In the year to come, procurement will continue to transition from a back office function to a boardroom value-driver. Chief Procurement Officers and other leaders will need to increasingly reevaluate their relationships to the rest of the business as procurement not only becomes an increasingly vital source of business wins, but also a central piece of the puzzle when it comes to emissions reduction and resilience throughout the supply chain.
From generative AI to the skills shortage, there’s a lot that CPOs could be focusing on in the year ahead. We’re kicking off the new year with our list of the top ten things CPOs should be prioritising in 2024.
1. Drive significant value for the business
That’s why the first priority of all CPOs in 2024 is to apply technology, new operational organisation, hiring practices, sustainable strategy, cost containment, and every other trick and technique in order to create value for the business. Increasingly, CPOs are transitioning from logistical and cost-cutting functionaries to “orchestrators of value” and that will only become more apparent as the year (and decade) wears on.
2. Drive digital transformation
As mentioned before, procurement is a process that’s reinventing itself before our very eyes, embracing new digital technologies and ways of working that increase efficiency and drive value for the business. CPOs are increasingly important integrators of technology into the business, and should all be prioritising ways to implement technology over the coming year. However, it’s important to beware that technology for technology’s sake is even more dangerous than sticking it out with a legacy system…
3. Reduce environmental impact
Knowing may be half the battle, but once CPOs have an understanding of the environmental impact their S2P process has, they must prioritise finding ways to mitigate that impact. From a stricter regulatory landscape to a more perceptive and angry public, a meaningful environmental sustainability strategy is no longer “nice to have” or even necessary: it’s long overdue.
4. Understand your Scope 3 emissions
More than 60% of procurement leaders in the US, UK, and Europe surveyed in a recent report say that their Scope 3 emissions reporting process is more of a “take your best-guess” approach than a process of gathering concrete, reliable information.
The S2P process is one of, if not the, biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions for every company on earth, and understanding the consequences of working with one supplier or another (and then accurately reporting that information) is a huge part of the journey to net zero. CPOs who fail to prioritise transparency in their S2P process will find themselves actively hindering their organisations’ environmental ambitions at a time when procurement has the potential to be the biggest driver of positive environmental impact in many organisations.
5. Cultivate your supplier ecosystem
As much as technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in the procurement process, no CPO should discount the importance of building genuine, strategic relationships within their supplier ecosystem. Obviously, some industries are doing better than others, but in many areas (like the fashion industry, where “Those in charge of contracting suppliers for fashion brands say they are investing in longer-term strategic partnerships,” but their suppliers “tell a different story”) there’s still need for improvement.
6. Don’t buy into the hype (too soon)
In 2021, it was self-driving cars. In 2022 it was the metaverse. And last year saw the world get absolutely bent out of shape over the promise of generative artificial intelligence. However, much like NFTs and blockchain (another thing everyone was spending a lot of money trying to figure out how to make money from for a while), the promised trillions of dollars of economic impact from these technologies has yet to translate into meaningful business applications. Even the hyperloop was abandoned this year.
Procurement is an area with a huge amount of potential for digital transformation, and adopting the right technologies for the right reasons is what’s going to separate industry-defining success stories from all those dudes who went blind at the Bored Ape Yacht Club convention.
7. Mitigate risk to the supply chain
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global source to pay (S2P) process has transitioned from a “just in time” approach to a “just in case” one. As climate change disrupts agriculture and manufacturing across the global south, and events like the Yemeni blockade of the Suez canal in order to hinder Israel’s occupation of Palestine hinder the movement of goods between regions, CPOs should prioritise diverse buying strategies that mitigate risk to their S2P processes.
8. Be a source of cost-containment
Inflation was a defining characteristic of the economy in 2023, as corporate price gouging (amid other factors) caused cost-of-living to spike. In a world of rising prices, and supply chain unpredictability, controlling costs will fall increasingly to CPOs in 2024. Cost reduction targets have been hit less consistently across the industry in the last few years, thanks largely to inflation and the pandemic’s disruption of global supply chains. Going into the year ahead, CPOs who can find a way to successfully meet their cost containment targets will find themselves with a serious leg up over their competition.
9. Don’t lose existing talent
The world is in the midst of a growing resurgence in the power of labour, as class consciousness and anti-capitalist sentiment rise. The old propaganda about loyalty to companies that would replace that employee in a heartbeat doesn’t work anymore, and workers are increasingly understanding (and demanding) their true worth, and it sent shockwaves through the service, autoworker, and entertainment industries in the US last year alone.
With the tech sector still leading the world in brutal mass Q4 firing and rehiring strategies, and labour movements within massive logistics firms like Amazon growing stronger by the day, 2024 promises to be defined by more strikes and other examples of direct action, not less. CPOs in the middle of a talent shortage should prioritise giving their employees reasons to stay beyond gym memberships and company pizza parties.
10. Hire top talent
The nature of procurement is changing. As the discipline becomes increasingly digitalised, not to mention plays a more strategic role within the modern enterprise as a whole, the skills that make for a good procurement professional aren’t the same skills that were on job listings ten, or even five, years ago.
In 2024, CPOs should constantly reevaluate the skills necessary not only to do the job now, but to tackle the procurement challenges of the next few years when hiring.