The “CPO Bump”

Posted by Andrew Bartolini on March 17th, 2010
Stored in Articles, Chief Procurement Officers, General, People, Strategy

While the cost of some marketing programs can be excessive, effective campaigns can pay huge dividends for many years. One of the most challenging aspects in all of marketing is being able to understand why a program succeeds or fails and what the most important factors in achieving the results were. For example, was it the message, the medium, the messenger or some blend of the three that drove the results? Even the most experienced marketing professionals find it hard to know and measure for certain promotions (maybe that’s why I pursued a finance MBA?). We’ll come back in subsequent articles to discuss the message which is very important (just ask Barry Manilow) and we’ll come back in subsequent articles to discuss the medium which is very important (just ask Barry Manilow, this time for a different reason). Today’s piece will look at the messenger.

Within the hierarchical ranks of the typical enterprise, it stands to reason that an executive messenger has a greater to chance to influence the outcome of a program than a lieutenant. Who better than the leader of a department to present the case study, explain the value proposition, or position the service to internal constituents? In supply management, this honor falls to the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO). In most cases, this is more of a responsibility than a privilege. And in most cases, the heft that a CPO (or Procurement VP) can bring to a project can greatly improve attention/participation/etc. and thereby overall results.

As the face of the organization, the CPO’s actions and words significantly shape the view that internal stakeholders have of the procurement department. Teams charged with engaging the business to identify sourcing opportunities for the next period or roll-out a new supply management solution are often outmanned by the inertia and apathy that are allowed to exist in an enterprise without a procurement mandate. In these non-mandate environments, budget-holders must be marketed to, they must be sold on the benefits of collaborating with procurement. The members of the procurement leadership team are better positioned to deliver the message and close the deal than mid-level staffers, particularly in less mature departments (As teams mature, more marketing messages can be delivered by lieutenants down the line to show increasing sophistication and improving bench strength).

It is true that many procurement organizations lack the standing to influence and support the business (I’ll be discussing one group’s challenges on Friday). It is also true that some CPO-types may need some training and support before they are able to effectively develop and deliver the right message. That is ok. In fact, several of the best known CPOs have invested significant dollars in marketing training for their leadership teams, for their staffs, and for themselves. These CPOs realize the importance of honing the right message, delivering it on the right medium, and knowing when and how to be the right messenger. If you don’t have them today, take the necessary steps to build the skills and become an effective marketer. Those aspiring to become a Chief Procurement Officer should also work to develop their marketing and general management capabilities.

For, just as winning an Oscar provides its own bump, lending CPO mindshare and CPO presence to a program can have the same effect – giving it the “CPO Bump.” In the CPO’s case, to paraphrase amend Marshall McLuhan, the messenger is the message.

Postscript I: Happy St Patrick’s Day! Procurement Go Bragh!

Postscript II: I posed two hypothetical questions to Barry M. above. If you’re interested, here’s a link to a real Manilow-maniacal Q&A.

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