Meet the CSCO - The Rising Rock Star of the C-Suite - FORTNA

Meet the CSCO: The Rising Rock Star of the C-Suite

The Evolving Supply Chain

Not too long ago, the supply chain was a siloed function focused on cutting costs and responding to strategy set by the C-Suite. But the world has changed. The supply chain has been elevated from the backroom to the boardroom as awareness grows of the critical end-to-end integration this function enables across the entire business. The strength of the supply chain determines what promises can be made to the market – on product offerings, delivery channels, delivery speed, and more. In many organisations, the supply chain is the backbone and a key enabler of a company’s competitive advantage.



The New Supply Chain Leader

The role of the supply chain leader has evolved, from a functional expert to a strategic leader, providing insights and leverage points that influence the competitiveness and profitability of the business.

It’s a major change in both mindset and role that demands new skill sets and knowledge. Today’s leader must understand the complex linkages in a business and the levers that impact the outcome. They must stay on top of trends, manage risk, and drive digitalisation in their companies. They must have exceptional skills in logistics, yes, but also in things like data analysis and scenario planning. When successful, a supply chain leader can be the connecting tissue that helps support the brand promise and the wilderness guide that helps navigate a path forward for the company and shareholders.

To reflect this new reality, companies are elevating the role of the supply chain leader to report directly to the CEO. Some have called it “the toughest new job in the C-Suite”. Here is what’s required for success.

Market Vision

Today’s successful supply chain leaders develop a deep understanding of where their industry, the market, and the global economy are heading. With a finger on the pulse of these indicators, they “skate to where the puck will be” asking – How do we push the envelope in meeting the highest customer expectations and yet deliver the EBITDA required by shareholders?

Customer Centricity

Top supply chain leaders study the needs of different customer groups and how their expectations are changing in terms of product mix, channel, delivery nodes, and speed. They use this outside-in approach to seamlessly integrate physical and digital channels that delight the customer and drive revenue.

Broad Business and Financial Acumen

Successful supply chain leaders develop functional competency in sales, procurement, IT, HR, finance, and production. These are complex linkages that make supply chain initiatives particularly challenging, but a key enabler of the business. It requires a look through each of these lenses to develop a path forward strategy for the business.

Collaborative DNA

Top supply chain leaders build robust and strategic relationships with key stakeholders inside the company (CEO, CMO, COO) and outside the company (suppliers, manufacturers). With a mindset of collaboration, they use their personal influence to gain support and drive enterprise-wide alignment on future state vision and the key investments needed to get there.

Scenario Planning

At any given time, there are hundreds of competing initiatives and potential investment opportunities for pushing a business forward. Top supply chain leaders drive scenario planning where they identify potential future states, apply probabilities, and look at how each would impact on the business. With that knowledge, they choose investments in processes and technologies that will best move the business forward and that are balanced between mature and leading-edge.

Business Case Expertise

Today’s leaders are adept at building a compelling business case for change. They go beyond the standard ROI to include things like the value of resilience and agility to the business. They ask, “At what future state would this investment not be the right one?” They include the financial impact of business risks, like the inability to hire adequate staff or the risk of having a distribution node shut down. They leverage alternative analysis to consider mature solutions with more moderate returns alongside bleeding edge transformative technologies.



Extreme Project Management

Project management is not a new skill set for a supply chain leader. But today’s projects are more complex, more costly, and leverage more advanced technologies. They are often cross-functional, sometimes cross-organizational, and typically require a good dose of change management. The skills required to oversee these sophisticated projects is a level beyond what was required in the past.

Data Analytics

There is a mind-boggling amount of data generated by supply chain systems and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Today’s leaders value digitization for the efficiency it brings, but also for end-to-end visibility it affords the business to glean new insights. They understand that the IIOT, big data, and automation technologies can be a competitive advantage. In times of disruption, this real-time ability to sense change can make it possible to jump the innovation curve.

Informed Risk Taking

Seizing opportunities in this shifting landscape means accepting higher levels of risk. Today’s supply chain leaders have the mindset that risk and opportunity are interrelated, so they are not risk averse. Rather, they make risk management a continuous and proactive exercise. They deploy robust processes to watch for red flags that signal risk exposure, quantify it, and elevate it to be addressed, with resiliency as the goal. Successful leaders manage their company’s appetite for risk, sometimes taking on additional risk to seize opportunities.

Resilience 2.0

Today’s disruptions have turbo-charged the need for companies to be resilient. Leaders embrace that disruption is the new normal and an opportunity for competitive advantage. They understand there are many first-mover advantages. So, they drive their organisations to be able to predict micro-changes and respond quickly. They do things like:

  • Build scalable capacity, like pop-up distribution nodes, to respond to fickle market demand
  • Increase inventory reserves to absorb shocks, a counter-intuitive move
  • Implement predictive software that helps them “see around the corner”
  • Invest in systems, like warehouse automation, to be less dependent on erratic labour pools

Technical Savvy

Today’s supply complexity and speed has exceeded human cognitive abilities. Software and technology are a necessity, and today’s supply chain leaders are tech savvy. They track technology trends and monitor new solutions across industries, and around the globe. They also understand that integration is key – those new technologies must seamlessly integrate with the existing environment while advancing their vision of the future. They also know that nothing is gained by a hastily implemented solution that is not a good long-term fit due to inability to scale, an unrealistic business case, or product obsolescence. So, they make a series of “no regrets” decisions – implementing technologies that are scalable and won’t need to be ripped out and replaced when the next disruption occurs.

ESG Aware (environmental, social, and governance)

The supply chain is responsible for a significant portion of a company’s environmental impact. As good corporate citizens, supply chain leaders monitor carbon footprint, cut back on waste, improve labour conditions, source properly, use more renewable and recycled products, etc. The good news is that sustainability initiatives are often efficiency initiatives too. For example, distributing products from the closest node can be both carbon-friendly and cost-efficient.


In summary, the evolving role of the CSCO is broader than it’s ever been with more visibility and responsibility to a growing list of stakeholders. As the demand for supply chain resilience and flexibility grows, the role of the CSCO moves from the opening act position to the headliner of the boardroom.

But how does one keep up with the demand for improved performance? Even the best leaders can benefit from the help of a neutral third party that can bring new or specialized skills to the table and challenge entrenched thinking. FORTNA can help provide leaders with cross-industry perspective and a deep bench of technology experts to assist with strategic planning, stakeholder alignment and business development.

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About the Author


Andrew Breckenridge

Executive Vice President

Andrew Breckenridge is an Executive Vice President with responsibility for the Enterprise Sales Team at FORTNA. Andrew has more than 30 years of executive supply chain perspective and experience, gained from helping industry leading organizations in the US, Europe, Asia-Pac, LATAM and South Africa transform their businesses and supply chains.