Eva Wimmers at eWorld – Deutsche Telecom embrace Spend Management

At last week's eWorld conference, we were ushered into the large hall for the keynote speech at 9.30am. An attractive young blonde woman, dressed well and fashionably (to my eyes anyway) was fiddling with the microphone - obviously from the conference organisers, I thought. So it was a bit of a shock when she said "Good morning, I'm Eva Wimmers, Senior Vice President Group Procurement for Deutsche Telecom".

You know what they say about policemen looking younger...

Anyway, having got over the shock, her first message got me nodding in violent agreement. "Procurement is a function not a service" was here first slide. We aren't purely a "service to the business" was her message - we have a real and central role in our organisations, we aren't simply about responding to internal client requests, and we shouldn't be measured purely by "savings".  All of that is absolutely spot on.

She then developed that into explaining how procurement's role at Deutsche Telecom (DT) has moved on and how they are now focusing on what they call "Spend Management". She presented the evolution of the function through different stages which she defined in sequence as Order Management, Contract Management, Vendor Management, Strategic Sourcing, Demand Shaping, through to the pinnacle of Spend Management

Now that's when I started getting a little worried and maybe diverging from her views somewhat. She talked a lot about demand management - stopping people spending, or standardising on mobile phones or travel policy, for instance. Now all good stuff, but procurement shouldn't simply be the organisation's "spend police" - what about the role of procurement to identify and work with suppliers who might actually add some innovation to the firm, and drive revenues as well as cost reduction?

It may be partly in the terminology, to be fair. Within "demand shaping", for instance, she talked about the need to let suppliers offer options and ideas and not simply see them as negotiating adversaries. That sounds very much like the sort of approach I would see as part of that ultimate ideal for procurement.

And there is other evidence that procurement at DT does understand this. Having heard - and spoken to - Thomas Holzapfel at the ProcureCon marketing event earlier this year, it was clear that in the marketing services area for example, procurement understands very well the need to segment their approach and look for both cost reduction and added value from strategic suppliers in different cases. So we'll give Wimmers the benefit of the doubt on that.

Wimmers was also good on the skills needed by procurement people. As we move beyond traditional sourcing and negotiating, they must be able to engage in more strategic discussions both with stakeholders - around demand management and business goals - and with suppliers to talk opportunities and ideas. And this is a common issue for many organisations. Not all the people who were considered historically capable buyers can make that transition.

All in all, a good presentation, and that's another CPO we can add to the list of those who have the ability and personal presence to be highly credible at the most senior levels of a major business.

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