CPO Strategy
Executive Insights

William Hill “We partner, we grow”

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David Medori, Chief Procurement Officer at William Hill reveals how strategic procurement is aiding the global gaming giant… by Andrew Woods

During 2018, 600 million bets were placed with William Hill, further establishing its reputation as a world leader in gaming. Employing more than 15,500 people in 10 countries, the 85-year-old bookmaker and games provider is continually innovating new and engaging ways to bet and game, whether in shops, sports books, online or mobile devices. William Hill is a proud sponsor of many events and teams across a global sporting stage, and recently inked a deal with the National Hockey League in the US as the “Official Sports Betting Partner of the NHL”.

 
The UK business accounts for the majority of the brand’s business last year, but the share of its international revenues is rising as it continues to grow as a digitally-led, internationally diverse gambling company. In recent years, William Hill has become licensed to deliver online betting and gaming in Italy (2011) and Spain (2012) respectively and has been operating in the US since 2012 as more states look to regulate sports betting.

Leading a procurement function in this world-renowned brand and operating on varying platforms in differing geographies is no easy task, whether your requirement is software, hardware or professional services. William Hill’s Chief Procurement Officer, David Medori, is responsible for procurement of all third-party goods and services, covering indirect and direct procurement. We met up with David at William Hill’s brand-new headquarters in Tottenham Court Rd, London, to see how the procurement function is transforming under his leadership.

“I thought I knew what fast and dynamic was before,” says the man with a proven track record in the procurement space featuring stints in Automotive, Financial Services and Retail, “But this is a different level. The marketplace is so dynamic, there’s so much aggressive competition and there’s limited customer loyalty, so we have to be really, really competitive to be able to move forward.”  The industry is highly regulated and compliance and reputation in this market is critical which is another point to factor in all sourcing activity.

When David started in May 2018, he found a procurement function that he described as ‘traditional’. Now, procurement is firmly on the board agenda. “William Hill worked on a broad transformation strategy and one of the initiatives was to implement a strategic procurement function. That’s how my role came about.”

David categorises his procurement into GNFR (goods not for resale) and direct procurement. “Technology, Marketing & Sponsorship, Gaming & Content, Business Services and Facilities Management.  We’ve got almost two and a half thousand shops in the UK, so they need to be maintained.” David and his team cover the entire William Hill operation.  In the direct space, he has responsibility for gaming and content. “Gaming could be the actual physical machines that you see in the shops,” he explains. “Online, will be games from big software developers or from smaller agile development houses. There’s content, which is all the sports streaming data as well. So, there’s a lot to be bought.”


William Hill was undergoing a transformation in business strategy when David joined and so it was imperative that procurement was transformed to complement this. “I did a complete review of the current structure and how we were integrated into the business using the feedback and my own technical assessment. Then, we moved towards what the business needed from procurement. We needed to make sure we were aligned to the business strategy, so I did a fit-versus-needs analysis, in terms of where we were and where we wanted to go. I restructured the whole department. It was a big change in terms of function branding and marketing, roles, responsibilities, job titles and job descriptions.”  But this was just the very start.

Following the departmental restructure and subsequent recruitment, David set about defining a new vision, mission statement and strategy for procurement. “I did an offsite workshop with the team and consulted various different stakeholders in the business to create and develop a new overarching vision, which is simply: ‘We partner, we grow.’ This vision drives everything. We partner with our stakeholders and suppliers.  We have a growth mindset as a team while in parallel helping to grow the group’s top and bottom lines through driving innovation from our supply base. The strategy is then built around four key pillars: the team itself, because that’s the driver for everything we do; the suppliers, stakeholders, and processes/systems. A huge amount of detailed work has gone into developing each of our four strategic pillars (team, stakeholders, suppliers and process/systems/automation). The function is now firmly embedded into the business.  It is strategic and partnership driven with all 3rd party initiatives flowing through Procurement, which is now very much a value add function. We’ve only been in place for just over a year – we have transformed.”


The biggest challenges in transforming procurement at William Hill were linked to stakeholder perception, because the previous iteration wasn’t considered strategic. “The way we were perceived wasn’t great, so it was changing that perception to what I would call now, a dynamic, partner-led procurement function. We are now part of the functional teams and sought after, more than just procurement. We are a part, and key member, of those teams.” Injecting a huge dose of “personality” into the newly formed Procurement team and allowing that personality to flourish as part of stakeholder management has been key to Procurement becoming integrated into the functions.

