Welcome to the latest issue of CEOstrategy where we highlight the challenges and opportunities that come with ‘the’ leadership role

Our cover story focuses on the work of Nigel Vaz, the CEO of Publicis Sapient – a digital business transformation company that partners with organisations globally to help them create and sustain competitive advantage – and his approach to change management.

Welcome to the latest issue of CEOstrategy!

Tasked with accelerating business growth, while building the synergies across an organisation that can drive innovation to meet diverse customer needs and keep revenues on track, the modern CEO must be mentor, marshall and motivator on the journey to success.

Read the latest issue here!

Publicis Sapient: Advice for the modern CEO

“I lead Publicis Sapient with a set of principles to keep me on track, and which I offer to fellow CEOs as a guide,” says CEO Nigel Vaz. “Embrace change, and view challenges as opportunities for growth and innovation; Foster a culture of continuous learning within yourself and your organisation; Advance the organisational capabilities that will enable your company to deliver on your brand promise; Adopt a data-driven approach to decision-making, utilising analytics and advanced technologies and Stay rooted in purpose to realise your competitive advantage.”

EMCS: Leading a small fish making a big impact

“If you look after your people and you have the right people in place, the customer experience takes care of itself,” explains EMCS Industries CEO Trevor Tasker. “A lot of entrepreneurs say the same, but you don’t always see it in action. If I have to micromanage somebody, I’ve made a hiring mistake. When I’ve found the right person, all I have to do is support them and trust them. If I can’t trust them, I can’t lead them. And being trusted makes my employees so much better at their jobs. It makes choosing the customers you deal with very important as well…”

Moneypenny: People at the heart

We are consistently listed in the best places to work rankings and have created a happy and fun working environment,” says Moneypenny CEO Joanna Swash. “We strive to be authentic, and that starts at the top. If the leadership team walks the walk and talks the talk, then trust is built. Trust fosters a culture where employees are motivated, engaged and empowered with a culture of transparency and honesty…”

Bupa: Choice, care and compassion driving digital transformation

“In a fast-changing world, it’s essential that we harness the power of technology to keep improving health outcomes for our customers,” says Global & UK CEO Carlos Jaureguizar of the digital transformation journey helping Bupa become the world’s most customer-centric healthcare company. “We give our people the tools to give customers the best care, streamline the customer experience and drive innovation.”

Also in this issue, we hear from Rachel Youngman, Deputy CEO at the Institute of Physics, on how organisations can leverage ESG targets to meet the Net Zero challenge; we get the lowdown on a fintech success story from RTGS.global CEO Jarrad Hubble; discover the importance of Strategic Thinking with Institute for Management Development Professor Michael Watkins and count down ten reasons why integrity is key to business success with Serenity In Leadership CEO Thom Dennis.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

This issue’s Big Question explores whether procurement would be better prepared should a similar situation occur.

COVID-19 affected everyone in different ways.

It caused death, illness, chaos and disruption the world over. It shut down airports, overwhelmed the NHS and left our streets empty. With March 2024 marking four years since the UK announced its first national lockdown, how ready would procurement and our supply chains be in the event of a similar scale this time around? 

To go forward, unfortunately, we must look at the chain of events last time around.

Having been declared a global pandemic on 12th March 2020 and with cases of coronavirus accelerating to uncontrollable levels, many businesses’ supply chains collapsed. When the pandemic hit, businesses were left footing the bill for billions of pounds worth of unsold goods, causing inventory-to-sales ratios to rise high.

As a result of lockdowns, organisations were left with no choice but to cut their activity or shut down entirely for a brief period as guidance continued to change at little to no notice. As such, production was halted in factories across the world causing mass layoffs and redundancies across the majority of industries, particularly in manufacturing and logistics, resulting in a reduction in shipping which affected delivery times globally. 

Consumer demands also shifted significantly. The demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as the likes of toilet paper and pasta rose dramatically. There was an increase in office furniture amid a surge in demand in remote working. This, alongside the likes of government help such as furlough, helped enable a surge in demand for e-commerce as consumers bought online in record numbers. The shift in demand for goods led to a reduction in experiences such as attending events, eating at restaurants or going out to pubs.

In order to meet this increase in demand, factories pumped out goods quicker than ports could handle them. US ports were full of exports from Asia with too small of a workforce to unload them and too few truck drivers to transport the goods. While ports were full, compounding the issue was a labour shortage, especially truck drivers. And talent remains a concern to this day to procurement and supply chain.

But COVID-19 is only one of procurement’s fires. There’s been the Suez Canal disaster, wars in Ukraine and Israel and inflation concerns to contend with too.

So if the worst were to happen and another ‘black swan’ event was to take place, what lessons has procurement learned? 

Jack Macfarlane, Founder and CEO, DeepStream

As a result of the generative AI boom, Jack Macfarlane, Founder and CEO, DeepStream, believes that  the industry is in a much stronger position to overcome a future pandemic. “It proved that procurement needed to brush up on its ability to adjust to black swan events swiftly by investing in the right technology and training for the industry to respond to sudden challenges and changes,” explains Macfarlane. “With the growing use of generative AI, the industry is now in a much stronger position to contend with a future pandemic. Generative AI can scrape vast datasets regarding global trends, using the data to predict shortages, price fluctuations and supplier risks before they happen. 

“Regardless of the industry you’re in, procurement leaders should always focus on ensuring the right policies are in place to prevent declining quality control in a future black swan event.” 

Omer Abdullah, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at The Smart Cube

Omer Abdullah, Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at The Smart Cube, agrees that procurement finds itself in a more secure place than that of four years ago. “Procurement is undoubtedly readier than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. CPOs and their teams have learned where potential value drivers are, and they also understand supplier relationships and supply chain intricacies more intimately,” he reveals. “Procurement has also moved further along the digital spectrum. Organisations have tools at their disposal to operate effectively, and on a dispersed basis, should a similar event take place. Additionally, there are now far more risk management solutions in place versus before the pandemic – allowing practitioners to identify problems, and potentially risky situations, before they arise. Add to this more diversified supply chains and established alternative sources for essential categories, and the function is far more prepared than pre-2020.”

However, Abdullah went on to explain that while “no one would be absolutely ready for another unexpected pandemic”, he insists the industry did learn lessons from COVID-19. “It must be noted that there’s still a recency effect at play – procurement professionals tangibly remember the pandemic’s impact,” he explains. “As time progresses, though, this may change but for now, the industry knows how to operate if a comparable scenario were to unfold soon.”

Bindiya Vakil, CEO and founder of Resilinc

Bindiya Vakil, CEO and founder of Resilinc, believes the pandemic has showcased how better prepared companies are for the next global disruption. “Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic taught businesses some valuable lessons. Not nearly as many companies are flying blind in the face of disruption,” explains Vakil. “Many organisations learned that having visibility into their entire supplier network is the foundation for mitigating disruptions. Mapping their supply chain down to the part-site level and then using AI-powered technology to monitor it 24/7 for potential threats gives procurement leaders an early-warning system with actionable insights to make mitigation plans within hours.”

Vel Dhinagaravel, CEO and President Beroe Inc

While Vel Dhinagaravel, CEO and President Beroe Inc, reveals that COVID-19 “took the mask off” procurement and exposed the true character of teams. “Some were much more partnership-oriented and some a lot less. Some of these memories endure and will either help or handicap their responses to future disruptive events,” Dhinagaravel reveals. “During 2020-2022 as different countries and regions were in varied states of lockdown there were tremendous constraints on supply chains. As a result, procurement got an opportunity to be part of discussions around product mix optimisation and product pricing which previously had been largely off limits to them.”

He adds that while the future is uncertain, he believes the function is in a healthier position to thrive should the worst happen again. “Post-pandemic, these relationships have endured, and we have also seen these teams consciously building agility and resilience into their operating models and supply chain,” he discusses. “They’ve been using data and analytics as key levers to get visibility of their supply chain and suppliers – identifying points of failure, assessing scenarios, and proactively running simulations to develop diversification strategies. While these actions don’t give procurement a crystal ball to predict the next disruptive event, it puts them in a much better position to be able to handle another pandemic or major supply chain shock.”

Betsy Pancik, Senior Vice President at Proxima

And Betsy Pancik, Senior Vice President at Proxima, says that the pandemic was procurement’s “time to shine” with business leaders recognising the importance of a robust procurement function to keep business running smoothly. “COVID-19 caused major supply shortages, which drove price surges and quality issues – many procurement teams had to quickly mobilise capability and capacity to support immediate business needs,” she explains.

“Some companies learned this the hard way by not having the right processes and teams in place, which led to insufficient inventory, spend increases, and strained supplier relationships. Many companies realised the need for alternative suppliers to prevent these issues in the future and started proactively seeking additional sources of supply. Others realised the need for emergency buying procedures, systems, and processes that enable quick action, automated buying, supply chain visibility, and investment in talent – all of which will help businesses respond in a more organised and robust way if a similar situation were to happen again.”

In truth, procurement teams learned a lot from the events of March 2020. Procurement and supply chains can’t be complacent. The function can’t afford to let the mistakes of the past define its future. Supply chains must have alternative methods of supply and Chief Procurement Officers must be agile and ready to respond. Procurement can’t drop the ball and must stay ready. 

As procurement becomes more important, digitally-driven, and strategic, so has the role of the Chief Procurement Officer.

15 years ago, the Chief Technology Officer role rarely appeared on a roll call of the C-suite outside Silicon Valley. If you weren’t a tech company, you had a “head of IT” or even just an “IT guy”. Now, “every company is a technology company”, and every boardroom has a CTO. (And a Chief Information Officer, and a Chief Security Officer, and probable a Chief Digital Transformation Officer, and so on).

As technology has changed the way that we do business at a near-molecular level, so too has it changed the roles of the leaders overseeing it. No longer can you have someone in your C-suite who is technologically illiterate, just like you can no longer be a tech genius without at least a little flair for business. As the role has become more integral, it has become more strategic, and the demands placed upon executives and employees have changed.

That’s all ancient history, but history repeats itself. The same thing is happening to procurement right now.

In the last several years, the procurement function has started to show genuine signs of transformation from what David Ingram, CPO for Unilever, calls a “insular, contract-and-process-heavy organisation to a wider, more insightful function that is connected to what is happening in the broader market.”

Hervé Le Faou, CPO at Heineken, goes further, stating that “Fundamentally, the CPO is evolving into a ‘chief value officer,’ a partner and co-leader to the CEO who is able to generate value through business partnering, digital and technology, and sustainability, which are new sources of profitable growth in a shift toward a future-proof business model.”

A white paper from AI procurement company Zycus points out that the role of CPO has grown to include new duties, and preexisting duties have become more important in an increasingly fast-moving, easily-disrupted business landscape. “Today, CPOs are responsible for compliance. They play an active role in merger & acquisitions and participate in strategic initiatives. This is in addition to handling supply risk management, environmental responsibility, as well as the traditional job of ensuring cost-efficiency,” the report’s authors note. “Hence, it comes as no surprise that some companies have started inducting CPOs into the board of directors. In many others, the employee- hierarchies are undergoing a change, with procurement function reporting directly into the C-level executives or the board. The CPOs of today enjoy greater autonomy and improved control over budgets than before.”

As a result, the role of CPO has transformed from a tactical, functional one to something broader, more strategic, and typically more autonomous.

By Harry Menear

Coupa Software and Acquis Consulting Group has released an eBook offering tips on how to navigate the challenges of the procurement landscape.

A new eBook from Coupa Software and Acquis Consulting Group providing guidance on how to navigate the challenges of the procurement landscape has been released.

The eBook offers real-life success stories from the likes of Dent Wizard, Sun River Healthcare and Eyecare Partners while uncovering essential strategies for enhancing efficiency and driving growth.

Additionally, the eBook provides expert guidance on mastering procurement and compliance in today’s economic landscape as today’s leaders are forced to re-examine their internal processes, particularly when it comes to business spend management.

As a result of rising inflation, as well as the cost of capital and labour, it has meant businesses need to identify new ways to improve margins, drive sustainable growth and scale productivity. However, many existing solutions at mid-market companies are already stretched to the limit.

This led to Dent Wizard, Sun River Healthcare and Eyecare Partners coming to the same conclusion – digital transformation can take painful and antiquated processes and make them stress-free and efficient.

The new eBook is considered a must-read for leaders seeking to overcome the complexities of today’s procurement space amid a challenging economic climate.

To find out more about how Dent Wizard, Sun River Healthcare and Eyecare Partners recommend organisations can transform their business spend management, download Coupa and Acquis’s free eBook here.

Kathleen Anne Harmeston discusses some of the key items sitting on the 2024 agenda amid seismic digital transformation.

Procurement, in my opinion, has experienced one of the largest direct knock-on effects of unprecedented inflation and geopolitical issues over the last two years (including supply-chain issues caused by Brexit, the US-China Trade War, and European instability of the Russia-Ukraine War).

Procurement’s challenges

We are seeing this impact in the form of cost increases across nearly all industries and challenges in securing and maintaining reliable, dynamic, and cost-effective supply partners.

Boardrooms are struggling to understand why they should invest further funds to bolster the CPO remit, including investment to help them technologically revolutionise the business and the function. Possibly this is due to a lack of visibility on how procurement can be a high performing business partner, which offers a proactive, seamless, automated and value-adding service supporting profitability and ESG efforts. CPOs are now tasked to sell the benefits of investing in procurement over and above the safety blanket of ‘cost reduction’ as the signature sell.

The above obstacles will also be underpinned by the phenomenal opportunity of integrating AI into the procurement function alongside many other digitisation opportunities. Those companies who welcome technological innovation of their P2P systems and supplier management processes are likely to have better competitive advantage and risk management as a consequence.

Kathleen Anne Harmeston

CPO’s five key items on the 2024 agenda

The general consensus I have gained from speaking with my peers are:-

  1. Profitability (of course).
  2. Agility and digital readiness within the P2P and business management systems.
  3. Delivering ESG for the firm and not just  giving  “lip service” to the exercise.
  4. Risk management within the elaborate complex web of supply chain networks.
  5. Driving Innovation through the supply chain.

2023 saw the same old issues in limited control over and transparency in third-party spend. This was due to supply instability, semi manual processes, rising costs and value leakage from off-contract spend.  With this in mind, boardrooms are more likely than ever to push back on the CPOs call for further investment. But this creates a circular argument of investment needed in the function, combined with business’ commitment to approved supplier compliance to meet the board challenges in 2024. 

