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By RL Expert Leesa Soulodre

Gone are the days when supply chain operations deliver only a competitive advantage for companies. For many industries today, business model adaptation and digital transformation may alone determine the company's business survival. With Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) accounting for 70 % or more, the link between supply chain effectiveness and company performance is clear.  To this end CEO's today are demanding that their Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) lead the company's transformation into the new digital economy.

Given the global complexity of supply chains today, the Supply Chain function has evolved from the legacy role of procurement and logistics/distribution into a strategic function in most Companies. As a result the skills required for a 21st century Supply Chain leader have also evolved.

Traditionally a Chief Supply Chain Officer has always been responsible for creating savings within the entire enterprise supply chain and aggressively pursuing cost-saving opportunities with supplier channel partners — primarily manufacturers, distributors and group purchasing organizations (GPOs) (Ernst & Young, 2014). The skill set to achieve this was quite clear.

According to Gartner, one quarter of enterprise costs will soon be devoted to the digital transformation with approximately 20 percent allocated directly to supply chain transformation.With many transformations "disruptive" to the company's business model, it is therefore, critical that Chief Supply Chain Officers (CSCOs) have a seat at the leadership table.

Today's supply chain executive is a strategic decision-maker with deep cross-functional expertise, strong customer and stakeholder relationships, an international outlook and demonstrated success as a change agent.

Senior leaders in Supply Chain must now understand:

  • Technology and Information Security implications
  • Internal Cross Functional business demands
  • Global Client Demands to drive innovation
  • Emerging Markets
  • Financing - Make vs. buying tradeoffs
  • Marketing for input into product development
  • Risk and Issues Management
  • Communications
  • Compliance - legal and regulatory compliance
  • Corporate and Social Responsibility
  • Responsible Procurement
  • Product Lifecycle Management
  • Project Management
  • Change Management

Spencer Stuart propose core competencies across 5 core skill areas:

  1. Global Orientation
  2. Operational Excellence
  3. Leadership
  4. Strategic Thinking
  5. Technologically Savvy

Research from St Andrews University on ESG Alpha in China also highlight that supply chain risks are a core contributor to the firm's capital performance and global reputation. Therefore ownership and proactive management of the company's supply chain risk register is also a core determinant not only of a CSCO's performance but also the retention of the company's social and legal and regulatory licenses to operate and its market capital.

Sourcing supply chain executives who possess the full range of in-demand skills now requires talent managers to explore other industries and to consider atypical candidates. Many find that sourcing talent from less conventional disciplines can also reinvigorate the supply chain function. 

Peter Sondergaard, global head of research at Gartner, highlighted three things that will change in the digital era during the recent Gartner Supply Chain Conference:

  • The way power is distributed among and within businesses
  • The way technology impacts the supply chain
  • The way to establish leadership

It appears that CSCO's must not only be generalists and capable of leading across global cross functional and diverse domains, but also, should be able to react to these changes and learn to control and influence all three. 


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About RL EXPERT Leesa Soulodre:

Managing Partner and Founder of RL Expert Group. A Member of the Global Advisory Council of NY Investment Advisory Firm, Cornerstone Capital; an Innovation Advisor to the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Advanced Digital Science Centre, Singapore and Board Advisor to Belgian PR Software firm, Prezly and US Sports Analytics firm, Autoscout.

An Adjunct in Corporate Communications at Singapore Management University, lecturing part time on "Risk Issues and Crisis Management "and "Content Strategy" at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business.

Connect: Leesa Soulodre, Managing Partner, RL Expert Group -

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