A Seat at the Top Table – a new paper from Xchanging and Spend Matters

Some of the most popular papers we've written and published have been around the whole area of the skills needed by procurement people, both now and in the future. And we've got another new paper now that I think will be well received and interesting for a wide audience across procurement and supply chain activity. It’s particularly useful I hope because it draws on both my experience and that of my collaborator, Ed Cross of Xchanging, MD of their procurement outsourcing business.

The paper is titled " A seat at the Top Table” and it does what it says on the tin. We discuss how procurement professionals can position themselves best to work at the highest levels of organisations, in terms of their experience, skills and behaviours.

Whilst we’ve seen a huge increase in the perceived importance of procurement since I cam into the business some 30 years ago, and many more procurement professional around generally, we still don’t have that many of us working at the very highest levels of organisations. Is it just a matter of time before we see more? Or might it never happen? Or is some of that to do with procurement professionals not being aware enough of what we need to do to be considered for one of the very top jobs?

We’ll let you judge that, but we hope this paper might help a few more people make it! And note that in it, we're talking very much about what you can do as an individual - this is not a general discussion of how procurement as a function can position itself well. Having said this, if individuals do the right things to reach the most senior levels, it is likely that their function will also be perceived well.

It’s also worth noting, as we do right at the start of the paper, that you inherently have a better chance of making Board level in some types of organisations than others. I’m not sure a procurement person is ever going to make it to the main board of Goldman Sachs. But for industries like automotive, consumer goods and even IT services, it might well be a different matter.

Ed Cross and I have had quite complementary experience in terms of writing this and it really was a joint effort. I worked at just below Board level for most of my procurement career, generally reporting go the CFO or COO, but I've now been a non-executive Director in three organisations, public and private sector, including the Legal Services Commission which was both a pretty big organisation and a very difficult (sorry, “challenging”) experience, to be honest.

 Ed is on the Xchanging Executive Board and has made the successful transition to that level from being at one stage a pure procurement professional. I found his insights fascinating in terms of the right behaviour once you're working at that level, and how you combine the functional element of the role with the broader business imperatives.

There’s lots more on that particularly topic in the paper - we'll feature a few extracts here over the next couple of weeks but you can download the paper here now, free on registration.

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Voices (4)

  1. Ian R:

    I frequentlly daydream (don’t let the boss read that) about procurement being seen as a primary stakeholder in the organisations I work for, and whilst I’m ever the optimist I just don’t see the time when every large organisation has a CPO on the board (or even a CPO full stop). I think we struggle as a profession to separate ourselves from the functional aspects of the job – writing tenders, issuing tenders, evalauting tenders, managing contractors – and the strategic side ie: aligning ourselves with the business, being considered a key influence when a business reviews its long term plans and objectives, creating policy which changes organisation culture, etc – and it seems that is a vicious circle which is very difficult to break without letting go of the functional aspect, which is all the board take notice of. Or maybe I’m just having a bad week…..

    1. Dan:

      The only worrying thing there is that you daydream of procurement.

      I daydream about winning the lottery and retiring to a tropical island somewhere….

      1. Ian R:

        What without running a competitive process for the right tropical island first….

      2. Dan:


        I think a balanced scorecard is the only real way to decide…

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