Moving to 2024

Digital readiness has become imperative as team members continue to work in hybrid or remote ways, but also because inefficient manual processes and limited digital visibility and automation of spend management causes significant lost opportunity and risk. Recent studies from KPMG and SAP show that 37% of procurement processes are still semi auto and manual and 77% of Executives complain they cannot access a good spend data real time. These studies have been further supported by research from Ivalua which states:

  • 53% of procurement and supplier management processes have yet to be digitised.
  • 22% of procurement teams estimate that they are wasting their time each year dealing with paper-based or manual processes.
  • 50% of procurement leaders think the rate of digitisation within procurement is too slow.
  • 47% say existing procurement systems are not flexible enough to keep up with constant change and market uncertainty. 

Inefficient procurement processes often result in disorganised data management and reporting -ultimately leading to executive frustration. These issues further invite problems such as duplication of payments or delays in payment.

What are the technological innovations for 2024?

The shape and structure of the procurement division in the future will change quite dramatically with the ever-increasing integration of AI. When the second wave of more sophisticated generative AI software arrives – which improves its reliability of output, data leakage, and data security – AI and machine learning may well plug the gap of manual human input for certain portions of the procurement division. With AI (or any kind of automatic digitization for that matter) we will soon embrace the automation and celebrate the headcount savings in procurement, and instead ask for investment in greater strategic skills and the next level of development for our procurement staff.

AI truly has the potential to transform procurement. From specifically supply chain management, to helping with demand forecasting and inventory management to logistics optimisation, new product development cycle time improvement, and supplier engagement. AI will also help with managing our spend via creating predictive reports for cost reduction opportunities.

Specifics for CPOs look for in 2024

Advanced AP Invoice Automation Platforms

Advanced accounts payable invoice automation platforms process invoices in any format with good speed and accuracy. It means going touchless eliminates the pain of managing paper invoices. By reducing the cost per invoice, shortening cycle times, and increasing spend control, these cloud-based electronic invoicing systems offer built-in matching and automatically identify errors, duplicates, and overpayments. They ensure payments are only made for ordered and received goods. Many APIA platforms can be tailored to specific organisational needs. This is with features like cognitive OCR invoice capture, smart coding, and invoice approvals to further streamline the process. These platforms can integrate with existing financial or ERP systems for seamless digital payments. While their advanced features like duplicate invoices and fraud checks, along with integrated exception handling, demonstrate the future of invoice processing in the P2P cycle.

Mobile P2P solutions

Mobile platforms are becoming more useful and available in the P2P process by shifting to cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. The convenience of mobile apps allows users to manage procurement activities on the go. This is also while offering real-time access to crucial data and processes. This mobility not only increases efficiency but also enables quicker decision-making. CPOs can also integrate their P2P systems with other cloud-based applications, such as ERP, CRM, and BI, to create a seamless and holistic view of your procurement performance.

Data analytics and visualisation

Data analytics tools are the applications that enable you to analyse your P2P data in an actionable way. These tools will help you improve your decision making, performance measurement, and reporting. For example, you can use dashboards, charts, and graphs to visualize your spend patterns, savings achievements, and compliance levels. You can also use predictive analytics, machine learning, and natural language processing to generate forecasts for your P2P strategies. Visualisation software has also made huge strides in being able to share new product development ideas. This is also while helping progress the supplier collaboration and management agenda.

Integration of blockchain for greater transparency and security

Blockchain technology is rapidly transforming the P2P sector with its unparalleled transparency and enhanced security features. By integrating blockchain, businesses are able to establish immutable records for every transaction. This will significantly boosting both transparency and security within their procurement processes. This technology is particularly effective in fraud prevention and compliance adherence and supply chain tracking.  It ensures that each transaction is reliably recorded and easily verifiable, underscoring its growing importance in the P2P landscape.

Supplier collaboration

Supplier collaboration is the practice of building long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with your key suppliers, based on trust, transparency, and value creation. It can help you improve your supplier performance, reduce risks, and drive innovation. For example, you can use supplier portals, e-procurement platforms, and digital contracts to communicate with your suppliers more effectively. You can also use supplier scorecards, feedback mechanisms, and incentives to monitor and reward your suppliers for their performance.

Sustainability and social responsibility

Global supply chains are complex and can be multi-tiered. This presents a serious challenge for CPOs with limited visibility into the supply chains for sustainability and social responsibility.  AI-powered reporting will enable teams to keep track of supplier and product information. This is via using global data sources from different countries, regions and languages. The key is to raise the issues and gain the sponsorship to address the risks proactively. Mapping systems and technology can help but only if this policy is embedded within the business. There is movement from tier one contract management of supply chains to managing the supplier networks.

User experience and engagement

User experience and engagement with your P2P system, such as ease of use, functionality, design, and feedback is important for the function. Alongside engagement, it can help you increase your user adoption, satisfaction, and loyalty. For example, you can use mobile apps, chatbots, voice assistants, and gamification to make your P2P system more accessible, intuitive, responsive, and fun.

Concluding remarks

The P2P landscape in 2024 will be shaped by technological advancements and a shift in business priorities. From the integration of AI and blockchain to the emphasis on sustainability and mobile solutions, these trends are redefining how companies approach procurement and supplier relationships. Despite executive reluctance to engage in further investment, during periods of inflation and market stagnancy, digitisation must be embraced with the option to either pivot or perish. Adoption of new systems and processes requires training and capacity planning within procurement departments. This is so that the business-as-usual services can continue without a downturn in service levels. Businesses that adapt to these changes will enhance their operational efficiency and position themselves strategically for future growth and success.

By Kathleen Anne Harmeston, CEO, CXO, Director, Advisor, C Suite Coach

CPOstrategy’s cover story this month features a fascinating discussion with Rick Sisk, Director of Procurement at Gen4 Dental

CPOstrategy’s cover story this month features a fascinating discussion with Rick Sisk, Director of Procurement at Gen4 Dental, who explains how he’s revolutionising procurement for the dental industry, and why doctor-led care is so important…

Read the new issue here!

Gen4Dental: Changing the procurement landscape for dentistry 

Gen4 Dental is an organisation that strives to be a true partner to dental practices. It is a truly dentist-first DSO, promoting excellence at every level and working to improve by at least one percent every day. Through mergers and acquisitions, the organisation is also growing at an incredible rate, and this expansion and ambition requires a sturdy procurement department to support it. Enter: Rick Sisk, Director of Procurement at Gen4.

Prior to Sisk joining Gen4 Dental, the procurement landscape certainly wasn’t what it is today. The organisation has grown so quickly in its short lifetime; Sisk says that Gen4 has expanded so rapidly in a way that had the potential to cause problems. “When I came in, there was no real purchasing platform. I called my industry friends and said ‘hey, I need help’. We needed to start at ground zero. I had all these ideas and I was told that procurement was mine to shape. I was really excited about that…”

Read the full story here!

RBI Procurement: Success through technology, innovation and community building 

We speak to Edzard Janssen and several of his team members at Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) to see how the procurement function is enhancing value creation, mitigating risk and dealing with increasing regulatory requirements… 

Now, more than ever, procurement leaders are having to harness innovation as they seek to prosper in highly uncertain times. Successful procurement teams are fostering emerging technologies and strategically aligned operating models and processes as they strive to unlock value across their enterprises. The procurement function at the Austria-based Raiffeisen Bank International AG (RBI) is such an entity, dedicated to delivering value through a future-orientated approach, at scale. 

Edzard Janssen, Head of Group Procurement, Outsourcing & Real Estate Management at RBI, joined the Austrian bank in 2011, where he was tasked with building a state-of-the-art value-creating function. The latest strategy of RBI Procurement focuses on four strategic areas as guidance for all initiatives: value-centric procurement, state-of-the-art capabilities, mastering the data journey and safeguarding the bank. 

1. Value-centric procurement: Focusing on value, not on price, and what truly brings value to the bank. 

2. State-of-the-art capabilities: The procurement systems, the total procurement infrastructure landscape and the capabilities of staff. 

3. Mastering the data journey: Harvesting and utilising the huge pools of data across the bank. 

4. Safeguarding the bank: Covering regulatory compliance, IT and cybersecurity as well as operational and business risk. 

Value-centric procurement 

The ability to deliver value-centric procurement is of course directly related to strategic sourcing and Janssen and his team have made great strides in recent years, establishing an innovative category management approach at the bank. “There are two parts that cover the source-to-pay process,” Janssen tells us from his Vienna office.

“One is the sourcing part of the process mainly fueled by the capabilities of our people and strategy formulation – the right way of approaching the market is pretty much driven by the quality of the people running the process. And then you have the second part of the process: procure-to-pay. So, doing the call-offs and executing the contracts. All that is powered by the quality of systems and efficiency of processes.”

Read the full story here!

Tipico Services: A single source of truth 

We speak to Kiran Menghnani, Director, Tipico Services Ltd (part of the iGaming and Sports Betting brand Tipico Group) to see how he and his team have transformed procurement at the company… 

Kiran Menghnani, Director Tipico Services Ltd – part of the online iGaming and Sports Betting brand Tipico Group – almost stumbled into procurement by accident. As the Malta Head-Officed enterprise Tipico Group started to experience rapid growth midway through the 2010s, combined with complicated regulatory developments, the maturity of the Group realised the tangible need for a dedicated procurement function.

And in 2016, Gibraltar-based Kiran, who had already been with the company since 2011 building internal processes and structures, was asked to look into creating a future-ready procurement hub that could deliver a more strategic and agile business-facing function. 

Tipico had a somewhat disjointed procurement approach to purchasing, prior to its transformation, a situation that resulted in a lack of transparency and an antiquated siloed approach. It was clear to Kiran whilst settling into his new assignment, that as the company continued to grow at pace, that this casual approach to procurement needed to change.

“We were still a young but rapidly growing company. We needed to work fast to get the tasks done while finding our way when dealing with our suppliers. Now the responsibility was on me to better understand the pain points being faced. And so I went about asking the basic questions challenging any purchasing requests. Has the contract been reviewed internally? Is there any data processing by the supplier? Has the price been benched with the market? How can I access past/existing contracts?”

“I soon started to realise that I wasn’t getting the answers to comfort me as Director, and that this humble piece of paper called a contract needed more attention, so I needed to protect both myself and the company as regulatory requirements had evolved. And that’s how this journey really started: someone questioning as to what we were doing and accepting that there were obvious gaps and opportunities.”

Read the full story here!

Richmond’s Department of Procurement Services (DPS): Leadership, relationships and the power of technology 

We speak to Rene Almaraz, Director, Department of Procurement Services, City of Richmond, Virginia to see how public procurement is transforming at the city… 

The values of the City of Richmond’s Department of Procurement Services (DPS) are set out on the opening page of its first ever annual report: teamwork, integrity, innovation, customer focus and leadership. The report is the work of the department’s relatively new director, Rene Almaraz, and his staff, and highlights the team’s achievements – in fiscal year 2023 – and priorities for the future, and also the guiding principles that influence how and why decisions are made.

Almaraz says: “Our goal is to build an organisation that’s more nimble, that provides faster and higher quality service, and supports the customer to the highest degree possible, which includes explaining to them why and when they should follow a specific process.  This, in turn leads to how we can get it done better the next time.”

It will be two years in January since Almaraz took on the role, with clear goals for creating a more agile department that delivers for internal customers and the people of Richmond…

This brings us to two of the points on the DPS list of values: teamwork and leadership. This means within the department itself, but also with external partners, suppliers and customers. The DPS team has grown by around 40% to 28 staff since Almaraz took the reins, as he explains. “We’ve needed to grow. Before I got here, coming out of the pandemic, there wasn’t a lot of stability in terms of headcount. It’s now stabilised and we’ve built a good team here, a really focused team. Plus, I’ve received a lot of support from my leadership and my peer departments to continue improving.”

The team has grown, but can be considered relatively small when you consider the scope of work they’re responsible for, which is why collaboration is so important for Almaraz and, above all else, trust and communication within the team. He explains: “I’m a huge believer in trust – my staff has to trust me, that I’m doing the right thing.  I need to know when to communicate and what to communicate, but they’ve got to trust me and then I must trust them.”

This mutual trust allows everyone to feel inspired and to grow, he says, and develop the skills needed to conduct complex procurement projects. Part of this means asking for help when it’s needed and, crucially, learning from mistakes. Almaraz adds: “Be honest with me: if you need some support, let me know. This is a project I’m giving you so you can grow and so I can grow. We’re going to lead and put this department on the map, through our expertise and professionalism. That’s our objective here.”

Read the full story here!

Maarten van der Borden, Customer Transformation Director at Celonis, discusses the influence digital tools such as generative AI is having on procurement’s workforce.

“When something new arrives on the scene, people have a tendency to immediately think of the worst-case scenario.”

Maarten van der Borden is a Customer Transformation Director at Celonis. As AI gets increasingly complex and advanced, there are concerns from some sections of the workforce that robots will take human jobs in procurement. Indeed, one of the biggest draws of automation is the cost savings and efficiency it brings, with AI able to complete some tasks almost instantly. But van der Borden challenges that notion and believes technology should be used as an enabler.

AI’s impact on jobs

AI will, in my opinion, not replace anyone anytime soon,” he reveals. “What it will do is make life easier and change the way we operate. In the late 90’s, we couldn’t envision what having a mobile phone would be like. When those were first introduced, we thought how annoying it would be that you would always be reachable. Now we can’t imagine living without a phone.

“I don’t envision the elimination of procurement positions due to AI. Rather, a significant shift may occur in the transactional aspects of process analytics. Currently, individuals proficient in creating complex Excel macros or adept at extracting and transforming data into actionable insights are highly valued. These roles are likely to undergo changes, but this should be seen as an opportunity for enhancement, not a threat. It’s crucial to recognise this. My belief is that AI won’t be replacing jobs, particularly in procurement where human involvement is key. The role of technology should be to empower and improve processes in procurement, not to replace the human element.”

Maarten van der Borden, Customer Transformation Director at Celonis

The journey

Over the years, Van der Borden has distinguished himself through a series of impactful transformations and strategic developments, primarily at the nexus of IT, business operations, and finance. His journey has been marked by the successful management of large-scale programs, where his ability to engage cross-functional teams and collaborate with stakeholders at all organisational levels has consistently led to the achievement of key goals. Notably, he has a history of taking on complex and challenging projects, steering them from concept to completion under stringent conditions. This track record has established him as an influential change agent, known for transforming underperforming organizations into models of high performance and efficiency.

Having began his career in the Dutch Military, he experienced a similar journey to many procurement practitioners. Van der Borden fell into the space by a “happy accident” and never left.

He shares, “I didn’t know much about procurement initially, but I quickly grew to love it.” His journey led him to DS Smith, a major packaging organisation, where he successfully spearheaded a comprehensive global procurement transformation. Subsequently, he transitioned to head the finance transformation within the same company. In this role, he sought a tool that could effectively navigate the unique challenges of procurement compared to finance.

