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Upskilling the next generation of procurement leaders.

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A topic touched on by all our guest speakers at the World Procurement Congress was the education of procurement professionals and what skills they will need to become the leaders of the future.


There are many different routes into procurement, but to fill the CPO’s shoes a new range of business skills are needed.


It was interesting to listen to AstraZeneca CPO, Ashley Readshaw’s presentation on "Developing CPOs of the future". Readshaw himself explained that he hadn’t worked in procurement before taking the reins at AstraZeneca two years ago.


He suggested that future CPOs will be people who:

  • Have a strong understanding of their businesses.
  • Can work effectively with business partners across the organisation.
  • Are process driven.

In order to acquire these capabilities and thrive in procurement, which he sees as tending increasingly towards collaboration with non-strategic spend being outsourced, future CPOs will need to be:

  • Good at understanding business models – procurement people are ideally also general managers who understand the business.
  • Well networked within their businesses – networking, he observes, is a neglected activity especially by those on the lower rungs of an organisation.
  • Engaging – they should be able to both understand colleagues’ requirements and engender enthusiasm in the same colleagues to support his/her own vision.
  • Innovation led –a "healthy dissatisfaction" with the status quo will be essential.
  • Driving process consistency– especially important given that, in reality, global companies have different management structures in the different geographical regions in which they operate.
  • Externally focussed – both in terms of understanding macro-economic trends but also the changing risk profile of a supplier base.

One result of developing this diverse range of capabilities is that junior procurement professionals will be able to undertake senior roles outside of the procurement function, just as people whose careers have been developed outside the procurement function make effective CPOs.


Liz Maffei
Posted by Liz Maffei