It’s fair to say that every aspect of business was affected by last year’s pandemic. While many aspects of business have returned to a normal state, one area that is taking longer to fully recover is the supply chain. Overseeing the supply chain for many organizations is the responsibility of the CSCO (Chief Supply Chain Officer).
The pandemic has illustrated just how important and complex their role is to ensure companies are able to quickly and efficiently bring products to market. Recently, Egon Zehnder conducted a global CSCO survey to learn more about the state of the supply chain.
One of the first findings from the study is that the industry is full of experienced leaders. 66% of the respondents have a minimum of 20 years of experience. They have seen the role evolve from a technical and logistical distribution function to a key part of the c-suite and customer experience.
When asked about priorities, two aspects were mentioned the most: increasing supply chain efficiency and improving the speed and responsiveness to handle customer needs. In addition to cost containment, adaptability to meet customer needs has become just as important.
Coming in third on their list of priorities, CSCOs mentioned the need to develop talent and transform the culture of the team. This is not surprising as most of the c-suite would rank talent and culture as key elements of success. What was surprising is that digital transformation was mentioned by just 7% of the CSCOs as their top priority.
The CSCOs noted that their biggest external challenge is cost pressures. This was followed by global economic uncertainty and rising demand variability. According to the study, “CSCOs today must deal with universal uncertainties that are suddenly challenging the existing model of globalization, ranging from COVID-19 to market fluctuations to increasing tariff and trade disputes.”
So how do they address the challenges? “It’s about managing risks,” says Wim Appelo, Worldwide VP, Supply Chain, Strategy, Innovation & Deployment at Johnson & Johnson. “And it’s risks from an environmental perspective. It’s risk from what’s happening in trade and in the world around us. It’s geopolitical risks. I think in my mind it really fits the changing role; the downside of focusing solely on efficiency and cost could create a really vulnerable supply chain.”
Internally, CSCOs said their biggest challenge is the increasingly complex nature of the supply chain. And as noted earlier, the next two challenges are talent shortages and culture. More than two-thirds of CSCOs noted that a lack of leadership competencies is the biggest challenge. This is why nearly three-quarters of companies said they are investing more in leadership development programs.
J&J’s Appelo mentions: “The world around us is changing at an unbelievable pace. And so if there’s anything that keeps me up at night, it’s, ‘Are we going fast enough? Are we making the changes at a pace that we need to?’ Because the world isn’t waiting for us.”
According to Egon Zehnder, they see a five-part plan for supply chain leaders that can turn these challenges into opportunities:
- Put Culture First
- Expect the Unexpected
- Build a Collaborative Organization
- Fight the Talent Gap with Potential
- Invest in Executive Development
For full details on the five-part plan and to see additional data we recommend reading the full article. And if you have questions about hiring a CSCO for your organization, send us a note, and one of our retained search consultants will reply immediately.