“I needed something that would show me how our financial processes really ran. It meant finding the most impactful inefficiencies and developing an action plan to deal with them.”

Celonis today

This search brought him to Celonis’ process mining capability, a product that resonated with him so profoundly that he decided to join the company. “Right now, I am a Customer Transformation Director at Celonis, which means I help our customers organise themselves around this solution because I firmly believe implementing a tech solution by itself doesn’t do anything. We will always need the human element to make the change and create value, based on the insights tech provides. I’m very happy to be here.”

Today, Celonis is the global leader in process mining, providing companies with a modern way to run their business processes entirely on data and intelligence. The firm pioneered the process mining category more than a decade ago when it first developed the ability to automatically X-ray processes, find inefficiencies and implement immediate, targeted, and automated action to resolve them.

Gen AI drive

Procurement is in a transformative moment. At DPW Amsterdam, generative AI was the buzzword on attendees’ lips everywhere you looked. For van der Borden he acknowledges how rapidly the space is changing as a result of an increased influence of digital tools.

“To me, the first big thing to realise when we talk about gen AI is the democratisation of data and process analytics,” explains van der Borden. “I think what’s really important is that procurement realm to me is a prime example of where gen AI can have a huge impact. I think what gen AI will do is open up the capabilities of analytics to a much wider audience than today. People who may previously have trusted some Excel sheets or PowerPoint slides presented to them to make decisions can now freely explore, or even converse with their own data and make informed decisions themselves. You start to build a community of data analysts rather than just having consumption of data analytics. That to me is the big game changer that gen AI is actually providing procurement with.”

Procurement’s perception

CPOstrategy sits down with Maarten van der Borden, Customer Transformation Director at Celonis, at DPW Amsterdam 2023

By its own common admission, procurement used to be boring. A function hidden out of sight and kept far away from the c-suite. Now, it’s front and centre, firing on all cylinders. Indeed, the Covid pandemic helped drive it towards the top of the agenda, in addition to other enablers such as transformation and ESG. For van der Borden, he believes procurement is beginning to shake off that old skin and be seen as more of a strategic function.

“We’ve received a bad reputation in the past because the impact has not always been clear,” he tells us. “Some analysis that people do on procurement as a strategic function is to ask what’s the real impact? Yeah, you manage the supply and demand but as long as I have my blue ball point where and when I need it, you’re doing a good job. If things start to fall over then procurement used to get the blame. What I’m really happy to see is that more and more CEOs are seeing procurement as a strategic function, not only driving value in the financial domain but also more and more as the primary contributors to a more sustainable future and the guardians of our corporate brands.

An evolution

“There’s been a noticeable evolution in procurement, particularly in the merging of processes like source-to-pay, procure-to-pay, and purchase-to-pay. Our definitions in these areas haven’t always been crystal clear. However, when you delve into purchase-to-pay, it’s apparent that this is where the transactional activities occur. Due its very transactional nature, this phase is measurable and reveals the outcomes of our upstream actions in sourcing. I’ve observed that these areas, despite often being managed by separate divisions or functions, are intrinsically linked. The transactional aspects are commonly seen in shared services, while the sourcing aspects represent traditional procurement.

“Bridging these two areas, in my view, is a significant shift. This is where technology truly demonstrates its value. By integrating and examining the transactional processes to understand their shortcomings, we can trace back to the root causes, often found in sourcing. This integration is fascinating to me. It allows us to assess the real impact of our efforts.”

Michael van Keulen, CPO at Coupa, discusses the emergence of gen AI and whether procurement is in a golden era amid technology transformation.

Generative AI, or gen AI for short, is one of the hottest topics in procurement today.

Indeed, the introduction of ChatGPT has only accelerated its prominence into wider consumption. Gen AI allows its users to quickly generate new content based on inputs. These models could include text, images, sounds, animation, 3D models or other types of data. One of its biggest draws is the ability to understand different learning approaches and allows organisations to move quickly to leverage large quantities of data.

But despite obvious benefits such as time and cost, Michael van Keulen, Chief Procurement Officer at Coupa, stresses caution should be used particularly when it comes to valuable tasks. “If you look at ChatGPT, it’s fine if you’re looking for recommendations for something low-risk. I need something for my wife’s birthday next week, you input three things that she loves and ask it to help. It’s great,” he tells us. “But it comes from data sources on the web that aren’t always governed, controlled or trustworthy. It’s whatever is out there. What about the algorithms that come with ChatGPT? I don’t know what’s influencing the search criteria. On Google, if you pay you are at the top of the search bar. But I don’t know what ChatGPT is governed by.”

Van Keulen is a passionate and seasoned procurement evangelist with a comprehensive track record of driving value through business transformation at global companies. Since March 2020, van Keulen has been the Chief Procurement Officer at Coupa, a leader in cloud-based business spend management software, where he is responsible for driving best-in-class procurement practices across the company, supporting business development and being a source for peers looking to elevate and transform procurement. Van Keulen is especially passionate about building teams, driving value, organisational transformation, CSR, and diversity and inclusion.

CPOstrategy speaks with Michael van Keulen, CPO at Coupa, at DPW Amsterdam

The rise of AI

In the case of Coupa, the firm has been conducting its community.ai platform for the past decade which has been at the heart of the company’s strategy. Community.ai analyses real-time spend data, applies AI to compare company’s metrics against others and offers ways for organisations to be more efficient, profitable and sustainable. Van Keulen believes that the biggest difference between what Coupa offers and what gen AI provides is the trust factor.

“At Coupa, we measure information based on real spend, data and suppliers that are doing real business together – the internet isn’t doing that,” he discusses. “We’ve got nearly $5 trillion of spend under management from real transactions and real suppliers. That number continues to grow as customers and suppliers join the Coupa community. Pretty much all of our customers have trusted us with access to their sensitive data which we anonymize and then share back with the entire Community.  As a member of the community I know I can trust it because it comes from a source that is reliable, sanitised, relevant and well-governed. As well, we have certain standards and algorithms that we built-in all based on outcomes that our customers are looking to receive.”

Van Keulen believes there is a misconception in procurement that ready-made data sets are out there that are capable of meeting customer requirements. “The truth is most tech companies out there today don’t have access to customer data because their customers won’t let that happen,” he explains. “But at Coupa, our customers have already given us access to their data. This means we now have a real, reliable, accessible, governed and structured data set that has been anonymized.  When we then apply AI, you actually get prescriptions that are meaningful and relevant to procurement. I think the misconception is that this type of data set is easily found, but it’s not, we’ve been building this for over 10 years. There’s no other company out there that has the same level of spend data as Coupa.

“It’s the same as Google Maps. The only way that Google Maps works is because everybody uses it.  It allows me to get from A to B to C to D, back to A in the quickest time and with the least amount of disruption. The only way that that works is because we’re all using it. And I look at AI no differently in spend as I do with AI in my private life.”

Michael van Keulen, CPO at Coupa

Bridging the talent gap via AI

The need for fresh talent in procurement has never been so important. Procurement, like many industries, is lacking a defined path to welcome the next generation of talent, a feeling which has only been amplified on the back of COVID-19. This means the need to find ways to meet that shortage head-on, whether that’s through education, an industry rebrand or via AI. In van Keulen’s mind, he believes developing the correct tech landscape could hold the key.

“I’ve actually said this for a while,” he explains. “For too long, we brought in super smart people and then we would let them work in some antiquated old-school ERP, in Excel and run RFPs in emails. Nobody wants that, especially the current workforce because they’re used to and have been raised with Amazon, they all have TikTok accounts and are used to all these other e-commerce websites which have very seamless systems. If they come into the workforce and I let them work in some outdated ERP environment with email as the means of communication, that talent is either going to leave procurement because they think it’s boring or they’re just going to leave the overall organisation and work somewhere else. We don’t want that to happen, so you need to have the right tech landscape in place.”

Once the strategy is formed, van Keulen explains that is where the fun of procurement begins. “Then procurement’s the coolest function in the world and we will close the talent gap,” he says. “The talent is out there, they’re just not coming to procurement. They’ll go to finance, marketing, legal or IT instead. If you execute procurement properly, it’s the best because you’re right at the heart of everything. But you need the right people, operating model and operationalisation of your procurement process as well as the right technology. You need all of those elements or it’s never going to work.”

The greatest time in procurement?

Given the disruptive nature of global challenges and its ripple effect on procurement and the supply chain over the past few years, organisations are increasingly waking up to the importance of developing greater strategic relationships with suppliers. COVID-19, inflation issues, natural disasters and wars have meant today’s CPOs have been forced to firefight and think more strategically than ever before. Van Keulen recognises the turbulent nature of recent years and believes major transformation is already underway in procurement. “Historically most executives in any company would pay very little attention to their supply chain,” he reveals. “Due to recent events, companies are realising that they need to be closer to their suppliers. Perhaps in the past, the CEO would only spend a small fraction of their time with suppliers but those metrics are changing rapidly.”

As the ground lies in procurement, some sections of the industry now believe it is the industry’s greatest era given the level of possibilities. Widely considered a back-office function tucked in a corner and working in a silo, procurement is a totally different beast in today’s world. For van Keulen, he likes the variety.

“I wear so many different hats every single day,” he explains. “I always say sometimes I’m an accountant, others I’m an environmentalist. Sometimes I’m the treasurer or a finance person, but I’m also sometimes a psychiatrist. Sometimes I’m a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, a judge, an environmentalist and yes even a wizard. I never know what my day looks like. I can plan it, but something may happen where everything goes out the window. Procurement will always be going through some type of disruption and it’s about how you drive the competitive edge and how you drive value despite that. Procurement really is the best gig in the world and it’s great that more people have started to see that now too.”

Our exclusive cover story this month centres around Versuni, home to some of the world’s most renowned home appliance brands

Versuni: Procurement excellence to drive growth 

Our exclusive cover story this month centres around Versuni, home to some of the world’s most renowned home appliance brands. Versuni is a company with a rich history, dating back to 1891, albeit under a different name. Philips Domestic Appliances was renamed Versuni after the Netherlands-based giant sold the business to China-based global leading Private Equity company Hillhouse Capital in September 2021. And so began a process of disentanglement as Versuni embarked on its journey to becoming a successful and independent entity with a simple yet clear purpose of turning houses into homes. 

Read the new issue here!

“We refer to ourselves as a 130-year-old company with a scale-up mentality,” explains Hugo Sparidans, Chief Procurement Officer, Versuni. “We combine the legacy we have with Philips with all the goodies here in this new, agile environment where things can happen much faster and with a different mindset fully focused on growth.” 

Versuni is now operating under private equity ownership following its separation from Philips two years ago. “My boss called me and said, ‘So, we’re going to spin off Domestic Appliances. Do you have the interest to lead the transition for Procurement within that spin-off, and then potentially after?’ That was an interesting question for me,” Sparidans explains. “I’d had a great career within Philips working for a successful business, but I was now facing the idea of leaving that behind for a trip into the unknown.” 

Read the full story here!

Mars LATAM: Shaping the world of tomorrow  

Mars Pet Nutrition LATAM is changing the sustainability game within the pet food sector. Gabriel Guzman, VP Procurement LATAM, and Ana Milena Zambrano, Climate & Sustainable Sourcing Head LATAM, explain how…

Gabriel Guzman, VP Procurement LATAM, and Ana Milena Zambrano, Climate & Sustainable Sourcing Head LATAM, are leading a major ongoing evolution within Mars Pet Nutrition LATAM. Guzman has worked in some of the world’s largest organisations over 25 years, spearheading many high-profile projects during this time. Zambrano’s career spans 15 years across consumer goods and supply chains, with sustainability as a core lifelong passion. 

A focus on sustainability and the environment is nothing new for Mars – it’s part of the culture. It’s a business with firm ESG pillars and a clear concept of what sustainability means to the organisation. “We believe the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today,” says Guzman. “It is the vision at the heart of our Sustainable in a Generation Plan – one where the planet is healthy, people and their pets are thriving, and society is inclusive.”

Read the full story here!

EMCS: A small fish making a big impact 

We sit down with Trevor Tasker, CEO of EMCS, for the second time to discuss partnership, leadership, and the state of the industry 

EMCS Industries is one of the best-kept secrets in its sector. An innovator from day one, EMCS Industries invented the world’s first electrolytic marine growth protection system (MGPS). This set the basic standard for the field, to the extent that everybody else now uses the same or similar technology based on the EMCS Canadian engineered and manufactured antifouling system. Trevor Tasker is the CEO of the company, and he’s not only passionate about what EMCS does, but his rich background in leadership puts him in excellent stead as head of an industry-leading company. 

Tasker’s first job at the age of 16 was as a self-employed wedding DJ. Since then, he has honed his entrepreneurial spirit on an international scale in industries such as financial, large scale digital signage, steel manufacturing, and others. He has experience in both building his own businesses, and being an employee, giving him a good foundation of what it means to both lead and be led. 

“It allows you to get a good mix of what you like, what you don’t like, how you’d like to be treated, and how that shapes the way you treat others as you move through your career,” says Tasker. He’s worked across a variety of industries but the common denominator has been that he’s always either been in a leadership position within a company or running his own company. He’s conducted business all over the world and collected the tools he’s needed to be the best leader he can. 

Read the full story here!

AlphaSense: Making procurement a priority 

Joaquin Rivamonte, Director of Procurement at AlphaSense, talks about how he’s bringing scalability to the organisation, and the benefits of procurement working hand-in-hand with the wider business 

Joaquin Rivamonte has enjoyed a rich and varied career, one which taught him numerous lessons in preparation for his role with market intelligence platform, AlphaSense. He cut his teeth in the financial service sector; he was the Director of Procurement for some medium-sized investment banking companies in San Francisco, helping support Silicon Valley before the businesses he worked for were bought by bigger banks. One was acquired by JP Morgan Chase, where Rivamonte became VP of Procurement. He was then asked to move to New York, just as Silicon Valley was experiencing the dotcom boom.  

Office photos at AlphaSense, 24 Union Square East in New York City.

Rivamonte’s background in building procurement departments from the ground up continued, and eventually, Microsoft took him on. He moved to Seattle to be part of the Microsoft team in 2005, and this was the beginning of his education in how very large procurement departments work. “I did have experience in large groups of people reporting to me already,” Rivamonte says, “but at Microsoft, I had $2-3bn dollars of category responsibility under me. 

“I was responsible for putting together the consulting category, which was almost $1bn, and the outsourcing category of about $1.2bn, plus the web development category and a lot of different IT contracts.” 

Read the full story here!

CPOstrategy compiles five ways that ChatGPT can transform procurement amid the rise of generative AI in the space.

ChatGPT is seen by many as a catalyst for the next wave of technology transformation.

