Interview
26/03/2024

10 questions for... a procurement professional

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Today in an interview: Nils Honerla, Director Procurement and new member of the Burda Procurement management team. Here he reveals how he approaches his new position, overcomes challenges - and what Batwoman has to do with it.

Congratulations, dear Nils! You were promoted internally in January and are now the new Managing Director of Burda Procurement, succeeding Roman Misere. What did you do before and what is important to you in your new role?

Firstly, thank you for the kind words. My professional life has always been defined by procurement.  This led me from a procurement consultancy role at KPMG to Burda Procurement, where I have been working since 2017. I was very fortunate to be able to help shape the transformation of Burda Procurement together with Roman and to successfully complete various projects, such as the implementation of our digital procurement solution Coupa. But the future also holds a number of challenges. Challenges that I, as the new Managing Director of Burda Procurement, can now proactively tackle - such as the AI transformation. I am already looking forward to these challenges. With an analytical approach, the power of the tried and tested and a strong team behind me with Daniela Vorbauer on the board, we are open to new ideas and that has already been a lot of fun in the first few weeks. 

Your team has clearly defined which values are important to you in the "Culture Deck". Can you briefly explain what these are and how you bring them to life as a team on a daily basis?  

Our culture at Procurement by Burda is based on the four core values of entrepreneurship, innovation, collaboration and joy, as well as basic values that define the way we operate as a procurement organisation, our teamwork and our collaboration with our clients. Of course, this is not just a set of words, but something that we live and breathe. True to the motto: "We have to do what we say. And we have to be what we do." That's why our Culture Deck is so central to the way we work and is part of our recruitment process. It helps us to see in advance if someone is a good fit for us, or if we are a good fit for them. 

You have a superhero on your homepage as a mascot. What are your superpowers?  

Our Batwoman is an evolution of our earlier Batman figure and symbolises how we see ourselves as a purchasing department in our Group. Like Batman, who works in the dark to protect the good, we as a purchasing team work together behind the scenes to secure and strengthen the Group. Again, to uphold this metaphor, we want to be a shield and ensure that purchases are made efficiently, economically and in line with our corporate values. We want to be a tough but also cooperative negotiating partner, responsive to the needs of our specialist areas and innovative in meeting the challenges of rapidly changing market conditions. With these superpowers, we want to help our Group achieve success and always be one step ahead. Just like Batwoman.   

Your predecessor Roman Miserre had a major influence on Burda Procurement and established an entrepreneurial approach to procurement as a "place to be". Where will you set your priorities?  

As I've been on board since 2017 and have been part of the management team in building up Purchasing as it is today, the current focus will not be on changing the tried and tested. It will be much more important to remain exactly that "place to be". To continue to convince the best people that our team is the right place for them and to be a strong partner for our company, even in these turbulent times. As Dr Kallen said in his New Year address, a lack of cost management will quickly threaten our existence in the future. This makes a well positioned and entrepreneurial purchasing department all the more important. 

Procurement not only keeps the business running, but also plays a key role in achieving the company's most important goals. What are the biggest challenges for you in 2024? 

We continue to face significant challenges due to the impact of inflation and high paper and energy prices. In this economic environment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to make additional savings. On the supplier side, we are increasingly faced with (artificial) monopolies, and we must succeed in thinking as a group and overcome the challenges together. At the same time, AI also has an impact on the performance and cost structure of our suppliers, and understanding and evaluating this will keep us very busy in 2024. In addition, the topic of sustainability and in particular the implementation of sustainability criteria in the evaluation of suppliers, is highly relevant.  

What makes you lose your cool and how do you keep a clear head when things get a bit turbulent?  

As I am said to have a certain objectivity, fortunately nothing upsets me so quickly.  

What advice has been particularly helpful to you on your own career path so far and what tips would you give to people starting out in their careers? 

You have to experience things and, above all, make mistakes yourself in order to really learn from them. In most cases, it's more a problem of not understanding rather than knowledge.  

Also focus on the essential things and say 'no' sometimes. In addition, read a lot, stay curious, never stop learning and don't get caught out by thinking it's enough to just deal with things superficially.  

What role does AI play in your everyday life and what tools do you use in the world of procurement?  

The impact of AI is also becoming more and more apparent in our everyday lives. However, when I look at the last 12 months, I have the impression that we tend to overestimate the short-term impact and at the same time underestimate the impact that AI will have in 3-5 years - we are laying the groundwork today to ensure that we will still be successful and relevant in 3-5 years' time. We have been working intensively with AI in purchasing from an early stage and have entered into a development partnership with the Munich-based start-up "askLio", with whom we are jointly developing a digital purchasing assistant. For you, our Coupa users, askLio has been live since January 2024.  

What do you look out for when you are out and about as a private shopper, i.e. customer? Do you shop more locally or and what is important to you in the "procurement process"? 

Private "shopping" is not a hobby of mine. But if I have to do it, then it's old-school and offline. I value good advice and not too much choice. 

Speaking of work-life balance, what's the best way to switch off in your free time?   

I grew up by the Baltic Sea, so I love the sea. As an early riser, I get up at 5 a.m. at sunrise on holiday to go fishing in the middle of the Bay of Lübeck. At the weekends, my wife and I like to go hiking in the mountains with our dog.

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More images & downloads

Nils was promoted to Managing Director of BurdaProcurement in January © jmk photography

Top sparring partner: Daniela Vorbauer, Director Sourcing © jmk photography

The two have also travelled to the North Cape in Norway together © private

Nils enjoys hiking in Austria with Lotta, his Appenzeller mountain dog © private

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