Deloitte CPO Survey – Valuable, Interesting, Frustrating in Places

The Deloitte Global CPO Survey draws on 324 respondents from 33 countries. It is one of the biggest studies of its kind, with valuable input (and access to a CPO database, we suspect) provided by recruitment giant Odgers, and is well worth reading. We will be featuring the findings here over several articles, but today we will start with a bit of a whinge, because the report did leave us feeling a little confused in places. For a start, a few, what we assume are typos, don’t help.

"Regardless of the tactics employed CPOs have continued to deliver the numbers for their businesses with less than 90 per cent meeting or exceeding their savings plans"... We suspect that should say "no less than 90%" or "more than 90%".

(Frankly, the cynic in me says this just goes to show anyway that most firms don't measure their "savings" properly).

There are also some issues with the use of charts and "infographic" type presentation of data. Now we love infographics as much as anyone - our Publishing Director, Nancy Clinton, has been known to get almost tearful on being presented with a beautiful chart. But we get some here that don't succeed in their core task - accurately and simply conveying information.

Take the chart that is titled, “CPOs have a strong focus on retaining their existing talent". Underneath that heading we have a block chart with three blocks titled:

32%        Retaining talent

23%       Attracting talent

20%       Training

What does that mean? Only 32% care about "retaining talent"? That does not sound like a particularly “strong focus”. Or 32% see retaining talent as their top priority? Look, I’m a numbers person, with a degree in Maths and Management Sciences, so I'm in the minority in terms of liking to see raw data in all its glory! But at the very least, we need to know what question was asked if we are to make any sense of the answers.

At other times, the text adds to the confusion. Take this extract.

“In 2014, of the 19 per cent of CPOs looking to increase levels of outsourcing, 16 per cent were considering doing so in support of category management or sourcing, and one in 10 was looking for help with strategy formulation itself. This year, the trend has slowed overall, and 17 per cent of CPOs now are no longer merely looking at outsourcing but are firmly under pressure from their executives to do so”.

So is the 17% the same as the 19% - so the trend has slowed? But then to say "no longer merely looking..." makes it sounds like the 17% have gone further than last year's 19%! Is that correct? And those numbers don't in any case seem to quite stack up with the chart on the previous page.

It just adds an element of confusion to the reader - or to this reader anyway. Did Deloitte get a knowledgeable but critical external person to review this before publication? That's something that is often helpful in these situations, we would suggest.

However, all that aside, there are some very interesting findings in the report and some good analysis from the Deloitte authors. Indeed, their overall conclusions are remarkably similar to our predictions in "The Future of Procurement" that we published recently (authored by Sigi Osagie and Peter Smith). One major prediction for instance is that much procurement work will be automated, digitised and devolved to users, so we have to define a largely new role for the "profession".

But there are some interesting findings here that might make you wonder whether the profession has the skills or even the desire to make that change. We'll come back to those issues in part 2 of our review.

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