In this episode of the BTG Insights on Demand podcast, we present a conversation between Adam Zellner of BTG and David Latten, the head of Global Indirect Procurement at Logitech.
With products sold in almost every country in the world, Logitech has developed into a multi-brand company designing products that bring people together through music, gaming, video and computing. Brands of Logitech include Logitech, Logitech G, ASTRO Gaming, Ultimate Ears, Jaybird, Blue Microphones, and Streamlabs.
As the head of Global Indirect Procurement, David sourced the software and services that power Logitech's work, including professional services and now—with the addition of an on-demand talent program that David helped establish—high-end independent professionals like those in the BTG marketplace.
Listen to the episode to hear David discuss his role building the indirect procurement function according to a modern 21st century idea of what procurement should be—as well as the role that on-demand talent play in helping Logitech complete critical work, bring expertise in-house, and do more with less. You can also read our lightly edited transcript of the chat below.
Welcome to the podcast, David. It's great to have you.
Thank you, Adam. It's great to be here.
I'd love to have you tell us a little bit about your role as Head of Global Indirect Procurement. I recently heard an interview where you mentioned that the function is relatively new within Logitech, which has allowed you and your colleagues to build it according to a modern 21st century idea of what procurement should be. Can explain what that means and how has it affected the way in which you approach your role and your team's role within the organization?
Sure. Yeah, that's right. I think as recently as six years ago now, indirect procurement as a function didn't really exist in Logitech. We had some headcounts that were controlling processes, supplier setups, etc., but it was a very process-oriented function. It wasn't there as a value provider as we aim to be today. And that of course had some challenges in the early days as you're starting from a standing start, but really it's an exciting opportunity and it's what brought me to this role actually. I come from a finance background originally—I was at Logitech in a finance role—but I was really excited by the opportunity to be a fresh pair of eyes coming to procurement, fresh at the time, to a department that we're really building from the ground up.
And we've come a long way in those six years. Probably following fairly typical procurement maturity pathways, we've evolved into a strategic sourcing team primarily, so that we partner in our large spend areas with our largest suppliers to make sure they're sourced correctly for value, performance, minimizing risks, etc.—and that's great. We're providing some really good savings number to the business by doing that, but we certainly want to go further than that.
By the very nature of what I've just explained, that's quite a reactive function in a way, where people come to us with sourcing projects and we do just that. We're a tool so that we do that project and we make sure it's done correctly. I'm certainly looking to evolve a bit further than that, and enter into typical procurement value drivers, such as strategic supplier management—which all the best in class functions are doing. We're starting to do that, but really it all starts from a position of we're there to bring value to the business.
As much as anything, we're quite driven that we need to be externally focused. We're never going to spend 80% of our time speaking externally, versus 20% internally, but that's kind of a guiding aim. The underlying concept of that is the most important thing: that we're a sort of pivot point between all the internal requirements, priorities, challenges—and we should be a pivot point to all those possible external solutions.
Bringing the business new ways of doing things is something that I've always strived for my team to be doing, and we've had some success there. That may be as a result of looking at things differently, and that we've built the team from the ground up. With my perspective as a non-procurement person, really, who has now had six years leading procurement, the team that we have, and the movement of procurement with digitalization and technology, we perhaps look at things slightly differently. The relationship piece is becoming so important and the business acumen piece is becoming so important that we're as much thinking that we're looking to be a value provider for the business. That can be traditional procurement, or it can be looking for new ways of doing things too.
As you talk about the maturity, the evolution, the path you're on, and the aspirations you have for the function, I'm wondering if you could describe how you typically engage with the business to support their initiatives and where you hope to get to in terms of the long-term partnership with different business groups within Logitech?
Yeah, it happens probably two ways, really. There's a pretty traditional setup in the sense that in my team, we have procurement partners looking after some of our major spend areas—marketing, IT, workplace services, professional services—and they partner with the relevant people across the business. That's probably the strategic sourcing piece that I speak about that. That's been there since the start. Learning to walk as a department and getting some value being created—that was our first aim, to really start doing that sort of procurement 1.0 kind of approach.
But I think more widely than that, we benefit as a team that Logitech is a very flat organization. I report direct into our someone on our CEO's leadership team and also have a lot of connections with people at that leadership team level, or the leadership team level minus one. So that really does give me a fascinating position, and one that I think it’s a real privilege to have. That I do have a lot of touch points across the business, and that's where I have a lot of my conversations.
