LafargeHolcim CPO on how to get ahead in procurement

11 October 2017

CPOs share their views on procurement's biggest issues

Uwe Wehnes is chief procurement officer at Swiss-based building materials manufacturer LafargeHolcim. As part of a series of CPO interviews being carried out by the CIPS Switzerland branch and published on SM, Wehnes shares his thoughts on how procurement professionals can get ahead and make a difference.

Here are three of his key lessons.

Focus on your team

When asked what his one piece of advice would be for the procurement leader of tomorrow, Wehnes says there is a single element, which might sound obvious but is “always challenging to implement”. It is: “Dedicate maximum time to building the right team.”

He adds: “Always make sure that there is engagement and strong collaboration between all procurement members at all levels of the organisation; and that team members from the countries are participating in the process of decision making, to create a strong spirit of being one team even in matrix organisations.”

At his organisation, focus is on developing and driving forward the centralised procurement function. “It is mainly about the people, how we train and develop our talented members in order to reach next levels of the functional excellence,” he says.

Be visible

There are two key things procurement professionals need to avoid at all costs, according to Wehnes: “Building ivory towers that promote silo thinking; and detachment from internal customers”. Being detached and invisible could mean being locked out of important decisions.

“We focus a lot on enabling procurement visibility on the top management level to steer mid and long-term strategies in order to successfully unlock sustainable value for and with our business partners,” says Wehnes, of his organisation.

He adds: “The CPO role has changed quite a bit during the last 10 to 15 years. The perception and the role of the function has been transformed from a back office support into a truly value adding provider that has its place in key corporate agendas. But, there is still a way to go, especially when it comes to getting on CEOs’ agendas. CPOs’ main challenge is likely to remain in the areas of building, and creating internal and external networks to enable intelligent stakeholder orchestration. Everyone in the context of his or her business reality should seek unique ways of transforming the function from a cost centre to a profit centre.”

Be open to change

The next generation of procurement professionals “should be prepared to face the new kind of challenges in a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity”, says Wehnes.

Some change will come through technology, but Wehnes does not fear automation. Rather he believes some roles will get “much stronger”, thanks to “analytics, automation and process digitisation”. But he doesn’t think the human element will ever disappear: “As soon as we talk about relationship management between two parties or companies, there are always human beings being involved and it is hard to believe that this will ever change.”

This CPO interview is part of a series from Swiss-based global procurement leaders, carried out by CIPS Switzerland. Switzerland is home to some of the most successful multi-national companies and NGOs. CIPS Switzerland offers best practice events, workshops and networking opportunities. 

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