Ulrich Piepel is the Chief Procurement Officer at innogy SE. Ulrich is passionate about automation and is working to digitally transforming innogy SE’s procurement department, turning it from a processing center into a trusted business partner. In this interview, he explains how he’s doing it and what he’s learned along the way.
How is procurement changing in your organization?
We’ve worked hard to shift procurement towards becoming a more value-adding organization over the past decade. We’ve done this by trying to automate and digitize everything we can, allowing my team to focus on value-adding work rather than manual processes. To make this happen we’re measuring ourselves using automation KPIs so that everyone is striving towards the same goals.
What skills are required to drive change?
You must be a visionary. If you can’t picture what you want the future to look like you’ll never make change happen. Once you’ve set the vision, you must lead with compassion. You’ll often find that most people resist change as they’re worried about what it means for their role. So you must help them understand that change is positive and that it’ll benefit them overall. It’s difficult and takes a lot of time and communication.
What have you learned on the journey?
You must have the courage to use the most innovative tools available — even if they’re different from what you’re used to. You must also always make sure you run pilots in a controlled environment to see the impact the tools will have. The projects I’ve seen fail the most are those that attempt to transform the entire company in one action.
How has Tradeshift helped you digitally transform?
We adopted Tradeshift because of its network. This allowed us to quickly connect to all our suppliers and start changing processes quickly. We’re also impressed by how fast Tradeshift innovates and delivers new functionality.
Going forward, I believe Tradeshift has the right vision and we’re excited to see how they can support us as we move to the next stage of our transformation.
What does success look like?
Success is when procurement is a true business partner that is trusted by budget holders to help them spend better. If we can get 75% of the company thinking this way, we’ll be very happy.
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