I don't remember actually ever seeing a job description for my role. Rather than being a joke—which maybe it is—but it's actually more important than that. But in a way, if it's going to provide value for Logitech, offer savings or improvements to speed or quality of execution, then I consider it something that a procurement team—with an external lens at least—it's something that our procurement team should be chasing after. We're a flat enough organization that I have the freedom to do that.
That’s representative of a forward-thinking organization, one that allows growth and value to be the driver for activity. One area where Logitech is clearly embracing the future of procurement and the future of work—at least in my experience interacting with the organization—is the area of independent on-demand talent. I recall that you came to our first conversation really well-informed about the on-demand talent space. What prompted you to do your initial research? How did Logitech's on-demand talent journey begin?
It was probably a variety of factors. We're a very strong values driven company, and we have a strong ethos that follows from those values. We certainly like to do things ourselves. We don't really operate in the typical consulting space. We don't spend much with consultants, which is great from a cost control perspective. Also, we're very diligent about increasing head count, which again is a laudable commitment. We certainly like to make the learnings from new challenges ourselves, and that sort of corporate knowledge stays within Logitech because we do go through new challenges and new ways of doing things, and we keep those learnings in house.
That's all fantastic, but there are challenges to that in a sense that if you don't get the checkbook out and go to expensive consulting options sometimes, and you look to your existing team—that can be tough. You may have to muddle through occasionally, and perhaps there's another way.
I was aware of Upwork and other relatively well-known consumer-focused players in this space, but I really came at it from that perspective—from either my own challenges or talking to business partners across Logitech, there is that challenge there. That when you try and do things yourself, it can be slow. You may go down a lot of dead ends, so you kind of muddle through—and that's all great, but it can impact speed of getting to where you want to be.
So I was interested enough that it's something that could be useful to Logitech. Can we borrow the expertise, as and when we need them, without having to go to expensive consulting firms, while still doing it ourselves? That was probably the little spark of interest in the industry, and then really, I did what I do in all different areas of interest. I wasn't an expert, but I went digging to see what was out there. I connected with people who were experts, and a combination of all that intelligence—plus what's going to work at Logitech, giving it a Logitech spice—is probably what led to the two of us talking.
Yeah, that's helpful. The values you outlined are admirable, and not necessarily representative of how each enterprise is approaching getting work done.
You mentioned Upwork. We—as an organization, BTG—are good friends and fans of Upwork. We recently announced a collaboration with them, in fact, because BTG and Upwork are two marketplaces that are complimentary to one another. They kind of fall on different ends of the spectrum of use cases that an enterprise could be tapping into on-demand talent for.
Could you talk a bit about the framework or categorization through which you view the types of on-demand talent that are available, and maybe how you might deploy each type through the organization? Whether that's the different types of use cases, or perhaps even the value that you're looking to procure through the different marketplaces who are bringing different types of talent to the table?
Sure. Following on from what I just said, I think that on-demand talent isn't really a cost play for us—in the sense that we don't go out to consulting firms already, and we're not looking to see, can we get approximately equal quality, but at reduced rates—which might be slightly different for Logitech than some other clients in this space, but that isn't us.
For us, it's more of a speed and quality of execution play. It can go across the whole gamut of whether it be we need something done on a very sort of tactical or one-off project level, or whether we need some more strategic thought-leadership-style partnership. Looking at it that way—and with a procurement lens particularly, we're a small procurement team like I say—we partner with our largest spend areas on our largest suppliers, but there's a lot of self-directed procurement goes on at Logitech and that's fine with us.
We have to be very cognizant of the fact that we're a lean team. We want our people to be doing the most valuable things that they can with our lean team resources. Leaning on Upwork people for whether it be graphic design or other aspects that they do. If that can get done, leaving that team to then do their core responsibilities—that sort of tactical end of the spectrum, that's great. But that market only has a certain aspect of talent on it, of course.
The bigger opportunity, as we saw it, was can we borrow expertise at a thought leadership perspective, a real industry expert perspective, strategizing on new areas of interest for us? I wasn't aware of that when I first started looking into on-demand talent. I didn't know that existed, but I now know it does of course, and I think that's an area that's really of interest for us.
We're probably looking at maybe an efficiency or a speed play with the more tactical level of work—particularly given we're a lean team, and can we reduce some of the pressures on that lean team? Then with the strategic things, it's probably more about extending our impact going into new areas of business, getting the expertise on that on-demand basis, to really leverage that for those strategic, extending-our-capabilities type of projects.
