We speak with four senior members of the procurement team at Delivery Hero about building the function from scratch, staying on track in a fast-paced environment, and what it means to be a people-centric business.
At every level, the overall culture at Delivery Hero – the world’s leading local delivery platform – revolves around teamwork. Its successes are due to the many, not the few – particularly when a new procurement function needed to be implemented just a couple of years ago. There simply wasn’t a procurement function at Delivery Hero prior to 2019, meaning an expert team had to be brought in to collaborate and quickly create something that was not just fit-for-purpose, but would help the business thrive.
Enter Dr. David Beyer, VP Global Procurement; Ly Nguyen, Manager, Global Procurement Excellence; Christian Gohlicke, Director Global Marketing & Supply Chain Procurement; and Aref El Khatib, Senior Procurement Manager Real Estate and Workplace.
Beyer brings two perspectives to procurement: consulting experience and a strategic mindset. Much of his background was in strategic consulting, focusing on supply chain optimisation, before he joined European eCommerce business Zalando. At Zalando he supported the set-up of an indirect procurement department, which was established from zero-to-maturity at an impressive rate.
In 2019, Beyer joined Delivery Hero. From the start, his vision – alongside his team – was to create an integrated, customer-centric, procurement-as-a-service department. Alongside him is Ly Nguyen, who has around four-and-a-half years of experience in procurement excellence. She also worked at Zalando – that was her stepping stone – beginning by supporting a variety of projects, before joining a business which provides goods and services for hospitals. Then, she moved to Delivery Hero to build up a team that focuses on managing continuous improvement initiatives, implementing governance, supporting the implementation of new solutions, as well as driving change and communication measures – vital elements for a new function that’s innovating all the time.
Christian Gohlicke’s career has also been very procurement-heavy, starting at Siemens and working across a variety of global roles within direct procurement. For him, company culture quickly became an important factor in working life; his early roles were entrenched in an old-fashioned, corporate structure, and he was striving for a change.
Eventually Gohlicke joined Zalando, like Beyer and Nguyen, helping to build up the category management team alongside the new procurement function. This allowed him to adapt to the needs of a hypergrowth and fast paced company framework, further to identify what is needed to successfully build teams from scratch. In search of bigger challenges, he joined Beyer’s team at Delivery Hero.
Aref El Khatib has worked and lived in four continents. He is passionate about real estate, and has managed several roles, from design and planning to construction and project management, technical consultant to building acquisition, building operations and facility management, before he finally took over responsibility for real estate procurement in Delivery Hero’s new procurement function.
The need for the new procurement function was identified before Beyer joined Delivery Hero as part of an initiative started by the CFO, since procurement is intrinsically linked to finance. “I think the reason for it was twofold,” says Beyer. “One is that the more mature a company is, the better it operates and the better it spends its money. Some of our growth is through M&A and you need money available for that, so saving funds and investing in our growth was one reason. The second is about compliance and risk mitigation, which is easier to develop and mature if you have a department dedicated to dealing with suppliers. We didn’t want a procurement function that sits in an ivory tower – we wanted to be close to our stakeholders, our people. We aim to deliver procurement-as-a-service on a global scope. That was and is our vision.”
Essentially, the main goal is for global procurement to become a brand within Delivery Hero that’s fully integrated into the wider business. “There are also smaller visions,” adds Gohlicke. “What David describes is an overarching picture of our function, but we also try to drill down the importance for the business side being part of our vision objectives. That might need slight adjustments on the journey along the way. Just recently we looked into a more granular picture of what this vision means for category management, for example, and then you might also have to drill down further into how to tackle that.”
From Nguyen’s perspective, being customer-centric is a huge priority on the excellence side. “In this fast-paced environment we’re operating in, we still take time to get input from stakeholders and improve what we’re doing,” she says. “So, we’re sending out questionnaires and making sure we’re in regular contact with our customers, in order to improve the processes we have.” This allows the team to measure satisfaction through NPS scores.
Delivery Hero is, indeed, a fast-paced environment, which makes it all the more admirable that Beyer’s team has created a successful procurement function while making sure the business hasn’t slowed down – and during a global pandemic, no less. The key for this has been having a framework in place, as Nguyen explains.
“We developed a framework which we took to different countries and explained the role of procurement and our plans for it. We have a number of specific procurement cornerstones we’re focusing on, and that makes it easier for all the countries and regions to understand what we’re planning. We’re always in close alignment with them and we always consider their needs, while keeping in mind the big picture and the global template we’re striving for.”
Beyer adds: “It’s about harmonisation, not necessarily standardisation.” A challenging balance to achieve, but by no means impossible for a business as efficient and streamlined as Delivery Hero. Certain measures had to be adapted to work around COVID-19, of course, but progress on the new procurement function has marched on largely unimpeded.
“There hasn’t been a big impact on the way we work,” says El Khatib. Stakeholder relationships have been upheld and tended to effectively thanks to a more digital way of working. If anything, Beyer’s team is actually more efficient as a result of the pandemic than it might have been without it, due to the acceleration of the use of digital tools. Lengthy phone calls and emails are now avoided in favour of video software and collaborative, instant communication tools like Slack.
