Surprise Findings from IBM’s CPO Survey: Background

Few software vendors – even the very largest – have the budget and experience in conducting very large-scale survey work with customers and others in the industry. We’re talking sampling thousands of survey respondents and ideally dozens of (if not 100+) actual interviews with respondents to tease out additional qualitative observations to validate and further flesh out hypotheses based on the data responses.

There are many shortcuts in doing surveys, but there’s no substitute for the truly “big” survey. Some, of course, do this on an ongoing basis for clients / members, often at highly granular levels. We consider Hackett, for example, the gold standard for procurement benchmarking. Yet from a large-scale public survey perspective, not much work has been done in recent years. IBM is hoping to change this.

The IBM Institute for Business Value recently conducted its Chief Procurement Officer Study based on survey data from “1,128 CPOs from organizations with annual revenue in excess of USD $1 billion.” Our own discussions with IBM suggest these were not all “CPOs” in title, but they were procurement executives. The survey was completed with the support of IBM’s research partner, Oxford Economics, and the data collected came from “22 countries in North America, Europe and Asia.”

The results are quite fascinating, and in our view, contradict some of the areas of large-scale investment we’ve recently seen in procurement technology and related areas. Moreover, these macro-findings suggest that other areas will grow much faster. And some of the “in the weeds” takeaways jump out as well (though they require peeling the onion a bit more).

In a series of a dozen or so posts this June analyzing the highlights from IBM’s study, we’ll go both high and low in exploring what the findings reveal and what we learn from our discussions with the study’s authors. We’ll whet your appetite with one takeaway to start: in our view, the findings suggest that if IBM follows some of the takeaways in the study about where the most value will be created in procurement in the next three years, they’ll need to look beyond just the assets of their Emptoris product footprint to target additional organizational needs, especially in the area that exists between organizations.

Hint: Now that's a sterling observation, isn't it?

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