So you’re thinking about strategic on-demand talent or high-end on-demand talent to accelerate growth and momentum for the organization. What are some of your goals with high end on-demand talent? Are there certain metrics? You mentioned new areas and increasing impact. Are there potential use cases that you have in mind that the organization is targeting over the coming quarters or years?
I think it's in our DNA, really, that we're always going to be a company where we want to do as much as possible. We want to always be learning ourselves, always giving development opportunities to our own people. We'll always want our team to be front and center on some of these projects, even if they may be out of our comfort zone.
But there's a great opportunity there to do that with the guiding hand of an expert that may have been there and done that before. So that they can speed up that process, where we can get those learnings internally, but we can avoid going down some of those dead ends I think that I referred to earlier, perhaps. I think that's where an on-demand expert can really help us.
What I would envisage success as, it's not a metric per se, but sort of a general sense of success would be we've extended our capabilities without a massive extension of our operating expenses (OPEX), and certainly without an extension of our head count.
I think that's probably the simple offering of what high-end strategic talent can give us on an on-demand basis. That by stopping ourselves going down some of those dead ends with the guiding hand of an experienced expert, we can get to the conclusion of those new projects quicker. We can probably do more projects within the same period of time. I think it's really that for the business. If we can really hit these strategic projects, if we can hit home runs on those projects, the benefit from that could explode across the whole business.
It's not a metric as such, I appreciate Adam, but that's really what we're looking to do. In the sense that we want to experience these new challenges for ourselves, but an expert can help us do that quicker, better, and then move on to the next project.
You spoke to something that I think it's worth double-clicking on because it also speaks to your values as an organization. The recognition that engaging strategic or high end on-demand talent is not a path to replacing talent. The value is not arbitrage where you can get the work done at a lower cost than the full-time employees. It's really about enhancing the work that's being done by your team, so that it continues to be owned by Logitech.
Bringing in an outside expertise that helps the team potentially upscale and experience something new that they have not yet dealt with, but also to increase the impact and the speed by which you can get to market, or execute against the strategic priorities that are laid out by the organization. We have heard from others who latch onto different value propositions across the on-demand talent spectrum, so it's interesting that that's where you all see value.
I wonder, along your journey, what’s your role now you've established a formal on-demand talent program now at Logitech? What are the steps you're taking to educate Logitech employees on where, when, and how to use on-demand talent most effectively? How has that experience been so far?
We're probably pretty early in that journey, I think really. Looking at it and discussing with others that look at our talent—be that internal or external—as I do in my role, we were acutely aware that there's the two simple options that we have: that you build your own talent, or—if you really need to, and at a sensible spend of OPEX—you can go out and buy expertise from various consulting firms.
That was pretty much all we had, so I think giving people another option, another way of attacking their challenges was really valuable. But we're certainly in the early days at that. We’re actually having a lot of conversations around what is the right way to do that? How do you align on this idea that you can build, buy, or borrow talent?
I think aligning around what does that mean for Logitech, and then how do we actually get the rubber hitting the ground, and educate across our various different HR groups and our hiring manager groups—there's certainly an acceptance within departments that, like I say, handle all our talent interactions internally and externally that we're going down that path—we're at early days of actually then executing that to get that knowledge across the business.
But I think really the core message will be, there is another way of doing things. It isn't just building your own team. It isn't buying the expertise. You can borrow on-demand talent. I think that will be the key message, really. To get that message out there.
Within that borrowing of talent space there are different providers, as you say. People are very familiar with Upwork, but I think it's important that we make sure they're aware of more strategic resources in that space. So it's early days, but we're working on an approach so that hiring managers and business partners are working across the talent landscape and are aware that there is this other option.
Changing gears a bit, we're in this really challenging yet interesting moment in time with COVID, and you talked about education and adoption. Logitech has shifted almost overnight to almost fully remote. How has that gone?
Often working remote lends itself well to the use and adoption of freelance or on-demand talent, likely coming together organically. Do you see this as an opportunity for education around on-demand talent?
I can speak to it from my own perspective. At Logitech we're a very global multinational. We have offices across an array of different countries. We have large offices across all three regions. And as a leader of global procurement for a company that's headquartered in Switzerland with a lot of spend on head count in California, I'm sat here in Ireland as a leader of our global procurement teams. I think even that kind of highlights that we're a very global company.
