• Estimated read time: 5 mins
  • Date posted:05/11/2018
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Dean Bennett’s career in Procurement has been rich and varied. He spent the past nine years leading transformational cost-saving projects for leading Life Science organisations and, before that, fifteen years as a technology consultant for iconic firms and consultancies. In this, our first #FDInsights blog, we catch up with Dean and find out his thoughts on procurement in the Life Science industry, its future, and his favourite subject, zero-based budgeting.

His interview will cover:

  • Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB): What is the key to success?
  • What challenges does Procurement face in Life Sciences?
  • What challenges does Procurement face when it comes to talent?
  • What does the future hold for the Procurement function?
  • What bit of advice would you give your peers?

Dean’s Story

Dean’s success stemmed from humble beginnings. Starting young, he got his first taste of Procurement at 18, working as a commercial apprentice with Xerox. “I enjoyed the negotiations, and Xerox liked the cost savings, so I set my sights on Procurement” he adds.

Dean stayed faithful to the electronic industry for a further 12 years. During this time, he dabbled with SAP (enterprise) systems, which paved the way for his move into technology consulting with PWC and later, IBM. “My early years were spent in category management and later, leading organisation design and capability development projects”, Dean says.

After ten years as a consultant, Dean found an excellent opportunity with Novartis, his first Pharma-based Procurement role. Using his consulting skills, Dean was tasked with leading an organisational transformation, blending seven Procurement teams into one global unit managing $16bn spend. He was later promoted to Group Head of Procurement Operations, a role he enjoyed with the focus on capability building.

It was this success that led him to the opportunity with the Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda. “My eye for cost reduction provided a fresh opportunity to lead the implementation of Zero-Based Budgeting. It was a great learning experience and enabled me to increase my broader business awareness and network, the results of which were double-digit % reductions in a wide range of G&A categories crucial to Takeda’s growth”.

The Interview

With such wide-ranging procurement and consulting experience across a consortium of industries – CPG, FMCG, Retail, Banking, Oil & Gas, and Pharma — Dean was the perfect person to ask about Procurement in Life Science, where it’s been and where it’s going. Let’s begin.

1. Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB): What is the key to success?

Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB) works by tasking the business budget owners to justify their expense. It starts with a clean sheet rather than the assumption of building upon or justifying last year’s budget. Planning is undertaken at a detailed level, (number of flights, number of meetings planned, etc.) with the intent of forcing everyone to think about how they spend their budgets.

At its heart is a significant mindset change. In an industry where cost management has not always been at the forefront, this change requires considerable effort. A simple example is internal meetings. From talking with other ZBB organisations, this is one area where 30-50% cost reduction can easily be achieved through challenging how often people meet face to face, where they meet, meeting duration, and who needs to attend. My project team and I lived and breathed the new model by operating virtually for over 18 months.

Leadership buy-in and support (walking the talk) is essential to operate in this reduced budgeting environment. I saw great examples of leaders entitled to fly First class who instead opted to fly Business class, and leaders using internal meeting rooms instead of hotel suites to set an example to their peers.

2. What challenges does Procurement face in Life Sciences?

Regulations and rapidly emerging new technologies provide a constant flux of change in Pharma. Increasingly, product marketing approaches are being challenged (outside of the USA, especially), meaning the ability to promote the value of a product to patients is complex.

Procurement plays a vital role in benchmarking and seeking out innovation to help the business connect with the patient. Moreover, the actual nature of the drug development and delivery process is moving rapidly from chemical manufacturing to bio-engineered processes, with greater use of living cells vs manufactured pills. Working with living cells presents challenges relating to their production, transportation, storage, and shelf-life. As a result, supporting the end to end supply chain is increasingly becoming a greater focus for Procurement.

Finally, data is power. While spend analysis and supplier KPIs have always been available, the task now is to provide and act on this. I have seen some great examples of how RPA and AI are being used, not only looking at historical data but also making forward projections. This doesn’t just help manage costs, but also ensures sustainability of supply while helping to mitigate risk.

3. What challenges does Procurement face when it comes to talent?

With increased automation comes greater ability for self-service, enhanced quality, and better speed of information. Consequently, the role of Procurement has come to a tipping point.

The primary role of Procurement should now be to bridge the external marketplace and the needs of the business in a true business partnering sense. Procurement professionals need to pivot into value-adding business partners, by being at the forefront of market side innovation and knowing how and when to marry this with the needs of the business. In this new role, Procurement can significantly boost a company’s competitive edge by providing fast, preferential access to innovations.

4. What does the future hold for the Procurement function?

Over the past 2-3 years, the C-Suite is increasingly using three words: Agility, Pace and Compliance. Procurement has an excellent opportunity to empower these areas using AI and RPA to aid agility and pace of RFPs, POs, contract processing, and information availability.

The advent of crowdfunding and the influence of dotcom businesses also means that the traditional supply base is changing. Procurement needs to find a way to access innovative start-ups and ensure that they can be supported to allow for the sustainable supply of products or services. For the established supply base, the focus should be on continued investment in supplier management and innovation, as well as ensuring supply side compliance and fair working conditions.

5. What bit of advice would you give your peers?

Look beyond your company/industry for insights and innovation that apply every day in your personal life. For example, Booking.com vs a travel agent, or an Amazon-type supply model vs a third party aggregator. LinkedIn and other social platforms provide excellent vehicles to connect and expand your network to harness fresh ideas.

As an example, during my recent ZBB lead role, I used the web and social platforms to search for how ZBB applied across industries and geographies. This enabled me to identify contacts and share lessons learnt. Sharing war stories with others was a great way to build credibility while avoiding pitfalls.

It’s also essential for a Procurement professionals’ credibility to really know your business, the products or services supplied, and also the key financials. I recall a prior CFO always asking us the company stock price when he’d walk in the room.

One simple trick to stay ahead of this is using Google Alerts on your company (and industry) to provide a daily news feed to your inbox. Interestingly, I have often learnt information faster this way than via internal communications.

About Dean Bennett

Dean Bennett is a Procurement and Organizational transformation leader who works with Executive teams to help them shape and deliver functional excellence and cost efficiency.

With over thirty years working for a multitude of global blue chip organisations, Dean’s strength lies in converting consultant jargon, ideas, and statistics into tangible action. He makes change pragmatic by explaining objectives in a way organisations find easy to understand and implement, bringing people on the journey to ensure the change is sustainable.

Dean has led and been party to ground-breaking transformational projects in industries such as Pharmaceuticals, Oil & Gas, and Consulting, which have repeatedly delivered benefits in excess of business cases and investor expectations. With his teams, he has won multiple accolades in recognition of the results from leading professional bodies and institutions.

Dean originates from the UK and is a global citizen, having lived and worked most of his life overseas including China; Japan; Canada and his present home for the past nine years of Switzerland. Explore Dean’s LinkedIn page for more.


For more career advice tailored to senior managers and executives…

* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.