The technology, which was developed by OpenAI, has quickly become the buzzword of the year and one of the hottest topics on the c-suite agenda.

And its promise extends to procurement – an industry that relies heavily on the need for achieving efficiency, transparency and cost savings. Having already made its mark on a variety of industries already, procurement hopes that by embracing ChatGPT it will allow teams to make greater strategic decision-making to drive long-term value.

Here are five ways ChatGPT can transform procurement.

1. Rapid research

Through ChatGPT, time-consuming and cumbersome tasks such as research can now be completed almost instantly. Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can analyse significant amounts of data and provide insights on market fluctuations while also searching for new suppliers, products and capabilities to secure better deals.

2. Automated procurement processes

ChatGPT can be used to discover patterns and identify trends which will allow procurement teams to make data-driven forecasts. Through leveraging predictive analytics, organisations can anticipate demand, optimise inventory levels and manage their supply chain more effectively.

3. Easier communication with suppliers

Tools such as ChatGPT can improve supplier performance tracking through automating data collection and analysis. Its focus on cooperation and transparency throughout the procurement process allows for stronger supplier relationships and more innovative thinking.

4. Enhanced risk management

A major benefit of generative AI in procurement is improved risk management and the ability to foresee potential dangers. Through identifying potential hazards such as financial instability among suppliers or non-compliance with procurement processes, ChatGPT can help businesses manage and reduce risks.

5. Cost savings and increased efficiency

ChatGPT can help organisations to save costs by automating operations, increasing stakeholder participation and allowing real-time data analysis. By reducing the amount of time and effort for tasks like evaluating bids and selecting a vendor, ChatGPT could shake up the procurement process immeasurably.

This month’s cover story features Fiona Adams, Director of Client Value Realization at ProcurementIQ, to hear how the market leader in providing sourcing intelligence is changing the very face of procurement…

It’s a bumper issue this month. Click here to access the latest issue!

And below are just some of this month’s exclusives…

ProcurementIQ: Smart sourcing through people power 

We speak to Fiona Adams, Director of Client Value Realization at ProcurementIQ, to hear how the market leader in providing sourcing intelligence is changing the very face of procurement… 

The industry leader in emboldening procurement practitioners in making intelligent purchases is ProcurementIQ. ProcurementIQ provides its clients with pricing data, supplier intelligence and contract strategies right at their fingertips. Its users are working smarter and more swiftly with trustworthy market intelligence on more than 1,000 categories globally.  

Fiona Adams joined ProcurementIQ in August this year as its Director of Client Value Realization. Out of all the companies vying for her attention, it was ProcurementIQ’s focus on ‘people power’ that attracted her, coupled with her positive experience utilising the platform during her time as a consultant.

Although ProcurementIQ remains on the cutting edge of technology, it is a platform driven by the expertise and passion of its people and this appealed greatly to Adams. “I want to expand my own reach and I’m excited to be problem-solving for corporate America across industries, clients and procurement organizations and teams (internal & external). I know ProcurementIQ can make a difference combined with my approach and experience. Because that passion and that drive, powered by knowledge, is where the real magic happens,” she tells us.  

To read more click here!

ASM Global: Putting people first in change management   

Ama F. Erbynn, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at ASM Global, discusses her mission for driving a people-centric approach to change management in procurement…

Ripping up the carpet and starting again when entering a new organisation isn’t a sure-fire way for success. 

Effective change management takes time and careful planning. It requires evaluating current processes and questioning why things are done in a certain way. Indeed, not everything needs to be changed, especially not for the sake of it, and employees used to operating in a familiar workflow or silo will naturally be fearful of disruptions to their methods. However, if done in the correct way and with a people-centric mindset, delivering change that drives significant value could hold the key to unleashing transformation. 

Ama F. Erbynn, Vice President of Strategic Sourcing and Procurement at ASM Global, aligns herself with that mantra. Her mentality of being agile and responsive to change has proven to be an advantage during a turbulent past few years. For Erbynn, she thrives on leading transformations and leveraging new tools to deliver even better results. “I love change because it allows you to think outside the box,” she discusses. “I have a son and before COVID I used to hear him say, ‘I don’t want to go to school.’ He stayed home for a year and now he begs to go to school, so we adapt and it makes us stronger. COVID was a unique situation but there’s always been adversity and disruptions within supply chain and procurement, so I try and see the silver lining in things.”

To read more click here!

SpendHQ: Realising the possible in spend management software 

Pierre Laprée, Chief Product Officer at SpendHQ, discusses how customers can benefit from leveraging spend management technology to bring tangible value in procurement today…

Turning vision and strategy into highly effective action. This mantra is behind everything SpendHQ does to empower procurement teams.  

The organisation is a leading best-in-class provider of enterprise Spend Intelligence (SI) and Procurement Performance Management (PPM) solutions. These products fill an important gap that has left strategic procurement out of the solution landscape. Through these solutions, customers get actionable spend insights that drive new initiatives, goals, and clear measurements of procurement’s overall value. SpendHQ exists to ultimately help procurement generate and demonstrate better financial and non-financial outcomes. 

Spearheading this strategic vision is Pierre Laprée, long-time procurement veteran and SpendHQ’s Chief Product Officer since July 2022. However, despite his deep understanding of procurement teams’ needs, he wasn’t always a procurement professional. Like many in the space, his path into the industry was a complete surprise.  

To read more click here!

But that’s not all… Earlier this month, we travelled to the Netherlands to cover the first HICX Supplier Experience Live, as well as DPW Amsterdam 2023. Featured inside is our exclusive overview from each event, alongside this edition’s big question – does procurement need a rebrand? Plus, we feature a fascinating interview with Georg Rosch, Vice President Direct Procurement Strategy at JAGGAER, who discusses his organisation’s approach amid significant transformation and evolution.


Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, outlines five forward-looking skills for the next generation of leaders.

There is no denying that the world of business is evolving at an incredibly fast pace. With the constant launch of new tools and innovative tech, workers are required to embrace a wide range of modern equipment on a regular basis.

As employees continue to up their game, it is only natural that the next generation of leaders will need a set of updated skills too.

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International

Here, with some insights from Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, we take a look at some crucial future requirements that business owners and managers will have to nail to guide their team in an efficient, successful fashion.

1. Technological inclination

In the same way that youngsters jump at the latest technology at the first opportunity, it is important for future leaders to emulate that same drive and curiosity.

The world is becoming increasingly digitalised, and the business sector is no exception. This is why company owners and managers should have a basic understanding of today’s technologies, exploring how modern equipment can actively aid their business. From cloud computing to artificial intelligence and UX development, there are many different tools that can increase your organisation’s chance of success.  

Of course, nobody expects you to be an expert in computing coding or programming. But getting precious digital and tech skills under your belt can provide you with more than one ace up your sleeve.

2. Empathy and emotional intelligence

Just like an experienced, Michelin-star chef, future leaders have to juggle and balance several different aspects to create a perfect menu. Yes, technology will play an essential role in developing and driving your company forward. But software and robots have not yet mastered emotional intelligence, which means they cannot help on the more human side of things.

A business owner or manager should always strive to harness their relationship with colleagues and team members. Empathising, sympathising, supporting, and understanding the necessities of your employees is crucial, as this can inspire confidence and a sense of belonging in your people. If workers feel appreciated and cared for, there is a good chance they will go the extra mile to spur the growth of your business.

Hence, taking an interest in your team’s well-being and nurturing a shared feeling of unity is a fundamental attribute to possess.

3. Openness to diversity

One of the most prominent advantages of modern technology is that it’s abating boundaries and favouring connections with people worldwide. Hence, as time goes by, it is becoming more and more important to collaborate with colleagues from all over the globe. This means that, on a daily basis, you are working with teams from different cultures and who may even speak another language.

Engaging with people from all walks of life and with diverse backgrounds can open the doors to endless opportunities. Not only will you benefit from a vast range of experience, knowledge, and expertise, but you will also learn precious lessons on how to enter and succeed in global markets. Therefore, as the world becomes increasingly connected, future managers need to embrace diversity and make the most of its invaluable benefits.

4. Clarity and communication

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at leadership development specialist Impact International, outlines five forward-looking skills for the next generation of leaders.

Clarity and effective communication are timeless features of strong leadership. Managers need to build bridges between their team members and outline the company’s missions in a concise, transparent manner. In this respect, leadership development training is an excellent place to start when it comes to learning how to deliver messages and strategies that are straight to the point.

Future leaders have to be able to identify the right channels to carry this out in a smooth, effective way. With the many digital platforms at our disposal, it is important to choose one that can keep people on the same page at all times. What’s more, as innovations and possibilities arise, future managers need to communicate the essence of the question at hand in a digestible fashion.

Simplifying a complex situation or task is a crucial skill, and it is one that can aid both your team’s productivity and your business’ efficiency.

5. Foresight and adaptability

As technology evolves, artificial intelligence progresses, and the business sector continues to mutate, future leaders need to be flexible. Business owners and managers have to be ready to adapt and make sure they are not fazed by what the future holds. They should monitor trends and look at how to welcome change with a positive attitude.

How can you prepare for upcoming possibilities? One effective way is to run through various scenarios and start outlining all possible outcomes. What’s more, engaging with new circumstances and journeying out of your comfort zone can be an important learning curve. In fact, it will teach you how to deal with unfamiliar situations. If an unexpected opportunity comes about, you will have both the skills and confidence to respond to them with confidence.

To keep in step with the times, business leaders of the future will need to polish their set of skills. From emotional intelligence and adaptability to clear communication and openness to diversity, there are many aspects that will strengthen your leadership. By showing an interest for new software and technological developments, you can make sure your company is expanding its reach and exploring new, successful paths.  

In EY’s January 2023 European CEO Outlook Survey, it was discovered European CEOs expect short-term challenges but have reason for optimism.

Today’s CEO faces unprecedented challenges like never before and is tasked with navigating choppy waters.

Amid global uncertainty caused by a potential recession and on the back of war in Ukraine and disruption caused by COVID-19, it can feel overwhelming for even the most experienced leaders.

A positive horizon?

Despite this, consulting giants EY has discovered reason for optimism in its January 2023 CEO Outlook Pulse survey which includes 390 responses from CEOs across Europe. While the survey found 98% of respondents are indeed expecting a global recession, the majority of European CEOs (52%) anticipate it to be temporary and not a persistent one. These figures are a greater percentage than CEOs worldwide (48%) who point to more long-term optimism for the global economy among European CEOs.

According to the survey, 47% of European respondents believe this recession will be different from previous slowdowns. The recent crisis is more driven by myriad geopolitical challenges and an ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic compared with previous recessions primarily as a result of financial and credit market factors. Many CEOs are aware of this difference and acknowledge the necessity for new and sustainable approaches that build resilience in uncertain times.

In EY’s last survey in October 2022, ongoing pandemic-related concerns such as supply chain issues were the most important topics. However, since then supply chain pressures have eased to some extent with data from S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showing improvement. Only 32% of European CEOs now cite supply chains as the key issue which is down from 41% in October. Given inflationary pressures and the upward movement in interest rates, European CEOs are increasingly focusing on the policies and steps they believe European governments should take to help businesses mitigate the downturn.

About 35% of European respondents, in comparison to 32% globally, consider uncertain monetary policy and increasing cost of capital as the biggest challenge to growth. With inflation beginning to decline in November 2022 after 17 months of upward trajectory, CEOs are closely following central bank activity for potential course changes.

A strategy change

In response to the current recession, EU policymakers are considering more dovish economic recovery proposals instead of top-down austerity rules seen during the sovereign debt crises a decade ago. This includes rethinking debt rules to help countries navigate this downturn. Alongside this, EU governments now face pressure on how to handle the discontent of people protesting against the rising cost of living crisis and questions still remain on how extensively they will intervene. In particular, governments are reluctant to pursue austerity measures as a result of protests from the crisis 10 years ago. Meanwhile, for CEOs, financing will continue to be a challenge as a result of increased capital costs that are set to persist which disrupted growth plans.

European CEOs have learned from previous financial crises and recognise that it is essential to think of new and sustainable strategies to capitalise on the opportunities.

What is the way forward?

According to EY, there are five directives which are worth exploring over the next few years.

Investing in operations
European CEOs identify investing internally to boost operations as extremely important. Risk isn’t only about extraordinary events; day-to-day operational failures can also lead to losses, regulatory action and reductions in share prices. Operations such as finance, accounting and supply chain have emerged as the top priority area of investment for European CEOs (41%).

Recognising disruption and accelerating digital transformation

Amid ongoing global pressure to embrace new technologies and a digital transformation, COVID-19 further accelerated a trend toward digitalisation. Around 38% of European CEOs (in line with 37% globally) are looking to invest in digital transformation, data and technology to emerge stronger from this downturn.

Developing a strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy

Businesses need to ensure ESG processes are moved to the centre of business strategy. Sustainability, including net zero and other environmental issues, as well as societal priorities, is one of the key areas that European CEOs identify as a need for more investment.

Nurturing talent

Despite the recession, the labour market remains tight in Europe. European CEOs are weighing cost management options, with 37% considering a move to contract employment and 38% planning on reducing learning and development investments. About one third are also considering a restructuring of their workforce compared with global and Americas CEOs (36% and 42%) considering the same approach.

Portfolio transformation

Looking ahead, portfolio rebalancing is expected to be a key theme as CEOs will be compelled to make bold decisions regarding their business portfolio. During a recession, companies must critically assess what their core businesses are, what their focus should be and where they can create value by spinning out or selling non-core assets. Some 93% of European CEOs consider prioritising restructuring opportunities as an important initiative in the next six months.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance, discusses how to build a people-first strategy that enables growth.

As the UK economy continues to balance on the edge of a recession, employee retention is quickly being pushed to the top of CEOs’ lists. Over the past couple of years, the job market has shifted dramatically with previously unheard terms such as ‘the great resignation’, ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘hybrid working’ becoming commonplace. People are rightly prioritising their working situation and job satisfaction levels, questioning whether they believe in the organisations they are committing so much time to.

Consequently, there has been a power dynamic shift in favour of the workforce. Reportedly in the third quarter of 2022 businesses witnessed over 365,000 job-to-job resignations across the UK. In similar fashion, the phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’ – doing the bare minimum required of a job – has become a growing concern but its rise is prompted by a growing number of employees feeling disengaged in their roles.

Against this backdrop of a highly turbulent job market, and increasingly difficult macro-economic pressures, it’s vital for CEOs to prioritise a people-first strategy to ensure healthy growth for their business in 2023. Data from Deloitte has even revealed that experts believe how engaged a workforce feels can directly correlate to overall business output, with 93% of HR and business leaders in agreement that building a sense of belonging is crucial for organisational performance.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance

However, creating the right environment and recruiting, maintaining and nurturing the right talent to ensure a people first approach can be daunting. With this in mind, here are four learnings CEOs might want to consider when approaching this challenge:

1. Define your beliefs

Before CEOs and founders can hope to attract the right talent, it is critical to first distil and translate the business vision into something that can be understood by employees. Put simply, this means defining the business’ beliefs.

