Winter, June 2013

Fast track to success

Interview with Keith Bird, 2013 CPO of the Year

If Keith Bird is any sort of indication, Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman, must sleep easier in the knowledge his vision to drive growth, increase resilience and manage costs, is well supported by public sector procurement.Named 2013 CPO of the Year, Keith’s win means that for the second consecutive year, a senior manager of a Government owned corporation*, has taken out the highest professional honour in the region.  

As Queensland Rail’s General Manager for Commercial, Keith impressed the judging panel with his strong focus on transparency and straightforward approach to delivering sustainable value.

With just two years in Queensland Rail’s top procurement job, Keith – and he’s quick to add- his team, have delivered more than double their targeted cost savings.  During this period, Keith has led a radical transformation of procurement, implementing a category management framework and lifting the profile procurement through a dedicated communications imitative and customer-service culture.

Judging panel member and CEO of Pacific Brands, John Pollaers notes of Keith’s record:  “As a CEO, it’s imperative that my leadership team demonstrate strong commercial returns for our shareholders.  It’s no good developing the world’s best strategy if the execution is lacking. For me, The CPO of the Year has got to have the runs on the board.”

Here, Keith shares some of his learnings from a long career in procurement that has taken him from the private to the public sector, across multiple industries and market conditions:

On creating a customer-centric procurement culture…..

Primarily, it’s about recognising that customers are core to the business and building strong relationships with them is vital. Procurement’s role is not only to ensure the enterprise receives the best commercial value, risk mitigation and revenue creation, it’s also about “listening to the voice of the customer” and being recognised as an experienced and trusted advisor.

When a customer to procurement invites our team to assist them, the team’s focus must be on the timely and collaborative delivery of the project, where all parties are clear on their roles and responsibilities.

On the role of the CPO in Australian organisations over the next five years…..

I would like to think that over the next few years we will see more and more CPOs at the Executive table.  It’s at this level that procurement leaders will really have the opportunity to positively influence planning and drive commercial outcomes.

In the future, I see the role of the CPO based around delivery of three key things:

1.    Sustainable bottom line results. Value beyond cost will come through driving internal and external efficiencies, reducing duplication and waste, simplifying and standardising processes and centralising activities to deliver economies of scale benefits.

There is likely to be additional focus on the Total Cost of Ownership by sourcing products and services that will deliver greater lifecycle impact in lieu of a sole focus on acquisition cost.

2.    Competitive advantage to the enterprise. The role of procurement will shift from a functional to an enterprise focus and buyers will be seen as business advisors as they increasingly work cross –functionally across the enterprise.

Integrating the right technology and more effectively using business analytics to ensure customer excitement through innovation and offering exceptional service will play a key ingredient in delivering a competitive advantage.    

3.    Increased cross-functional collaboration. We will see a greater level of collaboration between companies to lower research, design and development costs.

Benchmarking, centralised procurement and partnering with industry leaders will allow organisations to focus on their core strengths and divest those areas that do not focus on revenue creation.

On his key learnings from the CPO Forum……

Sitting among my peers, it became apparent that despite our different businesses, industries, experiences or even geographies, we are all concerned with similar issues: adapting to changing financial and market conditions;  globalisation; delivering better bottom –line results; efficiency; customers and implementing value-adding technology.

A key learning for me is that as CPOs, we have access to a powerful and resilient network and there is significant opportunity to harness this collective knowledge to assist each other and fast track outcomes in a non-competitive environment.

We are all at different stages of the procurement transformation journey and there are many of us that come from the school of “hard knocks”, so it was fantastic to see all CPOs working together at the Forum and openly sharing lessons learnt.  

*Queensland Rail was made a Statutory Authority in May 2013.


In 2014 The CPO Forum will return to NSW on 15 & 16 May.  Pre-register your place now and save $400 off the standard ticket price.  Pre-register here


Partner of the CPO of the Year Award:


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