Summer, March 2015

Interview with Visna Lampasi 

Almost a year after claiming the prestigious title of CPO of The Year 2014, Visna Lampasi took some time to speak to The Faculty Quarterly to reflect on what’s been a very busy, challenging yet hugely rewarding past ten months.  In this exclusive Q&A, Visna discusses life after the award, her new role at Woolworths, thoughts on the procurement profession and trends impacting the industry.

What impact did the CPO of The Year award have on you?

Winning the award was a very humbling experience. I didn’t expect the positive reaction I received from my peers, but also my team and the whole organisation at Leighton. It wasn’t just a personal win.  Each of my team felt it was recognition for their achievements and it was a real boost for us all.

I also received many requests from peers wanting me to mentor them, which was humbling in itself. I’m now proud to say I am the mentor of an exciting bunch of up and coming domestic and international procurement professionals, including the 2014 CIPS Young Procurement Professional of the Year.

Tell us about your past year and your move to Woolworths

“It’s no doubt been a year of highs and lows.  Unfortunately, whilst  mid-last year the majority of the procurement team were made redundant at Leighton following a global restructure and decentralisation of functional areas, I’m glad to see that most of my team were snatched up within a few weeks and have all gone on to bigger and better things. To know that my team were very much in demand in the market is one of the highest forms of external recognition and shows that we were doing something terrific.

And for the highs? Well I’ve recently become the CPO at Woolworths Limited, one of the biggest retailers in the country with over 3,500 stores and 60 billion dollars in revenue. I’m now in charge of all the non-trade goods & services procurement across all the brands, which as you can imagine with that many stores, is a tremendous effort for our team.

Also, the night of the CPO of the Year award I received a message from London hat I had been elected to sit on the Board for The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply for a term of 3 years starting in November 2014.  This would provide me with the opportunity to work on global procurement agenda items such as:  elimination of modern day slavery in the supply chain, licensing the profession, chartered status and anti-procurement fraud to name a few – all which I am personally passionate about.

What’s your view on the current procurement landscape?

The priorities of procurement professionals have no doubt changed over the years. We’re much more interested in delivering improved commercial outcomes, whilst building the capability and credibility of the profession. For instance, there’s more training available to improve the skillset of the profession, a distinctive focus around ethical sourcing and preventing fraud, while stakeholder engagement and social licence to operate have become key drivers for businesses, not just in the mining sector but in other industries and government organisations. All this suggests that the procurement landscape is becoming more sophisticated which can only benefit the professionals, businesses and industries associated.

What’s your vision for the future of the profession?

“The next generation of procurement professionals are coming through the ranks – the future of our profession is in their hands. But to ensure that key talent isn’t snatched up by other functional disciplines such as finance, we as leaders need to do more to foster their development.  Apart from mentoring, we need to offer more certified degrees in procurement, not just general business or economics degrees. There’s also continues to be a low awareness and understanding of the profession too, so we need to start selling it as a career to students.

Embracing graduates straight out of University is also a must and the only way we’re going to recruit the best of the best. That’s why I’ve just introduced the first Procurement Graduate Program in Australia to challenge the various graduate programs going around. This program entails six rotations across all key procurement areas to ensure that a true end-to-end understanding of the function is developed.  By invitation only and at the company’s discretion, high potential and high performance graduates may be offered a 12-month program extension, which will allow them the opportunity to work directly with myself on strategic projects, as well as an offshore posting to one of our global sourcing offices.

It is through this graduate program that we hope to develop a breeding ground for some of the best commercial talent coming through and sow the seeds for a fruitful future for the procurement profession in Australia.