Some business leaders may already refer to this as an ‘employer brand’, and it can be key to not only securing better talent, but also saving a business money in the long-term. Data from LinkedIn for example, recently found that a strong employer brand can help to reduce employee turnover by as much as 28% and cost-per-hire by 50%. Defining these beliefs – or the tenets a business does and doesn’t stand for – is therefore the perfect exercise to put a vision onto paper, and clearly communicate it to its prospective talent.

2. Build a solid culture

Once these beliefs have been defined, they must be reflected, and built into a strong culture. A business’ beliefs should permeate through the whole organisation – from customer communications, to how staff are treated, to how leaders run the business. Culture should essentially be a representation of a business’ beliefs being put into practice.

Building a strong culture in a business, however, is not solely about these beliefs but also extends into how employees are equipped with the tools they need to succeed. Companies that invest in learning and development for example, have been found to benefit from a 24% higher profit margin than those that don’t, according to the Association of Talent Development. Training and development should therefore be seen as a worthwhile and necessary investment that can solidify your culture and ensure profitability, not just an unavoidable cost.

3. Invest in retention

With research from Oxford Economics estimating the average turnover per employee earning £25,000 a year to be £30,000 plus, there is an evident cost to businesses that fail to invest in retention. Tackling this will mean regularly taking the time to truly understand what makes employees tick – and more specifically, understanding their motivations, attitudes, behaviours, strengths and weaknesses.

As the past few years have evidenced, individuals are no longer deciding where they work solely based on salary, but are also thinking about employer values, flexibility, and benefits. To avoid employee churn, businesses should regularly take time to understand what drives their employees and implement retention strategies to address these drivers. Gathering and analysing employee data will play an important role here over the coming years, and should be built into a long-term strategy to optimise employee satisfaction.

4. Build for the future

A common challenge encountered by modern businesses and startups wanting to take a people first approach, can be their ability to stay committed to it. As a business grows in size and becomes successful, it can be all too easy to let external factors dictate its purpose and for it to lose sight of what it initially stood for. The reality is that when this happens, a business is in its most vulnerable state – as its beliefs become increasingly distant, and worse, employees no longer understand what it stands for.

When creating a people-first strategy its therefore important to think long-term. If there are external factors that will potentially put this strategy at risk in future, it’s crucial to identify them, and put in practical steps to mitigate them where possible. The pandemic, for example, is a prime example of an external factor that interrupted the status quo of many businesses – disrupting employees, customers and operations in general. While they can be unpredictable in nature, having a plan to get through these times can help to get you back on track and reassure talent that a solution is in place.

In this economic climate, defining beliefs, building a solid culture, and retention plan should be at the core of every business’ strategy. It’s only when these things are in place that a business can hope to attract and retain talented people that exude the same passion and values built into the heart of a business. As while a business’ growth may be defined by its leaders, it is delivered by its people who are putting that vision into practice.

Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance.

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, on changing the narrative around diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Disability is still often parked in the “too difficult” box when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Employers are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and as a result, do or say nothing.

As a CEO, the stakes feel (and often are) higher. That high profile platform can feel daunting at the best of times; when tackling an unfamiliar topic, it can feel positively overwhelming.

Talking about Disability

What we do and say as senior leaders has a huge impact. Indeed, it is critical in driving change. In 2020, we published our global research report, ‘Towards a Disability-Smart world: Global disability inclusion strategy’ . Conducted with our Partner, Shell, the research found that 91 per cent of respondents across multi-national businesses agreed that identifying a senior global disability champion is essential. Talking about disability and diversity – normalising the conversation so it becomes business as usual, has a massive role to play in creating a culture of “psychological safety” in organisations; one in which employees feel safe to share a difference and to ask for the support they need.

As senior leaders, it is easy to forget our privilege and that the environment we inhabit, and how we think the culture feels, may look very different to others. I often quote a research study by our partner Accenture which showed a marked gap (of around 20% across the board) between senior executives’ perception of how “safe” their employees would feel to raise a sensitive topic (including talking about a disability) and how safe they actually felt.

Changing the narrative

So, what can CEOs do to change the narrative? At Business Disability Forum (BDF), we see time and time again that CEOs or senior leaders who have a personal knowledge of and interest in disability issues – perhaps because of their own experience or that of a close family member – are champions in driving change. Senior leaders are less likely to publicly identify as being disabled – the Valuable 500 campaign often quotes the stat that 1 in 7 C suite leaders have a disability, but 4 out of 5 are hiding it. Yet if you as a senior leader are willing to talk about a disability or long-term condition it is hugely powerful in enabling others to do the same.

Storytelling and sharing personal stories can have a huge impact – for good or for bad! The good: A high profile CEO we work with talks openly about his disabled adult children and the moral imperative that he believes that large businesses have in breaking down barriers and opening up opportunities to people who face greater barriers to employment. The bad: I vividly recall being in a meeting with an organisation (not a BDF member!) to plan a possible disability awareness campaign. At the end of the meeting, the CEO then told an anecdote about having had an operation in the past year and being back at work the next day – unlike one of their counterparts who had taken two weeks off to recover. What message does that send? I’ll warrant that those who overheard that story were less likely, not more, to talk about a disability as a result.

Being a disability ally

But you don’t need to have your own lived experience to be an ally. For many businesses, the pandemic brought many senior leaders “up close and personal” with their disabled employees for the first time. In a survey we carried out to find how out how BDF Members and Partners were responding to Covid19, we found that in 83 per cent of organisations the general response to Covid-19 – including arranging internal communications, home working, and ensuring staff have the adjustments they need – was being led by the Chief Operating Officer or Chief Executive.

Whilst the figure for responsibility for ensuring staff with disabilities and long-term conditions specifically can move to home working was much lower – 31 per cent said this was the direct responsibility of the COO or CEO as compared to 69 per cent for HR – this is still encouraging in giving senior leaders much greater insight into the issues facing their disabled employees. Too often we “don’t know what we don’t know” – but once we do, we can call it out.

I was very heartened by a discussion with one of our members who was planning an office relocation in which the senior champion leading the project told me that he had vetoed one possible option because it had cobbled paving directly outside – inaccessible to wheelchair users and difficult for anyone with a mobility or visual impairment.

Role Modelling

Leadership is also critical in modelling adjustments and different ways of working. As a CEO, you probably have the freedom to quietly get on with making the adjustments you need, whether that is working from home one day a week (and it’s worth remembering that pre-COVID-19 home working was the most frequently requested workplace adjustment), different/flexible working times or buying some ergonomic equipment. You don’t need to go through a process or to ask HR – but if you share a different way of working with the wider team again it can be hugely powerful in making it ok for others to ask for the support they need. And again, people are often afraid to ask for even simple adjustments that could transform the quality of their working life.

Our Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey 2019 found that 28 per cent of those with adjustments and 34 per cent of those without adjustments (but who would have benefited from them) said they did not make requests because they were worried their employer might treat them differently. Again, actions speak louder than words. If the boss doesn’t take a lunch break, the rest of their team is unlikely to.

I hope that one positive legacy of COVID-19 will be a kinder and more human style of leadership. During the pandemic, we were forced to be more human in the way we worked; viewed in our home setting without the “trappings of office” or our workplace “armour” in terms of a formal dress code. The intimacy of letting people into our homes (albeit via our video camera) was a powerful thing. The blurring of lines between work and home has its downsides but has positives too as we started to see the “whole people” in our teams; ironically, since the pandemic began, many of us have got to know our colleagues better than we did before.

Culture Change

Of course, culture needs to be backed up by practical action. Make sure you equip people managers throughout your business with the tools and knowledge they need to have a conversation about disability, to identify any barriers people may be facing and to know where and how to get practical support. Our free Disability Essentials resources is a good place to start.

As Peter Drucker famously said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Like it or not, what you do as a CEO not only matters but has a disproportionate impact. Why not use that for the good?


Read more insightful features like this in the latest issue of CEOstrategy

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy where we highlight the challenges and opportunities that come with ‘the’ leadership role

Our first cover story explores how Vodafone is leveraging strong leadership to drive the collaborations enabling businesses to champion change management and better use technology.

Welcome to the launch issue of CEOstrategy!

Tasked with accelerating business growth, while building the synergies across an organisation that can drive innovation to meet diverse customer needs and keep revenues on track, the modern CEO must be mentor, marshall and motivator on the journey to success.

Read the launch issue here!

Leadership with purpose at Vodafone

“Leadership is purpose, it’s why do you do the things you do…”

Our cover story throws the spotlight on Vodafone US CEO David Joosten; also Director for Americas & Partners Markets at Vodafone Business, he talks to CEOstrategy about leading from the front and setting the standards to deliver growth while keeping employees and customers happy.

“People follow leaders that are honest about themselves. If you can reflect on what you’ve done well, but also where you need to improve it can inspire others to do the same.”

EMCS Industries Ltd: How a CEO can navigate change management

“Why hire talent and then tell them what do? You have so much to learn from the great people you hire. Micromanaging is not management, and it’s certainly not leadership. Let your people thrive!”

Read our interview with EMCS Industries Ltd CEO Trevor Tasker for more thought-provoking insights on leadership from the shifting tides of the marine industry in this maiden issue.

How to be an authentic leader

“At the most basic human level, everyone knows what it’s like to feel heard by another person, and how that changes our behaviour. It can help anger and sadness subside and enable us to start seeing things differently. So, when employees are being listened to by their leaders, it can only help how an organisation operates.”

Dr Andrew White, director of the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and host of the Leadership 2050 podcast series, explores transformative approaches to leadership for the modern CEO.

How can CEOs drive forward culture change around diversity and inclusion?

Diane Lightfoot, CEO of Business Disability Forum, explores the changing the narrative around diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“Disability is still often parked in the “too difficult” box when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Employers are often afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing and as a result, do or say nothing. As a CEO, the stakes feel (and often are) higher. That high profile platform can feel daunting at the best of times; when tackling an unfamiliar topic, it can feel positively overwhelming. But what we do and say as senior leaders has a huge impact. Indeed, it is critical in driving change.”


Also in this launch issue, we get the lowdown on agile ways of working from Kubair Shirazee, CEO of Agile transformation specialists Agilitea. Elsewhere, we speak with Nirav Patel, CEO of the consultancy firm, Bristlecone – a subsidiary of Mahindra Group and a leading provider of AI powered application transformation services for the connected supply chain – who discusses the challenges facing CPOs and supply chain leaders in our uncertain times. And we analyse the latest insights for CEOs from McKinsey and Gartner.

Enjoy the issue!

Dan Brightmore, Editor

Mark Weil, CEO at TMF Group, discusses the rise of staff attrition in the industry

At the start of 2023 many companies are still struggling to find employees. The job market favours the applicant far more than before Covid-19 across many sectors. Higher interest rates and lower economic growth so far haven’t reduced the pressure on labour availability.

High staff turnover isn’t just a matter of the cost it creates. The disruption from running with a lot of open roles and with less experienced staff can disrupt client service, increase error rates and lead to more serious compliance and reputation damage.

Mark Weil, CEO at TMF Group

Examining the data

A lot of commentary on the situation has been based on surveys of employees’ intentions rather than their actual decisions. By managing our clients’ financial, legal and employee administration we have access to large volumes of data. This provides insight on the overall recruitment and resignation levels across workforces, from several hundred thousand employees, covering a broad range of sectors and job levels in more than 90 countries.

As a starting point, the data tells us that there was indeed a significant global increase in staff resignation during and after the pandemic. Across the 90 countries, average company staff attrition rose from around 15% annually in mid-2020 to 25% at the end of 2021. That’s a dramatic 67% increase in just 18 months.

Global annualised employee attrition trend

Digging deeper reveals a much more nuanced picture by company and country. In 2021, staff attrition averaged around 20% across the 90 countries but was below 10% in a small number, with Argentina the lowest at 6%. Of those above 20%, India, the UK and Poland topped the list with a rate of 26%. Both India and Poland are now major destinations for companies establishing regional service centres – locations that are supposed to be low cost, stable hubs that support many other countries. So rising staff turnover there will be particularly painful.

2021 average employee attrition by country

When examining the data at company level, annual attrition levels vary  even more widely, from a low of around 5% to a high of 40%. Some of that will be a result of challenges in specific industries and companies. Some will arise from the underlying attrition in the labour market of the countries they operate in. To disentangle how much is company versus country, we compare in the chart below the attrition a firm is seeing with the average attrition it should be seeing given the mix of countries where it operates.  The wide spread in the data shows that that country averages matter far less than individual company factors. For example, looking at companies whose country mix should give them expected attrition of around 15-20%, we see many at 30%-40% and others at just 5%-10% attrition.

Company actual 2021 attrition versus average for the countries where they operate

Staff attrition is a problem at any time, but becomes a significant threat to a business if it gets too high. How high is a matter of judgement and depends on the particular company. In professional services, for example, when staff attrition is above 20% it starts to impact client service and above 30% it can pose a risk to regulatory and reputational integrity.

The rise in global staff attrition, coupled with big spikes by country and company means that multinational firms will have an increased number of locations where attrition is high and potentially well beyond manageable levels. From 2020 to 2021 the number of employees in company locations experiencing more than 20% attrition nearly doubled, from around 15% to 27%. Looking at where the levels were highest, employees in countries experiencing more than 35% attrition rose from 1% to 7%. That means there’s an increasing number of hotspots, where extremely high staff attrition means companies need to intervene quickly to avoid staff resignations spiralling due to increased workload.

Factoring in country complexity

An important additional factor is the complexity of a particular country to operate in. Many countries  have onerous business rules which are enforced vigorously. High staff turnover in complex countries is particularly dangerous because of the added risk of compliance breaches.

We can look at country complexity using TMF Group’s Global Business Complexity Index. It ranks countries annually based on 292 criteria, covering the fiscal, legal and employment environments for doing business in each location.  

Jolyon Bennett, CEO of Juice, discusses how sustainability has moved to the forefront of his organisation’s operations

A green approach is quickly transitioning away something that is ‘nice to have’ to an essential component of a company’s strategy.

To Jolyon Bennett, who heads up UK tech accessories manufacturer Juice, being environmentally friendly is non-negotiable. Bennett has transformed the mobile phone accessories sector, having consistently introduced a series of quality, vibrant and consumer-focused products to market, ranging from portable power banks through to super-fast chargers.

He takes us under the bonnet of his firm’s sustainability drive.

You have recently removed all single-use plastic from your entire product range – why?

