The CEOs of Tomorrow Will Have Supply Chain Backgrounds


In the past, most big decisionmakers came from chief revenue officer or chief financial officer roles. In those positions they made big decisions about budgets and likely moved millions of dollars around in P&L. While those roles are important, a new contender for future title of CEO is emerging; chief supply chain officer (CSCO).

With trends like rising customer expectations, the capacity crunch, demands for real-time visibility, and the increasing need for optimization, corporate value is increasingly being driven by how well the supply chain can perform its function. Supply chain professionals are learning all the skills needed to effectively manage a large global network, work with new and emerging technologies, communicate effectively both internally and externally, and look for opportunities to eradicate waste. Effective supply chain management impacts billions of dollars in cost of goods sold and can make the difference between a profit and a loss.

Since the time of Amazon’s 2-day free shipping announcement, consumer expectations regarding shipping have been steadily rising. It’s ultimately the chief supply chain officer’s role to ensure products are getting to the end customer quickly and cheaply. CSCOs who can do this successfully will give their companies a competitive advantage and rise above the herd. To do this, they will need to have progressive ideas for change and not be afraid to innovate. Those who leverage technology like a transportation management systems (TMS) early will find that their final cost of goods is strikingly smaller than their rivals and more profit can be made.

Besides contributing to the bottom-line, supply chain professionals have a unique opportunity to cater to their consumers’ moral compasses. Ethical trends like sustainability and green shipping can make a difference between a sale and a lost opportunity. Consumers, particularly millennials, are making their shopping decisions based on more than just price and quality. They want to know that the companies they purchase from have sustainability initiatives and are working to reduce their carbon footprint. As about 80% of a company’s environmental impact can be attributed to the supply chain, the opportunity to implement truly impactful sustainability initiatives is high.

Supply chain executives face operational challenges each day that are unlike any other department within a company. Global supply chain management requires that CSCOs are highly organized and know how to work outside of their silo. Communication between procurement, finance, operations, and other departments needs to flow smoothly for deliveries to be made on time. Issues like product shortages, delays, weather, and uncommunicative external partners have to be addressed daily, making supply chain professionals highly adaptable and nimble in their work.

In the not so distant future, it’s likely that CSCOs will become top contenders for the position of CEO in their companies. A combination of corporate value impact and their expensive network forged from their supply chain work will help them rise to the top.

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