DNA of a CPO involved interviews with 94 execs © 123RF
DNA of a CPO involved interviews with 94 execs © 123RF

CPOs reveal how to reach the top

11 December 2017

Commercial acumen, a proactive attitude and overseas experience will help you become a successful CPO, according to recruitment firm Hays.

Hays report, DNA of a CPO: The makings of a Chief Procurement Officer, surveyed 94 CPOs in Australia and New Zealand about what skills and characteristics are most important to being a successful CPO today. 

Tim James, managing director of Hays in Victoria, Tasmania and ACT, said both the skills and characteristics procurement and supply chain leaders possess had changed dramatically and the report was important to chart the change for future leaders.  

“They have transitioned from a tactical to a strategic function where they contribute to overall business efficiency and competitiveness and directly impact the bottom line,” he said. 

“This creates quality opportunities for those entering the profession, but it’s important people set themselves up for success if they want to rise to the top.” 

The survey found that gaining commercial acumen was the most important skill for a CPO to possess, with 66% stating that understanding the needs and daily operations of the various business teams you serve would be valuable.

Learning stakeholder engagement was also flagged as highly important at 64% and people management skills were also highly valued, with 44% stating that it was a vital skill to climb up the procurement ladder. 

Matthias Fuchs, CPO at construction materials supplier Boral, said the stats showed that CPO skills had evolved from being a numbers game to being about people.

“Being a procurement leader, you have to win the confidence of operations; they have to want to work with you,” he said.

“The CPO role is fundamentally about leadership combined with influencing skills but for me it’s mainly about people. To be a leader of a large procurement team, people need to be the number one focus.”

When asked about central personal characteristics for CPOs, 71% said having a proactive nature was most important, closely followed by being collaborative (64%) and hardworking (60%). 

Being ethical was another key personal characteristic highlighted as important, with 54% saying the trait had helped them succeed in their career so far. 

Of the CPOs who participated in the survey, 53% had 16 or more years’ experience in procurement, 68% had worked for four or more organisations and 45% said they had received four or more promotions before reaching their current position. The report said the numbers showed that becoming a CPO requires solid experience and hard work.

Over half (57%) said they had worked outside Australia or New Zealand and of these, 67% said the experience benefited their career considerably, while 26% said it was of some benefit.

Driving the sustainability agenda was also a key focus for 63% of the CPOs. They agreed that sustainability and corporate social responsibility would become a bigger part of the CPO role in the next five years.

The CPOs emphasised that being aware of challenges and addressing them proactively was important, with 49% stating that the biggest challenge for them in the coming 12 months would be aligning and educating internal departments on the value of the procurement function.

In the report, Adam Pase, head of procurement at superannuation fund Cbus, said having a diverse set of skills was important to make vital changes within an organisation.

“You want to be able to show that you’ve been able to take the organisation—whether that’s the procurement organisation, or the business overall—from identifying an opportunity, a need or a problem, to making the transition from that state to another state,” he said.

“That demonstrates your ability to be able to engage with your business and stakeholders and to drive your team along a journey.” 

The report also revealed the profile of typical CPO’s in Australia and New Zealand. Of the survey respondents: 

•       80% are men and 20% are women

•       76% are aged between 41 and 55

•       89% hold a bachelor degree, although their area of study differs

•       22% have a masters degree, 16% an MBA and 16% post graduate diploma

•       21% are a Member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (MCIPS)

•       11% hold a different CIPS qualification and 7% hold a diploma in procurement

•       11% sit on their organisation’s board

•       64% play sport or exercise in their spare time

•       57% have worked outside Australia and New Zealand at some point

•       29% ultimately want a bigger CPO role

•       34% work 46hr-55hrs a week and 30% work 39hr-45hrs

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