The traits of an agile CPO

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Agile CPO

In 2015, I began to hear a lot about agility in respect to procurement. While the term had been kicking around for some time, 2015 seemed to be the year that consultants, pundits and senior executives adopted as "the thing" organisations and business functions needed.


Yet, despite the hype, it seemed that few were able to define exactly what was meant by being agile.


To me, it seemed to be a term often used as an excuse not to do effective planning. I even wrote a blog about it in late 2015. The whole issue got me thinking about why agility had become such a hot topic. Was it just the latest buzzword or was there something more substantial behind it?


"If necessity is the mother of invention, then uncertainty is the father of agility," I once told an audience at a conference. I believe "uncertainty" summarises the need for agility; simply put, today’s economic reality is very different, more volatile and less predictable than it has ever been, and being agile is at least part of the solution to deal with this new reality.


Considering that agility is now centre stage in the management consultancy lexicon, we at the Beyond Group, investigated what exactly it means for CPOs and what traits they need to have in order to be agile as part of our 2017 Think Tank series. We came away with four essential qualities that we believe underlie this notion. These are:


  • Anticipation - Focusing on the needs of the ultimate customer, having an effective intelligence network and a strong risk management approach.


  • Analytical capability - Having a digitally enabled information system and using it for building better insight.


  • Responsiveness - Focusing on delivering insights and advice as an internal business partner, having a propensity for action, and focusing on output and results


  • Collaboration - Becoming a ’connector’; an individual that can link a complex external environment to pressing internal issues. This should also be combined with fearless leadership.


After much reflection and post-Think Tank discussion, we believe these four precepts act as a major benchmark for CPOs attempting to become more agile. So, as uncertainty abounds in business, procurement leaders should be picking up these qualities in order to deliver leadership and, ultimately, a function that can act agile in uncertain, volatile times.


To read more from Giles around what The Beyond Group found on digitalisation and what that means for procurement from its Think Tank series click here


Giles Breault is the cofounder of The Beyond Group, a specialised advisory firm that focuses on how organisations develop and transform their procurement and productivity functions. He was previously global head of productivity at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.


This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.


Giles Breault
Posted by Giles Breault

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