Adam Brown’s previous position at BT, where he transformed and digitised procurement at the telco giant was “a bit of a whirlwind”, the Procurement Platform Technology Leader, A.P. Moller-Maersk explains.
Indeed, the difference in the organisational setup at Maersk when he joined to head up the Procurement Technology Platform in May 2022 was very different and incredibly new by comparison. “I walked into this brand-new technology organisation that was actively being created and transformed around me. It was a truly exciting prospect.”
Most procurement organisations have a digital procurement team accountable for the reporting, analytics, data, insights, e-catalogues and the running of the sourcing tools. “That team owns the digital infrastructure for your procurement organisation and they run it and optimise it,” Brown details. It’s a familiar set-up.
Procurement at Maersk is very different. Maersk’s overarching technology operational model is fairly close to Amazon’s in that there are very defined product owners and this extends to the way in which procurement operates too. “If you were Apple, they have a product owner for the iPhone,” Brown explains. “We have the same thing at Maersk, and those product owners are aligned to the technology products and solutions we are delivering.”
Maersk’s global procurement organisation is located in 10 different locations globally and supports the company’s vision of becoming the global integrator of container logistics. Rather than a big single tech division that supports everybody with everything, Maersk is split into independent technology divisions or platforms, each of which supports a function of the wider business.
Digital Procurement Strategy
Brown runs a technology division, whose sole responsibility is to support the procurement function and the source-to-pay process. “And so within this platform, I’ve got that single-threaded leadership that’s able to deploy or build or change any technology required,” he reveals. “If I’ve got a prioritisation to go and deliver a business outcome, I’m entirely focused, with zero distractions, to build everything needed under one roof. You soon realise that if you want to really get into digitisation and transformation, you need to start thinking about it as owning, builing or deploying products. We truly partner with the business on what they need to help shape what the product experience should be.”
According to Brown, there are three main points relating to this operational model at Maersk. These are product ownership capability, technology capability, and process capability. And what makes them conceptually different is that Brown and his team aren’t limited to buying third-party solutions. “I’m not restricted to managing and changing processes from within the company. I also get to build technology from scratch.”
“We want to be able to create our capability,” is the guiding aim underpinning Maersk’s vision. “It’s not just buying and deploying third parties, and not merely changing process,” Brown explains. “It’s really maximising whatever we do. We want to be really enabling, and to have our own software engineers and data science capability. We want to be able to do absolutely anything.”
Brown went to work defining the language of digital procurement capabilities at Maersk. His aim was to get colleagues to actually start talking about digital capabilities in a sensible format on how they digitise rather than simply saying, ‘Oh, I need this specific product, or use that particular company.’ “I wanted to create that commonality of language and description so we have a common approach. Let’s talk about the outcomes you want, and then let’s talk about what digital capabilities would deliver on those. And then once we’ve figured out the capability needed to do this, we can then talk about solutions. It’s a case of shifting minds, vocabularies and thought processes.”
Once Brown had a clear idea of what was needed in terms of digital procurement, he soon became a full-time recruitment consultant for most of the first year. When Brown joined Maersk he was the first employee in this new organisation. A little over a year later that number had swelled to 84 people.
“I think I did about 260-something interviews last year,” he laughs. “When you get an opportunity to build your own team, everybody gets excited, which is wonderful. However, you want to create a team of people that you really like. You don’t want to exclusively employ the most incredibly intelligent people without consideration for the dynamic. You want a champion team, not a team of champions. You’re actually going to want to sit there and have a really good time with these people. So, you want the intelligence, the capability and the skills and experience, but you also need those personality fits. And that’s why that recruitment drive took a lot of effort.”
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