In interviews with CIO Dive, two prominent business leaders have shared their experience of the huge transformation in executive procurement jobs, from bean-counting cost-watchdogs to strategic organisational leaders.
Jeanne Branthover, currently co-head and managing partner at the major executive search firm, DHR International’s New York office, explained that when she began her career, CPOs didn’t exist: practitioners in higher-tier procurement or supply chain jobs responsible for approving suppliers were simply called ‘heads of procurement.’
In those days, they tended to cede authority over technology spending decisions to other department heads.
Departments were typically siloed so that those in the most senior procurement jobs had no way of determining whether new technology buys were redundant, or if other department heads had bought new tech that was in line with the organisation’s, or whether it would function with existing tech in other departments.
In short, Branthover said, procurement was often seen as an unnecessary step: “A lot of people felt procurement was a pain in the neck.”
But that has changed radically. Executive procurement jobs have become essential to the survival and success of an enterprise.
CPOs are now in the C-suite, exercising a strategic role not only focused on finding the best price but also on identifying suppliers, often with the aid of AI and machine learning tech, whose products meet business requirements and strategies.
With digital technology growing more crucial to business success in all industries, the status and scope of procurement jobs began to change, Branthover notes, a process that culminated in the function’s necessary elevation to the C-suite.
Avionos co-founder, Dan Neiweem, told CIO Dive: “CPOs today are more focused on quality and the level of solid experience that can be built upon with vendors, rather than just focusing on where to save funds.”
Branthover concluded by emphasising how the contemporary CPO must not only be credible in the C-suite but “also has to be credible in the outside world to vendors and to suppliers.”