a very strong role for people with capabilities to work with suppliers and to build credibility with the stakeholders.”

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