Jolyon Bennett (JB): “Why wouldn’t you? Single-use plastic is one of the biggest polluters in manufacturing – it uses 3% of the entire planet’s oil consumption. This year, it’s forecast that there will be 50kg of plastic waste for every single one of the eight billion human beings on planet earth – that’s a lot! Consumers, manufacturers and brand owners like myself all need to get on board with the fact that we’re going to need to use and re-use plastic packaging to make different things.

“Why have we done it? Because it’s totally the right thing to do. We need to stop making so much plastic and we need start reusing what we’ve already got. We need to stop cutting down trees in order to make paper and cardboard – let the trees grow and re-use what we’ve got. It just makes sense on a planetary level to stop consuming quite so much and start being just a bit more content with what we’ve got. Why do we need to make ‘new new new’ all the time?”

What have you used instead of virgin plastic?

JB: “We’re reusing, reusing, reusing. Did you know that recycled plastic – depending on its quality and density – can be recycled and re-used between seven and 200 times. Isn’t that unbelievable? It’s such an amazing material. Plastic is a vibe, and we should be re-using it. Juice is using post-consumer waste such as Evian bottles to make speakers, old milk cartons to make power banks and so much more!”

Why do you love plastic?

JB: “I just think we’ve got a lot of it so why not reuse it? I admire the material because it’s so durable – it’s an incredible scientific breakthrough to be able to make something that’s not only waterproof and heatproof but lasts for up to 3,000 years. There are so many different elements that make plastic a great material. I would prefer it if we didn’t have any, but that’s not going to solve the current (and ever-growing) problem of plastic waste finding its way into our oceans, and burying it isn’t the answer either. The problem is with us humans is that we just shy away from the truth – l don’t want to shy away, I want to face these problems head on and meet the challenge.”

Has Juice taken a financial hit to make this happen?

JB: “As an example, we sell around three million cables a year (based on last year’s figures) and each piece of packaging that we are making using post-consumer waste costs us between $0.15 and $0.25 more, so as a minimum, our increased cost for doing this is almost half a million dollars. But I still think it’s the right thing to do. Money is made up – the world could end and money would no longer matter, so let’s stop making decisions based purely on money and let’s start making decisions based on the right thing to do.”

How do you rate the overall quality of the ‘Eco’ products compared to the ones they have superseded?

JB: “There is absolutely no difference whatsoever, so I rate them just as highly.”

Do customers really want these eco products or is this more for your own conscience?

JB: “I don’t suffer from guilt so in that respect I don’t feel driven by my conscience to do this – doing the right thing has its own gravity and its own way of whisking you forward. Generally, I believe that people and businesses that do the right things will prosper. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of ‘do the right thing and good things will happen’ so it’s a strategic choice to do something that has a positive impact because positive things attract positive things. While not every consumer or every retailer is especially interested in our sustainability drive, I do think this is shifting slightly. Maybe I do have a conscience, but the reality is that it’s the right thing to do, and the right thing gets rewarded in the end.”

Are retailers keen to stock them?

JB: “We haven’t given them a choice! We changed all of our products because we wanted to and we are adamant that even though the materials we are using are different, our products still perform just as well, if not better.”

Should other tech brands follow suit?

JB: “Of course they should, and we would happily help them do so. We’re willing to introduce other tech brands to our suppliers and guide them through the same process we’ve taken, sharing our knowledge – including the hurdles we’ve overcome – because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t understand why any brand would want to continue producing virgin plastic when they don’t have to, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

What advice would you give to other brands wanting to embark on this process of removing single-use plastic from their products?

JB: “Do it. Stop messing about – get on with it and do it. Although it may cost you a bit more in the short term, we’ve proven that consumers do generally buy more of your products if you are making the right decisions towards the environment, so you will reap this extra cost back whilst also doing the right thing.”

What is next for Juice?

JB: “I want Juice to be a brand that limits its impact. We’re currently doing this with our manufacturing and through our supply chain and the way that we conduct ourselves in general. I want to start releasing products that have a positive impact on humans as well as the planet – I’m a firm believer that everyone can win. There will always be a demand for technology, so I don’t believe that we should be fighting against it, however, I would very much like to see people taking their technology off grid.

“My dream is to be able to take every mobile phone on planet earth off grid and start generating our own personal electricity. I want to create products that link to your activity – imagine if you could run 5k and the kinetic activity could generate enough energy to a charge a device such as a phone or a laptop while you do it? I’m interested in organic solutions to current chemical problems such as organic battery cells using salt water and algae as a storage method of electricity – so much so that we’re currently in discussions with a photosynthesis harvesting electronics brand about using photosynthesis as a charging capability!

“I want to get more connected with nature and I think you can have it all – I think we can still enjoy modern technology as well as the beautiful world around us. If we can utilise our intelligence in the right way, we can all live in a perfectly harmonious symbiotic relationship with amazing technology products and a sustainable environment for all wildlife.”

Procurement is in a state of flux. Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires…

Procurement is in a state of flux.

Against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the procurement landscape is volatile and requires agility to navigate turbulent waters. But, despite significant disruption could there still be opportunity?

Simon Whatson, Vice President of Efficio Consulting, is optimistic about the future of digital procurement and despite a challenging few years he is confident of a successful bounce back. He gives us the lowdown on the direction of travel for digital procurement in 2023. 

As an executive with considerable experience in the space, we’d love to learn more about your background and how you ended up in procurement. Why was this the specialism for you and how did you get involved to begin with?

Simon Whatson (SW): “I think the one-word answer of how I came into procurement was accidental. I studied maths at university, with a year in France, before I began looking for different roles to apply for.

“Eventually, I was offered a position with a big plumbing and heating merchant with global operations. I worked in that supply chain team for two and a half years. Although it was called supply chain, a lot of the work was procurement, which involved negotiating with suppliers. It was after that stint there, that I discovered consulting and joined a boutique procurement consultancy. Now I am onto my third consultancy and I’m very happy here!

“In terms of why I’ve stayed, one of the success factors in procurement is being able to work cross-functionally. Procurement doesn’t own any of the spending that it is responsible for helping to optimise. It must work with other functions and the spend owners. I quite like the people side of that, building relationships, almost selling internally to bring teams together. That really appeals to me and is a key reason why I’ve been very happy in procurement.”

As we move into exploring procurement today in 2023. The space is filled with challenges and complexities. You only need to look at the last few years. Covid, war in Ukraine, inflation – how would you describe the world’s recent challenges and their effect on the industry and what do you feel CPOs and leaders can do to combat these issues?

SW: “I would flip it around and say that these are not so much challenges but rather opportunities for procurement. When I started my career 18 years ago, procurement was often fighting to get a voice and there were complaints that procurement was not represented at the top table, but the war in Ukraine, inflation, COVID and ESG, these are things which are now on the C-suite agenda and procurement is ideally positioned to help companies face those challenges. If you think about COVID and the war in Ukraine, procurement is in a privileged position to help with this.

“I see some procurement functions that prefer to do what they know, which focuses on the process and transactional side. However, there are also many forward-thinking CPOs and procurement professionals out there, that have really seized this opportunity of being on the C-suite agenda and drive the thinking and the solutions to some of these big challenges we’re seeing.”

Although new technology in procurement has been around for well over a decade, digitalisation has become so much more of an important topic. How would you sum up where procurement and supply chain are in terms of digital transformation today?

SW: “It’s a bit laggard, but digital transformation is difficult, and we have to recognise there are some real trailblazers. There are some firms doing some fantastic things in digital to produce better outcomes. If you contrast your experience when you’re buying something in your private life, it’s much easier than 20 years ago. You can get access to a wealth of pre-sourced things, whether it’s food, a holiday, a car, or a book. You can see reviews of what other people think of these things.

“But when you go into your workplace as a business user and you want to buy something, it doesn’t quite work like that yet. You often have to fill in a form, send it off and wait for them to come back to you. They might come back a little bit later than you were hoping and might tell you that they don’t have that part on the supply frameworks. I think people sometimes get confused about how it can be so easy to buy something as large as a car or a holiday on their sofa at home, but when they want to buy something at work, it seems to be quite cumbersome. Digital can help a lot with that, but it is incumbent on organisations and procurement functions to figure out how to recreate that customer experience that we’ve become accustomed to in our private lives.”

With a new generation of leaders growing up with technology, some might say that it could be a key driver in helping to speed the adoption in procurement along. Is this something you would agree with or what would you point to as a key driver?

SW: “I do think that it will act as one of the catalysts for further digital transformation in organisations, because if procurement doesn’t manage to recreate that customer experience that the new generation expects, then they won’t use procurement going forward and will look to bypass it.

“The analogy that I’ve used previously in this case is one of travel agents. I remember as a child, my parents were able to take us on holiday and I remember the whole process. We would walk into town to the travel agent, and look at some of the brochures of options. They often then had to phone the various airlines or resorts on our behalf. They might not be able to get through, so we’d have to come back the next day. I remember as a child being quite excited by the whole process but actually, thinking back, it was quite cumbersome. You compare that to now, with being able to review online, and you can get instant answers to your questions. It’s not a coincidence that travel agents don’t really exist anymore.”

How much of a challenge is it to not get caught leveraging technology for technologies sake? How important is it to stay true to your approach and be strategic?

SW: “We conducted a study of many procurement leaders and CPOs a few years ago, and one of the things that we found was that about 50% of procurement leaders admitted to having bought technology just on the basis of a fear of missing out, without any real understanding of the benefits that technology was going to bring. That was a real shock and a revealing find because technology is not cheap, and its implementation is quite disruptive. If you’re purchasing a system because everybody else is using it, then there could be some pretty costly mistakes. It is really important to make sure that when buying technology, it is because the benefits are fully understood.

“My advice to companies when looking to digitalise is own your data, visualise that data, and manage your knowledge. If you can focus on getting those things right in that order, and make your technology decisions to support that goal, then that’s a much better way of thinking about it rather than just jumping in and buying a piece of technology.”

It’s clear that the procurement space is an exciting, but challenging, place to be. What do you think will play a key role in the next 12 months to push the digital conversation further to take procurement to the next level?

SW: “Looking forward, one thing that procurement needs to do and continue to do is attract the best people. Ultimately, people are what makes an organisation, and it is what makes a function successful. I think procurement has often not looked for the right skills in the people that it employs. Traditionally, it’s looked for people with procurement experience and while they are valuable and required, we also need leadership potential. People who think a bit more outside the box and aren’t so process driven. A lot of what procurement has done in previous years has been process driven, so if you’re just limiting your search of people to those that have had procurement experience, you’re inevitably going to end up with a lot of people who are process driven.

“I think being bolder and recruiting people from different backgrounds with different skill sets is the way to go. If procurement can ‘own’ the ESG space, that will help with the younger generation see procurement make a difference. I think that’s one thing that will be key to success going forward.”

Check out the latest issue of CPOstrategy Magazine here.

Paul Farrow, Vice President of Hilton Hotels’ Supply Management, sits down with us to discuss how his organisation’s procurement function has evolved amid disruption on a global scale

The hospitality industry has endured a rough ride over the past few years.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic which stopped the world in its tracks and now with millions facing a cost-of-living crisis, it’s been a period of unprecedented disruption for those involved in the space and beyond.

But it’s a challenge met head-on by Paul Farrow, Vice President of Supply Management at Hilton Hotels, and his team who have been forced to respond as the world continues to shift before their eyes.

Farrow gives us a closer look into the inner workings of his firm’s procurement function and how he has led the charge during his time with Hilton Hotels.

Could we start with you introducing yourself and talking a little about your role at Hilton Hotels? 

Paul Farrow (PF): “I’m the Vice President of Hilton’s Supply Management, or HSM as we call it. I’ve been with Hilton Hotels for 12 and a half years, and my role is to head the supply chain function for our hotels across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Over the past few years, Hilton has grown rapidly and has now got 7,000 hotels in over 125 countries globally. What is really exciting is Hilton Supply Management doesn’t just supply Hilton Hotels and the Hilton Engine because we also now supply our franchisees and competitive flags. While we have 7,000 hotels globally, Hilton Supply Management actually supplies close to 13,000 hotels. That’s an interesting business development for us, and a profit earner too.”

You’re greatly experienced, I bet you’ve seen supply chain management and procurement change a lot in recent years? 

PF: “The past two to three years have been tremendously challenging on so many industries but I’d argue that hospitality got hit more than most as a result of the Covid pandemic. Here at Hilton, supply management was really important just to keep the business operational throughout that tough time, but I’m delighted to say we’re fully recovered now.

“Looking back, it was undoubtedly difficult, and you only have to look at the media to see that we’re now going through a period of truly unprecedented inflation. On top of the normal day job, it’s certainly been a very busy time.”

Hospitality must have been under an awful lot of pressure during the pandemic… 

PF: “Most of our teams as a business and all functions have worked together far more collaboratively than ever before through the use of technology and things like Microsoft Teams and Zoom. Trying to work remotely as effectively as possible changed the way we all had to think and the way we had to do. Now we’re back in the workplace and in our offices, we’re actually looking to take advantage of that new approach.”

Inflation, rising costs, energy shortages, as well as drives towards a circular economy means it’s quite a challenging time for CSCOs and CPOs right now, isn’t it?

PF: “Those headwinds have caused and created challenges of the like that we’ve not seen before. The war in Ukraine and Russia has meant significant supply chain disruption and supply shortages of some key ingredients and raw materials. China is a significant source of materials and they’re still having real challenges to get their production to keep up with demand.

“All the local and short-term challenges are around energy and fuel pricing, so throughout the supply chain that’s been a major factor to what we’ve had to deal with. On top of that is the labour shortages. We rely heavily throughout the supply chain and within our business to utilise labour from around the world. In my region, particularly from say Eastern Europe as well as other businesses all fighting for a smaller labour pool than we had before. We are fighting with the likes of the supermarkets, Amazon’s, not just other hotel companies to capture the labour pool we need both in our properties but also within our supply chain supplies themselves.

Hilton operates a rather unique procurement function, doesn’t it?  

PF: “We trade off the Hilton name because our brand strength is something that we are able to utilise and we’re very proud of, but we’ve also got additional leverage by having that group procurement model.

“We’ve got essentially two clients. We’ve got our managed estate which is when an owner chooses to partner with Hilton, they’re signing a management agreement because they want the benefit and value of the Hilton engine. That could be revenue management, how we manage onboarding clients and customers through advertising, as well as the other support we give in terms of finance, HR, marketing and sales as well as procurement.”

HSM is a profit centre and revenue driver through its group procurement model but how does this work?

PF: “Our secret sauce is our culture. It’s our people and that filters across all of our team members and indeed all of our functions. The key strategic pillars are the same for health and supply management around culture, maximising performance and so on as they are across the overall global business.

