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“We want to be the best. Do you?”
An energetic Jet Antonio, senior director, procurement, Mondelez International, opened the Procurement Leaders Asia Pacific Forum 2017, which was held last week at the Westin hotel in downtown Singapore, by challenging the audience to think about what they want their functions to be.
Two days of presentations, roundtables and workshops followed, for which attendees from around the region had gathered to sense-check strategies and share ideas about progressing procurement’s role in business.
For Qasim Hussain, CPO of APAC and Africa at Kellogg’s, it was about aspiring to reach the stage where leaders of the function and their teams are treated by stakeholders as “levers of competitive advantage for [their] companies”.
It is time to move beyond the “serving” mindset, he said. “We should be partners to stakeholders, setting the direction, not being told where to go.”
Nearly all conversations about how to achieve such status came back to talent. The thinking being that if procurement teams are to be treated as equals, they needed their teams to start acting as such.
Leadership, creativity, resilience, influencing, and agile learning. These were the ‘soft’ skills identified by speakers and panellists as critical to any transformation, be it a shift to strategic sourcing, supplier-enabled innovation or digitalisation.
Such skills are also those of a good business person, not necessarily one with a ‘solid’ procurement background, speakers suggested.
“I don’t want procurement people,” said Ramesh Krishnamoorthy, head of procurement - Asean Pacific, Philips. “I want somebody who can sit with the business and talk the language of stakeholders,” he said. It was acknowledged that casting the net wide like this invites risks, but “unless you take risks, you are not going to find great people,” warned Mark Pickett, head of procurement (acting), Rio Tinto.
From the moment you arrive in Singapore, you realise this is a place that strives for great. Its buildings are tall, its streets spotless and its attractions world-class. This island city-state is a small testament to towering aspirations.
A fitting location, then, for the Asia Pacific Forum, where ambition was also in copious supply. No longer should CPOs be content with ‘serving’ their colleagues, attendees were told. The procurement function’s future is in driving business performance.
This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.