Are You An Aspiring CPO? Top CPOs Share Advice On How To Reach The Top


Author: PASA

Commercial acumen, a proactive attitude and overseas experience will help you become a successful CPO, according to 94 senior procurement professionals in Australia & New Zealand who share their career experiences and advice in a new report by recruiting experts Hays.

The DNA of a CPO: The makings of a Chief Procurement Officer report provides insights for aspiring CPOs on how they can reach the top procurement job.

“Today’s procurement and supply chain leaders operate in a world of continuous change,” says Tim James, Managing Director of Hays in Victoria, Tasmania & ACT. “They have transitioned from a tactical to a strategic function where they contribute to overall business efficiency and competitiveness and directly impact the bottom line. This creates quality opportunities for those entering the profession but it’s important people set themselves up for success if they want to rise to the top.”

How to prepare for success

According to the insights in Hays’ report, you can set yourself up for success in the following ways:

  • Gain commercial acumen: 66% say commercial acumen is the most important skill for a CPO to possess, and advise this can be achieved by understanding the needs and daily operations of the various business teams you serve. Previous experience outside procurement also provides valuable insight;
  • Learn stakeholder engagement: In second place is stakeholder engagement (64%) – not surprising when the top rated career challenge amongst CPOs was organisational politics;
  • Become a people manager: 44% said people management skills are important – on average CPOs have 61 indirect reports and 6 direct reports;
  • Be proactive and collaborative: 71% say having a proactive nature is the most important personal characteristic for a CPO, closely followed by being collaborative (64%) and hardworking (60%);
  • Be ethical: 56% say being ethical is a key personal characteristic that’s helped them succeed in their career so far;
  • Work overseas: 57% of CPOs have worked outside Australia or New Zealand. Of these, 67% say the experience benefited their career considerably while 26% said it was of some benefit;
  • Work hard: 53% of CPOs have 16 or more years’ experience in procurement, during which time 68% worked for four or more organisations and 45% received four or more promotions before reaching their current position. Together this shows that becoming a CPO requires solid experience and hard work;
  • Drive the sustainability agenda: 63% say an increased focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility will become a bigger part of the CPO role in the next five years;
  • Keep abreast of industry trends: 69% attend events and conferences to keep up-to-date with the latest news and industry trends, while 57% network online. 91% use LinkedIn;
  • Be aware of upcoming challenges: 49% say aligning and educating internal departments on the value of the procurement function is the biggest challenge facing them in the coming 12 months;
  • Find a mentor: A lack of mentoring, support and guidance is a career challenge that sounds familiar to 24%. Focus on your career development and find someone who can mentor you throughout your career journey.

Advice from CPOs

Adam Pase, Head of Procurement, Facilities and Vendor Management at Cbus says in the report: “You want to be able to show that you’ve been able to take the organisation – whether that’s the procurement organisation, or the business overall – from identifying an opportunity, a need or a problem, to making the transition from that state to another state. That demonstrates your ability to be able to engage with your business and stakeholders and to drive your team along a journey.”

Matthias Fuchs, CPO at Boral, says: “Being a procurement leader, you have to win the confidence of operations; they have to want to work with you… The CPO role is fundamentally about leadership combined with influencing skills but for me it’s mainly about people. To be a leader of a large procurement team, people need to be the number one focus.”

Cindy Dunham, Supply Chain & Transformational Leader at Rio Tinto, says: “My advice is to build diversified skill sets, don’t become a technical expert in one area, make sure you are commercially savvy and be agile enough to move across categories.”

Profile of a typical CPO

The report also reveals the profile of typical CPO’s in Australia & New Zealand. Of the survey respondents:

  • 80% are men and 20% are women;
  • 76% are aged between 41 and 55;
  • 89% hold a bachelor degree, although their area of study differs;
  • 22% have a masters degree, 16% an MBA and 16% a post graduate diploma;
  • 21% are a Member of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (MCIPS), 11% hold a different CIPS qualification and 7% hold a diploma in procurement;
  • On average they have 61 indirect reports and 6 direct reports;
  • Only 11% sit on their organisation’s board;
  • 57% have worked outside Australia and New Zealand at some point during their career;
  • 29% ultimately want a bigger CPO role;
  • 34% work 46 to 55 hour weeks and a further 30% work between 39 and 45 hours each week;
  • 64% play sport or exercise in their spare time;
  • Encouragingly, 67% said that if they had their time over again they would still choose the procurement profession.

DNA of a CPO: The makings of a Chief Procurement Officer is available at

  • Interested in learning more? The PASA CPO Summit,‘Future Proofing You’, will be held on 13 & 14th March 2018 in Sydney. 


About Author

Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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