Being a CPO – five things I’m pleased I did (part 3)

We recently featured a series about my time as a CPO and regrets around things I could have done better. But now we’re onto things I feel good about... And if you think this is a bit arrogant, you can go back and read the negative stuff to balance it! Here’s number three.

I’m pleased... I made some inroads into new categories

Of course, it was never just “me” doing this. It was teams I was involved with or led. But in principle, getting procurement involved and influential in spend categories where the function has not been involved previously is always interesting, usually challenging and sometimes very satisfying!

It doesn’t always come off. I had a great relationship with my boss, the CFO, at NatWest and he supported us getting more involved in categories such as marketing services and consultancy. But when I suggested we might help with the investment banking side – the advisers to the Board on acquisitions and so on – he looked me in the eye and said, “don’t push it Peter”!

There are two sides to why this can be such a positive experience (when the CFO doesn’t object anyway). As an individual, learning about a new market, meeting different suppliers and internal stakeholders has always been something I’ve enjoyed - perhaps because I have a short attention span and like new stuff generally.

And the sense of satisfaction in getting to grips with a new area is considerable – and of course if you can do it well, there may well be big opportunities to deliver real value. Perhaps even the mythical low-hanging fruit. We did this pretty successfully at Mars in a number of areas, and made real progress at NatWest too. And most of the spend categories were pretty much uncharted territory in the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation...

Anyway, I’ve written about the topic elsewhere, and one of our Real World Sourcing Series briefings last year with BravoSolution was titled “Taking on a New Category”. So if you’re interested take a look at that material (slides available here free on registration).

So just one tip for now. Telling the internal stakeholder (budget owner) early on that it is not procurement’s job to choose suppliers was a very reassuring message on several occasions. Our role is to help define the process by which we will choose suppliers and agree contracts, perhaps even provide some governance, and then work through the process with the stakeholder to arrive at the best result, including the choice of supplier.

But it isn’t going to be procurement saying “you must use Saatchi and Saatchi” or KPMG or IBM or whoever. That re-assuring positioning seemed to work well with stakeholders in most cases in my experience.

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