How to become a procurement leader in 2024

18 June 2024 3 min. read
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In many organisations, across diverse sectors, the function is less a support role and more a strategic enabler as boards turn their attention to how suppliers impact their ability to control costs, manage risks, deliver on purpose, and spark growth. Simon Geale, executive vice president of procurement at Proxima, explains how procurement leaders can give their firms the best chance of success in a fast-changing world.

Moreso than ever, procurement teams are in the spotlight. With this comes a need for procurement leaders to not just understand business strategy but also play a central role in delivering it. The 2024 chief procurement officer (CPO) is a business leader, who leads a procurement team. We interviewed ten leading minds in procurement for Proxima’s 2024 Tomorrow’s CPO Report for insights into what it takes to step into and succeed in the role. Here are their thoughts on what it takes.

Procurement leaders are only as effective as the networks that they create. Successful leaders have positioned procurement as an effective part of an overall value chain that includes suppliers, stakeholders, and customers amongst its number. Conventionally, this positions procurement as a means of connecting suppliers into a business and figuring out how they best solve business challenges, whatever those challenges may be, through both strategic and tactical actions. Sustainability, and in particular, decarbonisation, has presented an opportunity to broaden this collaboration into working with peers from other businesses, setting standards, sharing best practices, and co-creating approaches that speed up outcomes and leveraging cost. This new brand of collaboration is exciting and will be core to the approach of Tomorrow's CPO.

How to become a procurement leader in 2024

Broaden your mindset

In 2024, boards are looking to employ procurement leaders who can demonstrate a diverse range of experiences and evidence delivery of successful business transformation initiatives in previous roles. They are not challenging procurement skills, that is seen as ‘table stakes’. Emerging procurement leaders should spend time fuelling their inner curiosity, understanding how a business really works, and how different functions translate strategies into specific priorities with unique measures of success.

This will prepare them to see the world through multiple lenses and understand where the real value lies in each transaction or relationship. Today, linear progression through the procurement function to CPO is less common than ‘stepping out to step back in,’ armed with different business perspectives.

Continue to be adaptable

In the 2024 boardroom, the short-to mid-term focus very much includes delivering short-term savings as part of a broader sustainable transformation of the cost base. Simultaneously, other priorities, like supply chain resilience, decarbonisation and further digitisation cannot be ignored (nor easily funded). The procurement leader of today must be agile, flexible, and comfortable with the ambiguity that comes with navigating these competing business demands.

The ability to adapt quickly to unforeseen challenges is critical. Whether dealing with unprecedented inflation, geopolitical shocks, climate disasters, strikes, or lockdowns, procurement leaders have thrived on the opportunity to guide businesses through disruptions and uncertainty. Maintaining this momentum and continuing to demonstrate cross-functional leadership will be key to the success of procurement leaders in 2024 and beyond.

Out there in ‘content land,’ we are often being told what procurement leaders need to be and should be doing, frequently by those who have neither done the job nor aspire to do so. In Tomorrows CPO, procurement leaders have told us themselves, using their own experiences and observations to share how the next generation of CPO can excel in the role, and more the function on again.