Gaming the name game

July 23, 2019

During the Clinton Administration’s healthcare reform initiative in the mid-to-late 1990s, a grassroots movement emerged to elevate the Materials Management profession through the influence and power of branding semantics.

As the Purchasing Department expanded beyond the function in its title, Materials Management steadily grew into acceptance as an indicator of a greater realm of responsibility and accountability from the late 1970s through much of the 1990s.

But by then, however, the profession yearned for something more to capitalize on the stirrings of change from reform.

For some reason, Resource Management surfaced as a forging of “human” and “materials” to illustrate the movement of stuff and people. Thankfully, the Director/Vice President of Resource Management (or variants) never quite gained the traction some craved.

Around the turn of the millennium, Supply Chain, a familiar stalwart in other industries, emerged as the front runner of choice, settling into the corporate zeitgeist and healthcare lexicon as perhaps the rebound badge, the loaner label until something better came along that made those in the profession feel good about their business cards and nameplates.

Like cyclical clockwork, some 20 years after the last title twister, we seem to be heading into yet another crisis of contrivance over a logistical label.

Once again, the argument centers on the apparently expanding influence and power of Supply Chain executives as clinical advisers, consultants and facilitators, a growing number of whom either have been invited to the C-suite or stormed the C-suite or keep knocking on the door of the C-suite as the C’s squint through the peephole at them.

Title configurations abound. Aside from the usual suspects we include “Procurement,” “Purchased Services,” “Shared Services,” “Support Services” and others that may add “Corporate” or “System” as pre-configured modifiers.

Among an even smaller group are those angling for their own “C” sweets, adding “Chief” before their functional orientation and bookending it with “Officer,” sandwiching “Procurement,” “Purchasing,” “Supply Chain” and “Support Services” as the cream filling.

An Advisory Board Co. survey of C-suite executives a few months back only sprayed the fire with more fuel.

The C-suite historically concentrates on top-line revenue generation as the heart and soul of an organization’s success, at least until budgetary challenges, economic problems or federal healthcare reform efforts coerce them to pay lip service to the bailiwick of bottom-line expense management where Supply Chain traditionally wallows.

ABC’s survey reported that the C-suite seems to be returning once again to its comfort zone, focusing on revenue growth over cost-cutting as a top priority.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone because most CEOs have focused on generating revenue more than anything else — unless they came up through Supply Chain – because that’s what they see as their defining role.

Today, Supply Chain costs increasingly involve non-salary expenses dominated by what’s classified now as “purchased services” that include third-party labor costs. As a result, Supply Chain costs are poised to overtake Labor as the leading expense channel in an organization. Based on that prevailing trend, if the CEO and CFO are not concentrating on data beyond accounting, billing and revenue, then a Chief [Insert successor to “Supply Chain” here] Officer must either to fill that void or risk the fate of the organization.

Retaining the CPO designation, however, may provide an answer as “Provision” represents a more positive valuation and explanation of the profession. After all, the word “provision” can serve as a noun and a verb, representing a store or supply of something, satisfying an existing or even future demand or need.

Think about Chief Provision Officer (CPO) or Director/(Executive/Senior) Vice President, Provisions, as the next-generation label because it truly compliments form and function, elevating the profession beyond a supportive perch.

About the Author

Rick Dana Barlow | Senior Editor

Rick Dana Barlow is Senior Editor for Healthcare Purchasing News, an Endeavor Business Media publication. He can be reached at [email protected].