As CIO and Chief Supply Chain Officer, Praveen Chopra realized that to succeed in supply chain, succeeding in IT would be a must.
Praveen Chopra worked in supply chain in consulting for Accenture, and at The Home Depot for a number of years before early 2005 when he took over that function for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a nearly $2 billion pediatric healthcare group with three hospitals and 17 neighborhood locations in Greater Atlanta. As he recognized that the success of supply chain was increasingly dependent on system integration, data integrity, and other key aspects typically run by the IT department, he determined that tight integration between IT and supply chain was a must. After a series of conversations with the CFO of the company, Chopra took over responsibility of IT as CIO in early 2006 while keeping his supply chain responsibilities. He had a deep foundation in technology dating back to his undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering, but continuing through to his deep collaborations with CIOs over the years. As a result, Chopra was able to transition successfully to the CIO-plus role, and to garner tremendous value at the nexus between IT and supply chain, as he highlights in my interview below.
(This is the ninth in the CIO-plus series. To read the prior eight interviews with the CIO-pluses from Waste Management, McKesson, Merck, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Ameristar Casinos, Owens Corning, Marsh & McLennan, and ADP, please click this link. To receive notice about future interviews in the series with CIO-pluses of the San Francisco Giants, and P&G, please click visit the column’s page. in the weeks to come.)
Let’s start with a little history, Praveen. Since 2000, you have been a supply chain executive. How did you find your way into supply chain, and what are the differences between managing the supply chain for a major retailer (The Home Depot) versus a healthcare organization (your current employer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)?
When I was consulting, I became curious about supply chain. What attracted me was the ability to look beyond functional boundaries in an organization to improve the flow of products and information. I took a chance and with a little bit of luck, got involved with supply chain engagements at major corporations. I loved it and never looked back after that. Interestingly, I find the supply chain discipline to be similar across industries. It’s the drivers that make it different and complex. At The Home Depot, the focus was on product assortment, product volume, and distribution of the vendors and stores. At Children’s the focus is on the time sensitivity, availability and expiration of supplies which are necessary to help kids, and to make their lives better.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- You joined Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta as the Supply Chain head, and you added the CIO responsibilities a year later. Was it daunting to assume the additional responsibilities considering you had not worked in an IT department formally?
- What is it about the supply chain experience that leant itself well to taking over IT as well?
- Do you have two separate teams for IT and for supply chain, or are there any other members of your team who wear both hats?
- The extent to which others will follow your lead and take responsibility for these two functions simultaneously, do you think more will start as CIOs and add the supply chain responsibility or will your path will be the more common, and why?
- For CIOs who have the ambition to take a supply chain leadership role, as well, what advice would you offer them?
- Now that you have had both roles at once, could you foresee a time when you would work for an organization “just” as the CIO?