A procurement transformation
One of David’s first requirements was to capture and use the available data in a pro-active, more automated and meaningful way.  There was some data in the function, in terms of spend, but it needed to be put into an analytics formula to provide good insight intelligence to Category Managers and Heads of Category. That wasn’t done on day one because the planned systems by David inherently take time to implement. “I didn’t want any blind spots in the procurement team. In terms of systems, I’m embarking on a new procurement-to pay-system that goes live this year. The second piece is a source-to-pay suite covering contract management, supplier information management and full sourcing module.”

Procurement success at an enterprise like William Hill clearly comes down to numbers: pounds, dollars, whatever the local currency is. David and his colleagues are saving money and significantly ahead of target. From the beginning of 2019, there has been a step change improvement in both savings, cash flow and cost avoidance. “We’re ahead on all those metrics,” David explains, pleased with the progress made through stakeholder engagement and innovation. “Where I and the team have really landed well, isn’t just doing great solid procurement and category management – we still need to do that, as that’s our bread and butter – but it’s more around the innovation and how we create new ideas, identify best practices and bring real innovation from the marketplace straight into the business. We have started to have a different dialogue with the stakeholders and have implemented quite a few of those different initiatives. One of the many things kicked off, was a major supplier optimisation program. This was mainly around technology but has since been launched in facilities management too; bringing all our partners together and discussing, in an open forum, our objectives, challenges and what we’re trying to do as a business in terms of strategy. This has helped accelerate innovation, consolidation and ultimately driving incremental savings. What really takes procurement to a level of excellence, for me, is innovation. It’s doing stuff which helps the business gain competitive advantage and for me that’s not doing things the same old way. It’s doing things in a better way, if there is a better way. You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone and bring that best practice in-house. That is what would constitute excellence and behind that, you need to have a highly driven, motivated procurement team as well.”


A challenging environment

With an enterprise as large and vast as William Hill, there are plenty of challenges to the procurement function related to building functional capability in different geographies. “We’re brown field here (Europe), but we’re green field in the US, with regards to procurement,” David explains. William Hill is also busy eyeing up new acquisitions as seen in the recent purchase of Mr Green, an online gaming company, based in Malta and Sweden.

The procurement team is centralised but is also site and category specific to ensure full integration with the varied stakeholders and functions across Leeds, London, Gibraltar, Malta, Krakow, Milan, Madrid, Las Vegas, New Jersey and Manila. “If I look at the US, that’s a completely green field procurement site for us, where we are building capability very fast. I developed a complete global function, buying on behalf of the Group’s requirements.  We’ve moved from a model where we were global, to a global function with excellent local sourcing ability in different markets. We’ve met this by putting head count in geographically and operating to a new policy, process and way of working. That linkage sees us come together as a team on a regular basis.  We’ve achieved a lot around synergies, particularly the acquisition of Mr Green, and we’ve done a huge piece of work in terms of the integration, working with suppliers and implementing synergies through key negotiations driving incremental savings.”

Clearly, partnerships with suppliers and our internal partners are integral to the procurement strategy at William Hill. “We have a vision of: ‘We partner, we grow’. We want our partners to grow with William Hill, and to develop partnerships fostering cost down and innovation rather than just transactional supplier relationships. We segment the supply base and conduct extremely robust third-party risk assurance on a monthly basis across multiple metrics.” David has also implemented a Supplier Management Framework for procurement and the business, illustrating practical best practice driven from his previous knowledge of best practice in the Supply Chain when he gained his PhD in this field.  The QBRs and service review meetings revolve around ensuring SLAs are met but also drive new ideas, innovation, and savings/revenue generating opportunities.


David and his team are implementing more strategic supplier relationships, adding more value by driving the right commercial deal that enables a more digitally led and competitive solution; a recent example being the tearing up of an existing agreement which wasn’t enabling the right behaviour or investment from the supplier or William Hill to transform its Digital Retail offering to ultimately the detriment of both parties. The new negotiated deal encompasses a completely new digital solution that will transform the Retail betting shop experience while also saving millions of pounds. This was initiated, led and implemented by Procurement. The ability to develop compelling business cases driven from our category strategies and sell to the business is fundamental to the new procurement strategy and team.  This has enabled a step change in the performance and perception of what good procurement can really do.  This is Global Procurement now at William Hill.

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