A Seat at the Top Table – Spend Matters Top Papers

In the run up to Christmas and my passing over the Spend Matters UK/Europe reins, we’re going to feature some of the briefing papers I’ve written over the last eight years. We’ll leave those published in 2018 – we will run thought those again in the first week of January to get you back into work mode and thinking about serious matters again.

Today, a paper from 2013 that really was a joint effort with my co-author, iron-man competitor Ed Cross (see picture), then of outsourcing service provider Xchanging. He is now one of the founders and leaders at Odesma.

In A Seat at the Top Table we looked at that perennial question – what can procurement executives do to make their elevation to  the very top management levels more likely? Here is what we said when it was first published.


Whilst we’ve seen a huge increase in the perceived importance of procurement since I came into the business some 30 years ago, and many more procurement professionals around generally, we still don’t have 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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