CPO Spotlight | Michael van Keulen

Photo of Michael van Keulen. Chief Procurement Officer

The Future of Procurement Leadership: A Chief Procurement Officer’s Perspective | CPO Spotlight with Michael van Keulen, hosted by Rupert Gaster

From CPOs to CEOs | Procurement on the rise

In the dynamic procurement world, staying ahead of the curve requires a blend of experience, adaptability, and foresight. Recently, Rupert Gaster Procurement Heads Managing Director, had the privilege of sitting down with Michael, Chief Procurement Officer at Coupa Software, to delve into his extensive career and gain insights into the evolving procurement landscape.

Your journey has been diverse, spanning finance, management consulting, and retail. How did this lead you to become the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) at Coupa Software?

It all started in finance, exploring different industries, and seeking a deeper understanding of diverse business models. The game-changer was the emergence of E-sourcing, a moment when the fusion of finance and procurement clicked for me. Implementing E-sourcing at Footlocker laid the foundation, and when the chance to be CPO at Coupa arose, it felt like a dream aligned with my journey.

Unlike some CPOs, you have ventured into various business disciplines. How has this broad experience influenced your ability to connect with CFOs and other executives?

Progressive CPOs need a holistic understanding beyond procurement, be it in IT, engineering, or finance. Connecting with CFOs is key, translating the procurement language into metrics that matter to them. Successful CPOs resonate with cross-functional teams, from finance to IT, creating a collaborative approach that goes beyond the siloed nature of traditional procurement.

The debate about procurement’s seat at the board table continues. What is your take on whether procurement should have a seat at the board?

Absolutely. Procurement’s impact goes beyond transactions; it influences strategic decisions. Reporting to the CEO and participating in strategic planning is essential. Procurement is at the heart of business continuity, ESG initiatives, innovation, and risk management. The progressive CPOs shaping strategic decisions are the ones bridging the gap between procurement and the overall company strategy.

As technology and AI rise, some argue that procurement as a profession might cease to exist. What is your perspective on the role of technology versus talent in procurement’s future?

While certain tactical aspects may be automated, procurement’s core lies in strategic thinking, innovation, and collaboration. Technology, including AI, is a powerful enabler but relies on reliable data. Procurement will evolve into a hub of innovation, leveraging technology and AI to drive competitive advantage and foster collaboration.

As we round the interview off, here’s a philosophical question. What will be your legacy?

Michael’s journey is a live case for the transformative power of diverse experiences and a forward-thinking approach to technology. As the CPO at Coupa Software, he inspires a new generation to embrace collaboration, innovation, and strategic thinking in shaping the future of procurement. The profession is on the brink of a revolution, and leaders like Michael are steering the course toward a promising and dynamic future.

Thank you to Michael for sharing his Insights, It’s so valuable to learn about the future of procurement from a successful Chief Procurement Officer and industry leader.

The future of procurement is bright. If you’re ready to take the next step in your own Procurement career, why not explore our latest roles here.

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