CPOs with board ambitions must aim to become Chief Supply Chain Officers


Without doubt, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and other C-Suite organisational leaders (Chief Financial, Operating, Information, Marketing Officers) recognise the strategic value in procurement. However, the global dilemma these decision-makers face is whether current Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) are equipped with the right strategic and board-level skills to officially be admitted into their high-level discussion forums.

Rather than officially appointing CPOs to the C-Suite of organisational leaders, it is increasingly becoming the norm for companies to appoint Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) with some understanding of procurement and supply chain management, says SmartProcurement Editorial Board Member Dr Douglas Boateng.


Along side is a list of prominent examples from a random survey of global companies with $100s-billions dollars in combined annual revenues.

Examining the list, Dr Boateng noted some interesting facts:

  • Far less than 10% of these global corporations have an Executive Committee (EXCO) representative holding the title CPO or Executive Director of Procurement.
  • Over 50% of the related titles examined included “Supply chain” and not “Procurement”.
  • In organisations where there is a CSCO at EXCO level, there is increasingly no Chief Operating Officer.

He adds that the findings are statistically significant and generally in line with Boris Groysberg, L. Kevin Kelly, and Bryan MacDonald’s March 2011 article in Harvard Business Review ‘The New Path to the C-Suite’.

In conclusion, the random survey suggests:

  • The Chief Supply Chain Officer is progressively becoming the procurement representative among C-Suite leaders, and may be gradually replacing the Chief Operating Officer.
  • The CPO title is politely rebuffed at EXCO level because of varying definitions and sometimes reckless use by lower level and inexperienced practitioners.
  • The rapid acceptance of the Chief Supply Chain Officer at executive committee level is an opportunity for confident, strategically-minded, knowledgeable and value-adding procurement professionals with EXCO and even CEO ambitions… After all, supply chain management has strong historical roots in purchasing and later procurement.
  • The transition by discerning procurers from Management Committee participants to EXCO CSCOs should be much smoother and more importantly authoritatively recognized for strategic value add with the right industry-relevant:
    • educational and training curricula from affiliated institutions of higher learning;
    • comprehensive, thought-leading professional codes of ethics and conduct from the overseeing professional bodies; and
    • executive level coaching.


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