There isn’t an IT sourcing and vendor management (SVM) client that I’ve spoken with in the past seven years – Forrester explicitly started writing for SVM professionals in 2006 – that hasn’t mentioned gaining more influence with executives as a key priority for their teams. A key reason for this lack of stature with the business, and often the resulting lack of promotion opportunity, is that IT's SVM staff are seen as focusing on an “indirect” spend category; they’re not responsible for buying/managing relationships for the core commodities that are used to make their company’s products (“direct” spend). However, that is about to change, as software and application development services are becoming direct spend for many companies.
Until recently, most companies made physical products by purchasing raw materials and building the products in factories. The factory operations were the heart of the business, supported by the sourcing of the raw materials needed to make the products. But more and more, physical products depend on software and other technologies to be viable. And while we traditionally thought of only high-tech companies as making software-dependent products, nontechnology companies of all kinds – retailers, banks, automotive companies, and others – rely on software as the key interface of their products. For example:
Technology defines how customers feel about their banks. Checking accounts are commodity products, where most customers interact with the product online – either through an ATM, a web browser, or a mobile app. The effectiveness of a bank’s apps will mean the difference between satisfied customers and those who choose to take their money elsewhere.
Over 40% of senior business executives are looking to suppliers and external parties to co-develop and deliver measureable business outcomes. Telling suppliers to forget their old pricing metrics and focus instead in delivering value while also sharing risks and rewards requires a new set of skills on both sides of the negotiating table. This is a real challenge for both suppliers and buyers, and it takes both parties out of their comfort zones into new territory for risk management, project control and revenue sharing.
Forrester’s Forrsights data reveals business executives want to see more value delivered from IT projects and more outcome-based contracts. This is a priority for them in the next few years and sourcing professionals must develop and enhance their skills in this key area or risk getting left behind.
Whether it’s increasing revenues, driving more client subscriptions, cutting costs, facilitating more paperwork processing in less time or driving up customer satisfaction and retention, some IT companies are now offering outcome based contracts and are happy to be paid purely on the results.
Unfortunately for some of today’s technology giants, clients don’t want to pay anymore for software licenses, hardware products or time & materials staffing. They want the suppliers to have ‘skin in the game’ and want to pay based only on the value delivered and the outcome achieved.
To help their organizations navigate through the emerging world of business outcome based contracts, we have identified three key principals of change that both suppliers and buyers will need to address:
Digital capability – social, mobile, cloud, data & analytics – disrupts business models, introduces new competitive threats, and places new demands on your business. Highlighting this fact: Forrester’s 2012 “Digital Readiness Assessment” survey found that 65% of global executives say they are “excited about the changes that digital tools and experiences will bring” to their company.
While most people know these digital trends are coming, however, far fewer know how to purchase these cutting-edge digital capabilities. What companies will you rely on? Where are the new risks? What are the pricing models? In the survey mentioned above, only 32% of the same sample agreed that their organization “has policies and business practices in place to adapt” to those digital changes.
This is important, since developing the breadth of digital capabilities your company needs cannot all be done in-house. To succeed, your company will need to access the strengths of its supplier ecosystem, maximize value from strategic partners, and leverage emerging supplier models.
This is a tremendous opportunity for sourcing and vendor management professionals to increase the strategic value they provide to their business. But to do this, you’ll need to balance your traditional cost-cutting goals with demands for business expectations for growth, innovation, and value.
In my last post, I wrote about the evolving need for big business to source generic capabilities from business partners/vendors. This shift provides an enormous opportunity as well as a threat for technology vendors and CIOs.
I’m not talking about the wholesale outsourcing of IT. Rather, the selective sourcing of business capabilities and business process through software-as-a-service (SaaS), most likely deployed through cloud-based platforms (capability-as-a-service, or CaaS). Software and hardware vendors need to rethink their business from the customer’s perspective. They must figure out how to transform their products into services that deliver business capabilities and business outcomes.
If you’re a tech vendor, this means that you need to analyze each target industry and determine which business capabilities are likely to be strategic, and which are most likely to be generic. In retailing, for example, strategic capabilities might center on mastering customer data to create unique and valuable customer experiences as well as price optimization. Whereas capabilities around merchandising and assortment planning may be generic across many retailers (even though most merchandisers I know would never admit to this), these generic capabilities are likely to be delivered as SaaS in the future.
If you have existing solutions that target an industry’s generic capabilities, they are prime candidates for delivering the capability to the market as a service. Where your solutions target strategic capabilities, you will need to provide highly customized services through strategic partnership arrangements.