Remote working was a common thing for me already. It's been a change of course—I've never been completely remote, we were never that—but certainly from my own standpoint of it, culturally it felt like we were already part of the way down that path. I was always doing some of my meetings from home with Asia colleagues, which would be my morning. Always doing evening meetings from here, which would have been with my U.S. colleagues. Personally speaking, I think—as a benefit of our global footprint and global culture—it wasn't a huge culture shock for us to be working from home.
I know that is certainly not the case for some more traditional orientated businesses. I'm sure people thought it would take years to implement a working from home scheme, but because of COVID-19, a lot of companies had to do it in a day. I'm sure it's tough, but in a lot of instances, it all went okay and we're now doing it. That certainly gives a reset opportunity to think about, "Well, what should this look like going forward?" And I know that people in Logitech are thinking of that, as I'm sure they are in other companies. But, it's important to not let that opportunity go to waste, I think.
Another thing that always stood out that Logitech's well known for is your sustainability. That's been a focus of the organization, and you've been quite progressive on that front for a long time.
You mentioned Upwork earlier. They had a report that came out in April—their annual impact report—which mentioned the environmental impact of remote work, and using freelance talent to cut down on travel and commuting, and also to support different communities that haven't always had the same economic opportunity as certain urban centers. For Logitech where sustainability is so important, how do you all think about long-term remote work or the use of freelancers from that perspective?
Well, I think it's definitely broken down barriers to what may have been a traditional logic that you need certain talent in certain places. I think that's absolutely been changed. At Logitech, we were pretty open to that already. Like I say, the fact that I'm leading a global function, which traditionally was led in the US and I'm sat here in Ireland, and hopefully people think that things are going okay.
So I think we were already kind of leaning in that direction anyway, but absolutely the idea that talent is universally everywhere. The idea of limiting your access to talent in a certain geographical diameter doesn't seem sensible, particularly not for on-demand talent. So, I think the freedom the on-demand talent can give you that for a very acute need, which has very specific requirements, the on-demand talent marketplace will have that expertise that we'd never find ourselves. Also, I think the fact that they can be anywhere too, rather than just being linked to wherever our offices are—just the talent pool that that opens it up to, versus the traditional thinking, is fantastic.
Like you say—I think it's a societal question more than I can certainly answer—but, the environmental impact or footprint for all of us when it comes to this on a personal or family, as much as the professional basis, of asking do you need to go into an office? Or do we need an office at all? I think it's a question for the wider society, but it's really good that that's being talked about now, whereas, it would seem to be a strange conversation as recently as nine months ago.
Yeah, you're uncovering the silver lining or potential opportunities that this moment has provided to rethink and reset. As you look forward, if we bring it back to on-demand talent, what would you want to see three to five years down the line in terms of the use of on-demand talent or the role on-demand talent plays? What are the goals you see, or things that you hope to have happen, as the organization continues to embrace the future of work?
Getting to the heart of it, one of the key things that we'd like to achieve here is that we have an ethos—or a mantra even, nearly—about trying to do more with less. Historically that's been doing it ourselves, which is, by definition, doing more with less. But I think looking at the future of Logitech and on-demand talent; getting the right talent in place at the right time on the right project can really emphasize that difference, I think, between really growing what we are doing with relatively small cost or impact to the bottom line of the business.
I think ultimately, it fits in nicely with Logitech, with that mantra that we try and do more with less. And on-demand talent can only help us live that more and more. That, like I say, we can achieve some of these really important strategic projects that are out of our existing comfort zone, we can achieve them quicker and better, bring all that expertise in house and then move on to the next project. And on-demand talent expands our options when it comes to accessing talent to be able to do that to the best of our ability.
Well, David that's great. And I thank you so much for sharing your insight with us today and with our listeners who will no doubt enjoy this conversation and what you brought to the podcast today. So thank you so much, David.
No problem at all, Adam. Thanks for the time.
Again, my guest is David Latten, the Global Head of Indirect Procurement at Logitech, and I'm Adam Zellner for the BTG Insights on Demand podcast. In upcoming episodes, we'll be talking with other experts about how independent on demand talent can help organizations infuse in-demand skills and expertise into critical work. Subscribe for these insights and more wherever you get your podcasts, or visit businesstalentgroup.com if you'd like to get started on a project today. Thanks for listening.