This has been one of the main advantages to digital adoption, so far. The technological part of the transformation is an upcoming phase Beyer’s team is preparing for right now, and the plan is to create a very integrated, seamless digital landscape – after all, digitalisation and organisational development go hand-in-hand. The goal is also to avoid too many standalone tools, but rather have something that works across the board right from the start. There are exceptions, though, like two chatbots that have been introduced and have already made improvements from an operational and stakeholder management perspective.
“We put a lot of focus on continuous improvement, and we’re looking into the digital side in parallel,” says El Khatib. That key phrase – continuous improvement – isn’t one that’s just thrown around by Delivery Hero. A lot of businesses talk about it, but sometimes that means a monthly update meeting and little else. For Delivery Hero, which truly is extremely fast-paced, the team simply cannot wait for the perfect solution, meaning continuous improvement is a must and processes are being optimised at regular intervals. End-to-end thinking is vital. “We just need to implement a good way of working,” says Beyer. “And if something isn’t working well, we change.”
This is also important from the perspective of working well as a team. If people are used to moving – and expected to move – very quickly, they can’t be held up. Alongside their daily jobs, they individually look after procurement excellence projects and get time and autonomy over them, creating an agile working environment where everyone is valued.
“It allows people to take ownership,” says Gohlicke. “There’s always a place for bringing new ideas; everyone is part of the journey. That’s super important to us because– none of us could do it alone. What we’ve achieved is the whole team’s success.”
“We are a global organisation,” adds Nguyen, “So, what we wanted to build up is a network of procurement experts. It’s not just the central office coming up with ideas on how to improve processes or systems, it’s everyone. We are in constant exchange across regions, and everyone provides ideas on how to improve things.” This ongoing communication is a big part of why this procurement transformation has proven so successful within a digital-native tech company. “We are only halfway right now,” Nguyen continues, “but the landscape we’ve created, the collaboration, and the integrated systems we’re using have cemented our success.”
As a main focus of its culture, the business is always striving to do better for the customers, which is why the entire team is looking upwards to improve, all the time. It’s part of the DNA, so of course procurement has followed suit. In fact, being in procurement gives Beyer’s team an edge – it’s a normal part of their mindset to put themselves in the shoes of the internal customer, and another part of the culture at Delivery Hero is openness with feedback, so the channels for speaking to those stakeholders are always open. The business has to be flexible, it has to use its data well and be driven by that as a tech-based company, and it has to value the people side of procurement. These are absolute necessities for Beyer’s team in particular.
“Caring for people is super important as a business,” says Gohlicke. “You might think, hey, it’s a tech company, they’re in hyper growth, it’s fast-paced – but creating a great work environment for our employees and building relationships is key to our success.” Outside of the way teams operate and the relationships with stakeholders, this also includes honouring the fact that some parts of the business are newer than others. As previously mentioned, Delivery Hero does a lot of acquisition and as a global business, it stands to reason that teams in different countries also operate differently.
“You have to understand, when dealing with people, that you’re building relationships and trust based on the understanding that you’re going in the same direction,” Gohlicke continues.
This extends to seeking out new talent. At Delivery Hero, and certainly within the procurement team, the type of person someone is can be as important as their experiences or qualifications, because they need to enjoy working in a fast-paced, people-centric environment. In turn, they’re well looked after; it’s a demanding environment, but team members are rewarded with great leadership and having their voices heard.
“Recognition means so much, because they’re getting rewarded for what they’re investing,” says El Khatib. “We have check-ins all the time and encourage 360-degree feedback. In the same way that we do customer surveys, as Ly said, we survey our employees to make sure they’re getting everything they need from their role.”
It also extends to partnerships, which are a vital element of Delivery Hero’s success. Beyer says: “We are on a journey to develop a fully integrated global function that delivers procurement as a service. In this sense we also want to act as the primary provider for business insight and business foresight. This is why our partnership with Infiniti Research is important for us. Comprehensive – often individualised – reports support our buyers in making best decisions for Delivery Hero.”
The road ahead
With the transformation of procurement ongoing, this function can expect to continue evolving for some time. It has very much started out as a corporate function and, step-by-step, Beyer’s team is onboarding the rest of the world. The house of brands Delivery Hero represents is being incorporated into the global organisation it aims to be. Beyer explains: “On the one hand, delivering procurement-as-a-service over the next year is key – but we need to ask the question, how do we do that? How can we deliver on our promise in this hyper-growth environment? We need to be very conscious about that, and make sure we grow as a global organisation with understanding of local needs, keeping our focus on automation and efficiency.”
As a global procurement function, “we’re still not fast enough,” Gohlicke confirms. “We’re super-fast in comparison to other companies building that global procurement function, but not quite there. What drives us is especially the business side of things, where the market is only getting more competitive, and you have to adapt as a procurement function if you want to create value towards your internal customers. True global category management is for sure one of the focus areas over the next couple of months, but it has to fit into the way the business side of things is supported the best way and reflect our international company set up. I’m confident we have the right tools and team to tackle this.”
For Nguyen, efficiency is also the main point of concentration. “That’s where my team is stepping in,” she says. “We have covered half the world already with our organisation, and we need to expand more, but efficiency is what allows us to keep up with the speed our business is growing.”