Clariant is a multinational specialty chemicals company headquartered in Switzerland, focusing on three core business areas: care chemicals, catalysis and natural resources. It has a strong and ambitious strategy, committing to robust targets around sustainability and placing a strong focus on innovation.
To support this ambitious strategy, procurement developed a transformative vision of its own, reshaping its value proposition to include delivering value beyond savings and driving competitive advantage. To deliver against this, procurement required an engine to drive innovations.
The volatility of the chemicals market means that agility and speed were essential aspects to delivering these innovative projects. Traditional project management techniques did not deliver quickly enough for Clariant’s needs or align closely enough with user requirements.
Consequently, procurement needed a clear structure for developing high impact ideas and a model to deliver them at speed. Solving this required a new, agile, project delivery mechanism and a digital platform to underpin it.
How the platform works
The Agile Marketplace at Procurement is a digital collaboration platform where entrepreneurial thinking and bottom-up ideation is desired and encouraged to foster value creation beyond savings. The framework has been developed around a design thinking approach, building a simple minimum viable product, and making iterative improvements to that foundation.
Ideas raised by users are assessed by users of the platform, rather than approved by a formal committee. Users can apply to join the project team for the idea, and only ideas with enough applicants will go into the development phase.
The project team for each idea delivers in sprints, supported by one of two agile coaches within Clariant’s procurement team. As those involved have to balance their work in those projects with their business-as-usual activities, far more flexibility exists in the timeboxing for each sprint in comparison to the standard two-week windows which characterise a formal scrum methodology. Like such approaches however, Clariant’s project teams focus on starting small, developing prototypes (“skateboards”) and iterating based on user feedback.
Developing the concept and platform
The project began with a four-person team drawn from the procurement management committee with a project management expert taking the role of change driver and coach. This team looked at how agile management methodologies could be applied within Clariant. As they built out a concept for their agile methodology, they consulted closely across the procurement management community within Clariant, engaged in best practice exchanges with other organisations and hired a consultant to provide guidance.
The Agile marketplace has been highly successful. At the time of writing, 11 separate projects are running concurrently, with over 30 ideas in the pipeline and 15 solutions launched. In total, 260 individuals are signed up to the platform, with around 2000 site visits per month. Around 70 users are continuously active and provide a high level of engagement.
The deliverables from the agile marketplace have made a major impact on operational efficiencies within procurement and built a faster, more digitally enabled function. This has put the function in a much stronger place to contribute to the business, but also developed a greater level of speed, and capacity to react, which is key in the volatile specialist chemicals industry.