“Across our 7,000 plus hotels, the majority are actually franchised hotels because that’s the legacy of what still is the model in the US. When I joined Hilton 12 and a half years ago, the reverse is true where nearly all of our hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and indeed in Asia Pacific, were and are managed. In the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions right now we’re building up close to a 50/50 split between managed, leased and franchised.”

What has pleased you most about the roll-out of the HSM?

PF: “It’s certainly not been easy because we’ve got 70 countries that sit within our region here in EMEA and Hilton’s penetration in those individual countries is very different. We may have 100 hotels in one of those markets and only one or two in specific countries. Our scale and our ability to get logistics solutions is different by market.

“Getting everyone on board to what we want to achieve to our guests and to our owners means we have to pull different levers. We have very effective brand standards. If you’re signing up to Hilton, you’re signing up to delivering against those brand standards that we believe are right for our organisation.”

What kind of feedback have you had from your clients? 

PF: “Integrity is in our DNA, and we work very closely with our suppliers who we value as partners. These are long-term relationships, and we work hand in hand because we have to see that they’re successful so that we can be successful – it’s really important to what we do and we constantly look for feedback.

“With our internal and our external customers, we’ll have quarterly business reviews and so we’ll get that feedback through surveys where we are asking them to tell us what we do well and what we could do better. Our partners are now asking what additional value can you do to bring support to our organisation through ESG? So that’s what’s on the table now when it wasn’t before. But it’s not just that – it’s about the security of supply competitiveness, competitiveness of pricing, and a whole bunch of other very important things as well.”

Looking to the future, what’s on the agenda for the next few years?

PF: “We’re out there meeting and greeting people in person and there’s always new opportunities that make things exciting in what we do and how we work. Innovation’s very high on our agenda and we’re very proud of what we do in food and beverage. In non-food categories, it’s about how we support our owners and our hotel general managers to find that competitive edge and do the next big thing ahead of our competitors.”

Anything else important to know?

PF: “One thing we’ve been able to take full advantage of is how we’ve been able to grow our business by bolting on new customers. I think it’s fantastic that our competitors choose to use Hilton Supply Management because they benchmarked what our capabilities are and how competitive we are.

“Another key part of the agenda is environmental, social and governance (ESG) sustainability. Responsible sourcing and everything that sits within that is front and centre of what we do. Within that you’ve got human rights, animal welfare, single use plastics as well as general responsible sourcing like managing food waste. The list is very long, but they’re all very important.”

Check out the latest issue of CPOstrategy Magazine here.

Here are 10 of the most important leadership skills that CEOs need to demonstrate in 2023.

In today’s world, a CEO needs to be lots of things to different people. The importance of having the leadership skill to being able to lead through unprecedented disruption was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and helped to define what makes a good CEO.

Here are 10 of the most important leadership skills that CEOs need to demonstrate in 2023.

1. Clear communication

Communicating effectively with employees is one of the most vital skills any leader can have. By adopting a transparent mindset, it leaves little room for miscommunication or misunderstandings. But rather than just being eloquent, CEOs should deliver meaningful content too. A CEO needs to be able to communicate the essence of the business strategy and the methodology for achieving it.

2. Strong talent management strategy

People are the most important component of all businesses. CEOs who are able to recruit and retain key employees have a greater chance of increasing productivity and efficiency. After recruiting good people, the key to retaining them is by harnessing a positive work environment that empowers employees to succeed.

3. Decision-making

As a leader, thinking strategically to make effective decisions is vital to the success of an organisation. Making decisions is a key part of leadership as well as having the conviction to stand by decisions or agility to adapt when those decisions don’t have the required outcome. While all decisions might not be favourable, making unpopular but necessary calls are important characteristics of a good leader.

4. Negotiation

Negotiation is a fundamental part of being a CEO. In a top leadership position, almost every business conversation will be a negotiation. Good negotiations are important to an organisation because they will ultimately result in better relationships, both with staff inside the company and externally. An effective leader will also help find the best long-term solution by finding the right balance and offering value where both parties feel like they ‘win’.

5. Creativity and innovation

Being quick-thinking and ready to explore new options are great skills of a CEO. Creative leadership can lead to finding innovative solutions in the face of challenging and changing situations. It means in the midst of disruption, of which it has been increasingly prevalent, leaders can still find answers for their teams. Creative CEOs are those who take risks and empower employees to drop outdated and overused practices to innovate and try new things that could lead to greater efficiency.

6. Agility

Without agility over the past few years, businesses would have failed. CEOs were forced to embrace remote working following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic whether they liked it or not. Now, faced against a potential recession, these macroeconomic events are unavoidable and have to be managed carefully. Effective leaders will have their fingers on the pulse and ready to respond to changes.

7. Strategic forecasting

Creating a clear path forward is essential to achieving uninterrupted success. The ability to look into the future and identify trends and issues to then react to is vital. Good CEOs are able to plan strategically and make informed decisions to set goals and plan for the future easily.

8. Delegation

CEOs can’t do everything. A leader tends to be pulled in a number of different ways every day and it is impossible to be on top of everything. This means the importance of bringing in a team of people who are trusted and skilled in their respective areas of expertise. Successful CEOs are expert delegators because they recognise the value of teamwork and elevating those around them.

9. Approachability

An approachable CEO who welcomes conversation and is an active listener will help employees feel at ease raising issues or concerns. This approach will help build strong relationships with staff and customers and encourage a healthy culture which is beneficial to employee retention. Leaders with strong, trusting and authentic relationships with their teams know that investing time in building these bonds which makes them more effective as a leader and creates a foundation for success.

10. Growth mindset

If a CEO arms themselves with a growth mindset it allows them to meet challenges head-on and evolve. This shines a light on improving through effort, learning and persistence. As others may back down in the face of adversity and upheaval, successful CEOs will strive to move forward with confidence. Those with a growth mindset are unlikely to be swayed as they have the tools needed to reframe challenges as opportunities to grow.

In McKinsey’s latest report ‘Actions the best CEOs are taking in 2023’, we examine three of the biggest trends on the c-level agenda

Anyone can sail a ship when things are going well. But it takes a strong, robust and characterful CEO to steer a business through choppy waters and out the other side.

In McKinsey’s latest report ‘Actions the best CEOs are taking in 2023’, the research and advisory firm uncovered which trends are set to have the biggest impact on how CEOs lead their business throughout the year.

McKinsey’s CEO Excellence Survey surveyed 200 of the best corporate CEOs of the past 15 years. This was completed by whittling down a list of all the current and former CEOs of the 1,000 largest public companies during that timeframe. The list was subsequently filtered based on tenure, including only those who had completed at least six years in the role. From there, the CEOs were continuously shortlisted until the best 200 were determined.

Each CEO was asked to identify the top three trends that are set to determine how leaders tackle the future. Here is an insight into those findings.

1. Actions to deal with digital disruption

CEOs are targeting digital trends in three key ways: developing advanced analytics, enhancing cybersecurity and automating work. OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT has accelerated the demand of companies looking to embrace advanced analytics for a competitive advantage. Improving cybersecurity is another key action for CEOs with the importance of guarding against external threats paramount amid strengthening and more mature cyberattacks. Lastly, automating work is another key priority to scale efficiency and eliminate boring and manual tasks which free up people’s time.

2. Actions to deal with the risk of high inflation and economic downturn

One CEO who is worried about economic uncertainty told McKinsey: “Act early to lower costs and protect the balance sheet so that you are stronger and leaner when the economy begins to turn more favourably.” McKinsey found that companies that outperformed the 2008 financial crisis cut operating costs by 1% before the downturn while the others expanded costs by the same percentage. The best performers reduced their debt by $1 for every $1 of book capital before the downturn. This can be done by reducing operating expenses, redesigning products and services as well as reassessing strategic and economic assumptions.

3. Actions to deal with the escalation of geopolitical risk

According to McKinsey, there are three actions to help manage the escalation of global and national crises. CEOs are targeting building robust compliance capabilities, creating resilience in supplier networks and investing in monitoring and response capabilities. These actions come following the challenges presented by COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and now inflation concerns. Many firms are choosing to build their trade compliance organisations and improve how they screen different customers and companies. While a defensive approach is the way forward for many, some companies see the turbulent times as an opportunity.

What does today’s CEO need to do to accelerate an organisation’s digital transformation journey?

Digital transformation journeys are no one-size-suits-all. There is no singular way to welcome a new wave of technology into operations.

Since the turn of the century, digitalisation has had an increasingly influential impact on the way CEOs make decisions. Today’s world is full of disruption and potential risk. And with technology growing in complexity it can be challenging to lead such a revolution against a backdrop of economic uncertainty.

Embracing digital

According to KPMG 2022 CEO Outlook, which draws on the perspectives of 1,325 global CEOs across 11 markets, 72% of CEOs agree they have an aggressive digital investment strategy intended to secure first-mover or fast-follower status.

Advancing digitalisation and connectivity across the business is tied (along with attracting and retaining talent) as the top operational priority to achieve growth over the next three years. This digital transformation focus could be driven as a result of increasingly flexible working conditions and greater focus on cybersecurity threats.

However, the prospect of recession is threatening to halt digital transformation in the short-term. KPMG research found that four out of five CEOs note their businesses are pausing or reducing their digital transformation strategies to prepare for the anticipated recession.

This is reinforced further when 70% say they need to be quicker to shift investment to digital opportunities and divest in those areas where they face digital obsolescence.

When a company’s digital transformation ambition is mismatched to its readiness, it is the CEO’s responsibility to close the gap. According to Deloitte, in order to do this successfully, the CEO must assess the current level of organisational readiness for change.

This covers four key pillars that are mixed together to work out an organisation’s overall readiness: leadership, culture, structure and capabilities.

How CEOs can close the gap

Leadership: CEOs need to ensure their c-suite and other key executives are motivated and equipped to execute the vision. CEOs interviewed by Deloitte in a recent study emphasised the importance of the leadership team supporting the transformation vision and having a positive attitude and willingness to transform.

Culture: A large potential barrier to readiness in the organisation is down to culture. Low cultural readiness takes the form of bureaucratic, reactive and risk-averse ways of working that are at against the collaborative, proactive learning mindset needed for ambitious transformation.

Structure: If a company hopes to operate differently, it could mean the need for organising in an alternative way. CEOs will often need to lead the reorganisation of teams, assignment of new roles, revision of incentives, strategies to collapse organisational hierarchies or layers to increase agility.

Capabilities: CEOs need to equip their organisation with four key capabilities to harness digital for a superior capacity for change. These are nimbleness, scalability, stability and optionality which are often enabled or supercharged by digital technologies which are critical factors for competing in an increasingly disrupted world.

For now, one of the CEOs most important roles when steering the ship through disruption is to be ahead of the latest trends and tackle change head-on. By embracing a new digital future that will provide the company with long-lasting benefits, it will help create a brighter and future-proofed firm for years to come even after the CEO is gone.

Gartner surveyed 400 senior business leaders about the challenges faced and their priorities for 2022-23. We analysed the results

Priorities change in a business; they evolve all the time to match the societal landscape around them. Following a major worldwide disruption like the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that the focus for CEOs has shifted to match the way our outlooks and challenges have changed.

Gartner surveyed 400 senior business leaders about their 2022-23 priorities and found that – for the first time – environmental sustainability has made its way into the top 10. Additionally, workforce issues are a bigger priority than ever before.

Mark Raskino, VP Analyst at Gartner, said of the results: “In 2022, the Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey showed that, catalysed by multiple macro trends and economic factors, business leaders are reprioritizing some key areas of enterprise purpose and management focus.”

The last time there was such a dramatic change in the priorities of CEOs was in 2009-10, during the recovery from the last major recession. Here, we’ll dig into the key challenges for CEOs in 2023…


While growth remains the primary challenge, with 51% of respondents stating that it’s in their top three priorities, it’s actually down 8% from 2021-22. Gartner has surmised that the reason for this is that, due to ongoing supply chain disruptions, business leaders are less focused on driving up demand if they don’t necessarily know whether they can supply. Many organisations are working hard to revamp and improve their supply chains, but uncertainty remains and nobody wants to make promises that they can’t keep.

Gartners top 10 strategic business priority areas for 2022-2023


Technology has also dropped slightly as a top three priority, though it remains the second biggest focus at 34%. While the survey respondents are 5% less concerned about tech-related issues than in 2021-22, it’s still hugely important – especially as the world recovers from the pandemic.

Many businesses have taken the pandemic as a sign that they need better digitalisation, as a lack of that made the transition to home working difficult for some. Additionally, cybercrime is a major concern, especially when ensuring employees have the hardware and software they need to work safely from multiple locations.


A focus on the workforce is up 32% from 2021-22, putting it at 31% in third place. This is the second consecutive year that workforce has become more of a priority, and there are multiple reasons for this.

Attracting and retaining employees is a challenge because older generations are retiring and there aren’t always enough replacements for specific roles. Plus, the younger generations joining the workforce are more likely to align themselves with businesses they truly believe in, meaning they are more picky, so organisations have to be the best they can and transparent with it.

Additionally, diversity, equality, and inclusion are bigger focuses than ever, and these have been boosted by the spotlight being shone on such topics during the pandemic. All in all, almost half (49%) of CEOs agreed with the statement that ‘it is very difficult for us to find and hire the kind of people we need in our business’.


At 29%, corporate has dipped only a little since 2021-22 – just 5% – and remains a top priority. Corporate includes company structure and culture changes, and this is a focus right now due to the challenges of employee retention, as well as the drive towards digitalisation. Corporate change is required to improve business efficiency and performance, hence its position on this list.


The financial side of business has decreased in importance to CEOs for 2022-2023, dropping by 27% since 2021-22. However, it’s still in the top three for 20% of respondents. CFOs are making a major push towards finance transformation through technology to boost efficiency in their departments. Despite the ongoing challenge of building digital competencies in finance, 82% of CFOs have reported that their investments in digital are accelerating and exceeding investments in many other areas.

Products & Services

Products and services remain in the top three spot for 15% of respondents, up 43% from 2021. As the world recovers from the pandemic, the products and services a business produces are in the limelight. Competition is more fierce than it’s ever been, so innovation is key to remain in the best position.


The customer as a priority is up 26% from 2021-22, at 15% – and it’s no surprise. Linking into products and services, and the challenge of hiring the latest generation of workers, costumers have very high standards and hard work is required to impress them and retain loyalty.

In a Gartner survey about customer service trends, 74% of respondents stated that improving operational excellence to create a seamless customer journey is either ‘important’ or ‘very important’, and the survey found that business growth is best achieved through positive customer experience outcomes.

