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What Is a Chief Procurement Officer?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 20 April 2014
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A chief procurement officer (CPO) typically is the executive of a corporation who is responsible for the management, administration, and supervision of the company’s acquisition programs. He may be in charge of the contracting services and may manage the purchase of supplies, equipment, and materials. It often is his responsibility to source goods and services, and to negotiate prices and contracts.

The chief procurement officer often ensures that goods and services are promptly delivered. He may be responsible for making sure vendors are paid in a timely manner. A CPO's focus generally is on supply management, whether it is in an office, manufacturing, or retail setting.

Some CPOs are in charge of locating sources for supplies and services, and of maintaining relations with suppliers and vendors. They usually negotiate with vendors to get the best prices and deals, utilizing the power of purchase and the economies of scale. Often they set up contracts between vendors and the company.

Aside from sourcing and negotiating prices and contracts, a chief procurement officer may see to it that files containing all information regarding purchases and services are kept in an orderly fashion. He or his staff usually works with the accounting department to ensure that vendors are paid on schedule. In addition, he usually keeps inventory levels current and foresees future needs of the company.

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Many industries employ procurement officers, from small companies to global organizations. In a small company, the procurement officer may work singly, but often there is a team that executes the purchasing for an organization. If working in for a multinational corporation, the chief procurement officer might have to manage a global team.

Whether at a small company or a large one, the chief procurement officer usually provides overall leadership to the purchasing team and ensures that procurement policies and procedures are followed. Typically, he also is constantly in search of better quality products and better prices. In a lot of companies, all procurement decisions ultimately end up at the desk of the CPO.

The position of the chief procurement officer is believed by many to have taken on increased significance in corporations, and the role is thought to have grown more strategic in recent years. Globalization, compliance pressures, and other factors have triggered a trend toward centralization of the procurement function for the purposes of standardization and leverage. Many CPOs report directly to the president or the chief executive officer (CEO) of their company.

Exceptional interpersonal and negotiation skills generally are required of successful chief purchasing officers. Excellent oral and written communication skills may also be necessary. Fluency in other languages also can be considered an asset, since vendors may be situated in other parts of the world.

Someone who desires to become a procurement officer typically should possess a bachelor’s degree, preferably in supply chain management, contracting, procurement, business administration, economics, finance, accounting, statistics, math, or communications. A master’s degree usually is highly desirable.

An aspiring chief procurement officer often will have to gain several years of experience in the purchasing department and related positions to gain first-hand familiarity in handling financial matters and resource allocation. With time and the appropriate skills, he eventually may advance to the executive position of CPO. Accreditation from national supply management organizations may aid in advancement, as well.

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