Less Than 1/3 of Organizations Have a CPO — How Will They Continue to Survive?

the doctor has yet to see a single study that said that more than 30% of (public) (listed) organizations have a CPO, and some have that number as low as 15%. He has to admit that he just DOES NOT get it. From a basic business point of view, if you go back to the first thing that they teach you in Business 101, it should be easy to see that it is one of the two most critical roles in an organization, and one of the four roles EVERY organization should have.

The first thing that they teach you is for a business to survive, it has to be profitable, and

Profit = Revenue – Expenses

This says that one of the two most important roles in an organization is the (acting) CRO, who is responsible for bringing the revenue in that is required for the business to operate. In a startup, the acting CRO could be the CEO who has to sell, sell, sell (or raise, raise, raise) until she has enough money to hire a CRO, but without revenue, there is no business.

This also says that the other most important role is the (acting) CPO, as the business will need products. Even a pure services business needs products to operate (equipment, software, office supplies, MRO, etc.), and those need to be obtained at a total cost that is less than the revenue available to pay for them. If the company is primarily a product company, then the majority of its spend will be on these products (and not products for operations or personnel), and the CPO is super critical. Now, in a primarily services company, this role may be fulfilled by the CEO (if the CEO is not sales oriented, but an ops or HR person), but will likely be fulfilled by the CFO or the HR Director/VP until the company is big enough, and spends enough on internal products, to hire a CPO.

Furthermore, this would imply that the third most important role is the CFO that ensures the money coming in and money going out are appropriately tracked and the budgets appropriately allocated and the financial reports and taxes appropriately filed with the government agencies. (But, if there are no funds flowing in and out, you don’t have a business, and, thus, don’t need a CFO.)

Finally, logic would dictate that the fourth most important role is the CEO that defines the strategy, direction, and enables each of these roles needs to be as successful as possible.

This also means that organizations that over-focus on the

  • CSO (Strategy): have their head in the clouds because strategy needs to be executed, and you don’t necessarily need a full time person in this role — a good exercise once every year to three (depending on your market) lead by a strategic expert could be enough
  • CMO (Marketing): are over valuing marketing because, while it’s important to get attention, you have convert leads into prospects into sales … and it’s the CRO that manages that entire process
  • C(R/C)O (Risk/Compliance): are putting the cart before the horses so they can’t leave the stables; while risk is critical, it has to be managed in a sales and procurement context
  • CTO (Technology): are not seeing the big picture; if you are a software organization, having a solid platform and infrastructure is critical, but if you are not selling the product, or you are not able to attract the talent you need to build the product (which may or may not be the CTO’s skillset), it’s suddenly less important

And, of course, this means that Head of Sales, R&D Director, VP Product, etc. also become secondary as sales is only part of the funnel, some R&D can be outsourced or acquired (since design can sometimes be one time), and without the ability to acquire the talent and goods you need, you can’t create the product.

But every organization has a CFO and CEO, the second most important positions. The majority have CMOs and CTOs, the third most important positions. And they all focus on Sales VPs, R&D, Products, etc. which are essential, but the fourth most important positions from a foundational and C-Suite perspective. But when it comes to CROs, less than 15% of organizations have them and when it comes to CPOS, less than 30% of organizations have them. It boggles the logical minds!

Now, the doctor knows he’s going to get a lot of flak for this for calling CMO, CTO, etc. third and fourth on the importance scale, because they are critical roles in many organizations, but if you go back to basics, logically they are not the most critical roles that must be filled.