Environmental sustainability

Nine per cent of respondents to the Gartner survey stated that environmental sustainability is a top three priority – up a huge 292% from 2021-22. This is the first time it’s broken into the top 10, which is telling. Businesses are increasingly under pressure to do more when it comes to their own environmental impact. Many leading nations are aiming to be carbon neutral within the next few decades and being more sustainable undeniably leads to growth.



Also at 9% is cost, which is actually down 24%. Despite it being less of a concern than in 2021-22, cost remains a major focus. Supply chain shortages and the government support offered to help people through lockdowns have driven inflation, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made that worse. As a result, we’re seeing the prices of products from the region shoot up, and those cost increases inevitably become the problem of business leaders.


While it’s number 10 (6%) on Gartner’s list of priority areas, sales is a 77% bigger priority in 2022-2023 than it was in 2021-22. Sales falls into a similar category to cost; with rising inflation comes an inability for customers to spend as freely as they once may have, making the landscape more competitive. Having said that, as we touched on with growth, sales aren’t necessarily being driven to the same degree due to supply chain disruptions.

Sara Malconian, Chief Procurement Officer at Harvard University & Jim Bureau, CEO of JAGGAER explain how ESG & the Circular Economy is changing the evolution of procurement.

We speak to Sara Malconian, Chief Procurement Officer at Harvard University and Jim Bureau, CEO of JAGGAER to see how ESG and the Circular Economy is changing the evolution of procurement…

Sara, how have you seen your role evolve as a procurement leader over the years as ESG and supplier diversity come into focus? 

Procurement leaders have gone from ‘cost cutters’ to ‘problem solvers’ within their organisations. Our core mandates used to be to drive cost savings and efficiency. We were hyper-focused on getting the most out of the organisation’s spend and supplier relationships. Those priorities haven’t gone away, especially in today’s inflationary environment, but the expectations of the procurement function are significantly higher and broader today. 

Procurement functions saved their companies during COVID and the confluence of disruptions that followed. We showed we are a strategic linchpin. We are now looked upon to drive value and impact and strategically guide our organisations to achieve broader goals, including diversity and environmental, social, governance (ESG). Internal stakeholders realised the benefits of procurement and sought help with advancing their department’s agendas or solving their challenges. We listen to their needs, allocate the right resources, and ultimately enable them and the overall organisation to be successful.  

I’ve been in procurement for over 20 years, and I can honestly say you’d be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding and exciting career. Procurement professionals have a real opportunity to make a tangible difference within their organisations, communities, and the world through the way we source products and services. 

What is Harvard doing to have a positive impact on society? Can you share some examples, Sara?

Across the Harvard community, students, alumni, faculty, and staff are advancing scholarship and teaching on the world’s most significant challenges, and everyone wants to do their part to address inequities. Supplier diversity and inclusion have been a priority for Harvard for years, but we wanted to make even more of an impact and really invest in the growth and development of diverse businesses, especially as the pandemic highlighted inequities and disparities within our communities.

In 2021, we formed the Office for Economic Inclusion & Diversity (OEID), which is dedicated to reaching out to diverse suppliers, giving them opportunities, and providing them with tools, training, and resources to be successful. The office also encourages the use of underrepresented business enterprises (UBEs) in the purchasing of all goods, services, and construction at Harvard and standardises procurement practices with these businesses across the university. 

We’re proud of the work this office is doing. We’re actively training suppliers on Harvard’s policies and how they can work with us. We’re creating a central location for them to access bid and RFP opportunities. UBEs can also apply to be mentored by Harvard Business School students.

We’ve created a dashboard to track and analyse spend with diverse suppliers across all of Harvard’s schools and measure progress over time. Everything we’re doing is aimed at increasing spend with our existing diverse suppliers, as well as the number of diverse suppliers that work with Harvard, and helping these suppliers grow their businesses.

Jim, why is prioritizing ESG and supplier diversity important and what steps can companies take today to progress in their journey? 

Beyond being the right thing to do, investors, boards, regulators, customers, and employees now expect organisations to prioritise ESG and diversity initiatives and walk the talk. There’s also a clear business impact. Supplier diversity drives competitive bidding processes that lead to cost savings. Working with partners who are sustainable and have different ideas and perspectives fuels innovation and creates a competitive advantage. Sourcing from a sustainable and diverse supplier pool also reduces risk by broadening organisations’ access to multiple resources for various materials, products, and services. 

One of the most critical steps companies can take to progress on their ESG journey is to make it clear to suppliers that environmentalism is a priority for their organisation. They will attract suppliers with higher levels of ESG maturity and provide suppliers who are earlier on in their ESG journey with sustainability toolkits and training to help educate them on eco-friendly best practices and sustainability innovations.

This step avoids having to overhaul their supply chain to account for ESG. Strategically managing suppliers by leveraging third-party data, scorecards, and supplier audits are crucial for understanding the ESG risks that suppliers pose and minimizing disruptions by working with them to correct these issues. 

Successful supplier diversity programs start with a top-down culture shift. If a company’s culture isn’t diverse, inclusive, and supportive for all its stakeholders, they won’t be able to drive supplier diversity in a meaningful way. Supplier diversity strategy should map back to company goals and include an executive-level champion to sponsor the program internally and help bring in the resources they need.

Outside of leveraging technology to identify diverse suppliers and build a program, businesses can talk with people who have been in their shoes. They can collaborate with like-minded companies at industry events, engage in relevant LinkedIn groups, and connect with organisations such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Once diverse suppliers are on board, organisations can create a supplier diversity policy that clearly outlines how many diverse suppliers need to be invited to bid for each event to ensure teams are executing on the strategy. Leading supplier diversity programs go beyond simply spending with diverse suppliers to providing mentorship and training them on how to respond to RFPs correctly, as well as creating environments where it’s easier for them to engage. 

Jim, what role does technology play in helping organisations achieve ESG and supplier diversity goals?

Technology is a key enabler of ESG and supplier diversity initiatives. One of the biggest obstacles to supplier diversity and ESG is a lack of reliable supplier data. Suppliers don’t always keep their information up to date in self-service portals. The data procurement teams have isn’t always enriched to the level they need, with insights on diversity status, certifications, and proof of ESG compliance.

Researching and assessing suppliers is tedious and time-consuming, which leads many organisations to skip the verification step. Without this information, organisations don’t have a true picture of the inclusivity and sustainability of their supplier network, which makes it impossible to identify the right partners to source from to meet their ESG and supplier diversity goals and make an impact.

Technology addresses this challenge by automatically collecting, enriching, validating, and integrating the supplier data needed to obtain this level of supply base visibility and make decisions that drive ESG and diversity. AI-powered tools are available to match buyers with specific diverse suppliers who also have the capabilities to help drive ESG objectives and meet broader procurement criteria.

Software that segments the supply base and helps visualise spending with small and diverse suppliers across a variety of classifications is critical for setting benchmarks and measuring progress and ROI. 

Jim and Sara, how do you expect the ESG and diversity conversation to shift and where should procurement leaders focus for the future?

Sara: I expect we’ll see the conversation shift to emphasise measurement. It’s not enough anymore to say you’re committed to ESG – you need to prove it and show demonstrable progress and ROI. Maintaining the momentum on ESG initiatives is hard. Technology is key for setting benchmarks and goals, ensuring accountability for hitting key milestones, and measuring progress and return in a credible way. 

Jim: In a declining economic environment, choices inevitably need to be made. I expect the conversation around ESG will center around where companies can focus to maintain progress on ESG initiatives as financial and economic pressures come to the forefront. While some companies may need to scale back in some areas to preserve cash and resources to navigate a downturn, I’d advise them to be careful about slowing ESG down too much as it will be much harder to catch up to current levels after the economy bounces back.

I’d argue that when ESG is done right it can be a strategic lever for navigating a down economy, saving organizations money and resources, driving innovation, and helping them achieve broader business objectives and resilience. 

Here are five of the biggest procurement events happening during 2023 that chief procurement officers won’t want to miss.

Procurement Futures 

London, UK  |  1-2 February 2023 

Held at the QEII Centre in central London, Procurement Futures is a new conference, launching in 2023. It promises delegates the chance to find out how to make supply chains more resilient, with thought-provoking and presentations and discussions designed to inform and inspire.

There is a flexible programme of content that can be tailored to attendees’ preferences, with networking opportunities throughout and a huge variety of sessions to attend and take part in.

This CIPS event has three streams of content: Insights, Ignite and Interact. Insights will showcase presentations and panel discussions from leaders, Ignite will consist of hands-on workshops to help delegates optimise their procurement strategies and Interact will be smaller groups taking part in interactive roundtables and debates.

Speakers across the two days will include Ross Grierson, Director of Procurement, Primark; Patrick Dunne, Director of Group Property, FM & Procurement (CPO), Sainsburys Plc; Rebecca Simpson, Procurement and Supply Chain Director, Balfour Beatty; and Nick Jenkinson, Chief Procurement Officer, Santander. In addition, delegates are ablew to book a one-to-one career workshop, where they’ll get advice on professional development from coaches covering a variety of specialisms. 

Tickets are £795 for CIPS member, £995 for a non-member and £2240 for a supplier/solution provider, and there is a discount of 30% for tickets purchased before 30 November 2022. 

3rd World Digital Procurement Summit 

Berlin, Germany  |  2-3 March 2023 

The third World Digital Procurement Summit is aimed at procurement directors, VPs, managers and other industry specialists. The two-day event will focus on accelerating procurement processes, adopting emerging technologies, finding the right talent, overcoming the barriers to progress and embarking on a journey of transformation. It’s a hybrid event, bringing together procurement experts from various industries, which will maximise knowledge exchange opportunities. The event organisers list five key learning points for delegates: 

  1. Exploring the latest advances in data and cognitive technologies to gain greater insights and improve procurement processes 
  1. Overhauling the procurement ecosystem with new technologies and strategies to drive business value 
  1. Sharing the best practices of monitoring and managing a range of risks to hedge against future disruptions 
  1. Developing capabilities and skillset required for the digital transformation of procurement 
  1. Defining ESG metrics of the procurement strategy to ensure business continuity 

Speakers will include Paul Harlington, Group Procurement Director at TUI Group and Patrick Foelck, Head of Strategy and Transformation Procurement at Roche. 

Click here to check out a video from a previous event. Tickets cost €1495. 

Women in Procurement & Supply Chain 

Sydney, Australia  |  6-8 March 2023 

Returning for its 8th annual event, Women in Procurement & Supply Chain will deliver two days dedicated to leadership and the future of procurement. The event will feature a series of exclusive panel discussions and keynote addresses examining career development, overcoming imposter syndrome, working with confidence, developing an unbeatable talent pool, mentoring, diversity and inclusivity.

It will also address risk mitigation, digital disruption, ESG, sustainability, economic development, ethical sourcing, category management, cultural diversity, strategic sourcing, supplier relationships, procurement with purpose, and supply chain resilience. There are two pre-conference masterclass options on 6 March – that can be booked separately – covering either contract law or leadership skills. 

Some of the reasons to attend include: 

  • Discover the path to taking your procurement career to a new level while elevating your organisation with dedicated days on leadership and the future of procurement 
  • Learn best practice strategies to facedown supply chain vulnerabilities and reduce risk exposure 
  • Get ahead of the game with insights into the future of procurement and the impact of globalisation on modern supply chains 
  • Put yourself at the cutting edge of ESG and procurement with the latest updates and trends in procurement with purpose 

Speakers for the main two-day conference include Michelle Richard, Director of Procurement, Thales; Karina Davies, Chief Procurement Officer, icare NSW; and Kylie McKinlay, Procurement Partner – Property and Business, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 

Tickets start at $3,495 with discounts available until 25 November 2022. 

Americas Procurement Congress 

Miami, USA  |  21-22 March 2023 

The Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise

With a focus on what makes CPOs tick, the Americas Procurement Congress will feature the region’s most progressive CPOs sharing their expertise in keynote presentations and working groups.

Giving delegates the tools to stay on the cutting edge of procurement developments, there are also sessions aimed at those with responsibilities over governance, procurement capabilities and quantifying data. Unsurprisingly, sustainability will also be a key theme in 2023, and attendees will hear from a diverse range of sustainability leaders about how to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function. 

The agenda for Americas Procurement Congress 2023 will include: 

  • Sustainability of the future  
  • How to transition from traditional metrics to a purpose-driven function   
  • Harnessing the power of digital transformation  
  • Utilizing data as a driver of sustainable value, supply continuity and transparency   Agile procurement  
  • New approaches and skills that facilitate speed and agility   
  • Frictionless procurement  
  • Removing friction from the procurement process to support high-velocity sourcing   
  • Beyond Just in Time 
  • Designing future-fit supply networks for an age of chaos and conflict 

Tickets start at $3649. 

Americas Procurement Congress 

Orlando, Florida  |  8–10 June 2023 

Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/Xpo 2022 addressed the most significant challenges that chief supply chain officers and supply chain leaders face as they mitigate risk and navigate uncertainty in an increasingly dynamic and challenging environment.  

At the conference, the top 5 sessions that CSCOs and supply chain leaders met on included: 

  • Signature Series: The Future of Supply Chain 
  • What the Pivot to Sustainable Profit Means for Procurement Leaders 
  • The Art of the New Age One Page Dashboard: Why Your Current Perfor-mance Measures May Be Doing More Harm Than Good 
  • Manage Supplier Risk With Technology 
  • Procurement Role Redesign: Stop Fitting Square Pegs Into Round Holes 

Tickets start at $4725. 

CPOstrategy’s cover star this month is procurement transformation expert, and CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell…

Right now, procurement excellence is blooming. Experts determined to create change are coming to the fore and aligning procurement with SaaS to bring an end to the do-it-yourself way of working that decimates technology budgets. Tropic is one such game-changer, providing the tools to navigate software procurement’s complexities for competitive advantage.

Read the latest issue here!

The CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic is David Campbell, a born entrepreneur. He grew up on a cattle ranch in California and has always had at least one side-hustle on the go. Even as a child, he was running some form of money-making venture at any one time – but he didn’t necessarily consider that entrepreneurial pursuits were his calling until later.

CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell
CEO and Co-Founder of Tropic, David Campbell

Campbell studied English at UC Berkeley, and on graduating assumed he’d go into the arts. He’s a lifelong musician and writer, and he moved to a cabin in the woods to write the ‘next great American novel’. This venture, while it didn’t have the exact results he had hoped for, planted the seed in his mind that perhaps entrepreneurialism was for him because he loved setting his own hours and vision, creating a strategy, and executing that…

Elsewhere, we have exclusive interviews with supply chain and procurement leaders at the City of Edmonton and QSC, as well as the results of our first Sustainable Procurement Champions Index. We also have some exciting news from DPW too, ahead of its conference later this month.

Enjoy the issue!