CPO of Axa Switzerland Almut Schafer is using agile management techniques
CPO of Axa Switzerland Almut Schafer is using agile management techniques

Future role of procurement is as 'trusted advisor'

posted by Katie Jacobs
20 November 2018

The future role of a CPO is to be a “trusted advisor” to the business, according to the CPO of Axa Switzerland Almut Schäfer.

In an interview with the CIPS Switzerland branch, Schäfer said: “I see the role as one that moderates and orchestrates collective intelligence. This will provide optimal leverage of experts within the ecosystem of solutions, and deliver best results. It is about being at the centre of knowing your customer, managing your internal relationships and staying on top of market developments.” 

She added that she was primarily concerned with balancing the sometimes competing tensions of cost optimisation, new collaboration models like agility and increasing complexity in compliance regulatory requirements.

“As the Swiss insurance industry is on the edge of a big digital transformation, our market position is challenge by other competitors and disruptive start-ups entering the market,” she said. “Strong leaders and a collaborative culture are needed to navigate through VUCA [volatile, uncertainty, complex and ambiguous] times.” 

Schäfer shared that she was moving her procurement team into an agile operating model. She has adopted the Kanban principles from lean manufacturing to manage workloads and uses scrum methodology (an agile project management framework) when the team is working on topics such as updating commodities strategies.

“This helps us to swiftly respond to fast and complex changes,” she said. “It’s important to me to have a culture of open feedback and speaking up.”

She said that Axa was about to decommission its current e-procurement tool and move over to a new one, “a colossal change project”.

“There are multiple prerequisites which need to be carefully managed, to provide a foundation before you can really become digital, [like] data quality,” she said. “[Without that] it will be an expensive toy that nobody plays with. We are taking a realistic, step-by-step approach to get it right from the get-go.” 

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