I’m in Las Vegas attending Infosys’s Connect 2011 client event, and one of the recurring themes in sessions and side conversations has been the nature of Strategic Partnership. The phrase risks becoming a meaningless cliché, so I was interested to research what it actually means to Infosys execs and clients. I got some interesting, varied perspectives.
A large CPG company’s central IT group described its interpretation in a couple of sessions. It demands, among other things, a strong cultural fit, a commitment to win:win solutions to problems, and regular meetings with partners’ CEOs. This group has 12 “strategic partners” who get a lead role in a specific area, but may not even be considered in other areas, even though they have good solutions in their portfolio. I might argue the semantic point about whether this means they are merely ‘important, at the moment’ rather than ‘strategic’. However, the key point is that the two parties’ commitment to making the partnership work creates a better, stronger commercial framework than any legal agreement could deliver.
Raj Joshi, MD of Infosys Consulting, described his group’s Value Realization Method (VRM) that formally tracks each project’s expected business benefits from the initial project business case through design and implementation and onto ongoing value delivery. Joshi stressed the importance of shared incentives, such as risk/ reward sharing commercial models, in ensuring projects’ success.
When Cisco began shipping UCS slightly over two years ago, competitor reaction ranged the gamut from concerned to gleefully dismissive of their chances at success in the server market. The reasons given for their guaranteed lack of success were a combination of technical (the product won’t really work), the economics (Cisco can’t live on server margins) to cultural (Cisco doesn’t know servers and can’t succeed in a market where they are not the quasi-monopolistic dominating player). Some ignored them, and some attempted to preemptively introduce products that delivered similar functionality, and in the two years following introduction, competitive reaction was very similar – yes they are selling, but we don’t think they are a significant threat.
Any lingering doubt about whether Cisco can become a credible supplier has been laid to rest with Cisco’s recent quarterly financial disclosures and IDC’s revelation that Cisco is now the No. 3 worldwide blade vendor, with slightly over 10% of worldwide (and close to 20% in North America) blade server shipments. In their quarterly call, Cisco revealed Q1 revenues of $171 million, for a $684 million revenue run rate, and claimed a booking run rate of $900 million annually. In addition, they placed their total customer count at 5,400. While actual customer count is hard to verify, Cisco has been reporting a steady and impressive growth in customers since initial shipment, and Forrester’s anecdotal data confirms both the significant interest and installed UCS systems among Forrester’s clients.
Sourcing executives are winding down 2010 and gearing up for 2011. Most of the sourcing executives we have spoken with recently are bullish about the year ahead, despite some looming uncertainty about the economy, particularly in Europe. Spend is opening up again, and buyers are investing in more strategic initiatives. But sourcing groups still struggle to balance low cost and high value.
Many of the sourcing groups currently working with Forrester are asking about cloud as a viable alternative to traditional deployment models. Cloud promises rapid deployment, potentially significant cost savings, and variable pricing in line with how buyers want to pay in the current economy. And cloud offerings continue to mature in areas where buyers previously had concerns (vendor viability, security, architecture, location of data). Cloud adoption is already over 25% in North America, and continues to grow in Europe (led by UK, but also growing in areas like Germany, France, the Nordics).
Most sourcing strategies around cloud consist of five key phases:
1. Understanding the evolving supplier landscape and market maturity across cloud offerings.
2. Educating business (and potentially IT) about the advantages and disadvantages of cloud.
3. Building decision frameworks to support cloud purchases.
4. Creating a contract negotiation and pricing strategy for cloud; building contract templates.
5. Working with business, vendor management, and IT to routinely evaluate ROI and decide whether to renew relationships or find alternatives (potentially cloud, hosted, on-premise, or hybrid).
I like sourcing and vendor management professionals for all of the reasons they drive others crazy. Business and IT executives like to complain that SVM teams care only about getting the lowest cost (this complaint usually comes after said sourcing team tells the business user his vendor of choice isn’t the best option). Vendor sales people are taught to avoid SVM professionals whenever possible because they keep asking questions like “Why is your product worth this much money?” and “Show me how you bring value to my company.”
The SVM executives I deal with are a tough group (and don’t think I get off easy: Forrester is a vendor to these executives too, so I’m not immune to the same challenges as other vendors). They’re a practical group, and not inclined to be swayed by idealized visions of innovation, for example. They accept nothing at face value, they question everything in painstaking detail, and they resolve conflict instead of working around it.
So why is this pragmatic, sometimes cynical, group talking about emerging technologies, new services models and other innovations? Because in their pragmatism they know that they need to move their organizations forward to take advantage of opportunities presented by new technologies and services. And they know if they don’t, the business will do it without them – opening their firms to increased costs and higher vendor-related risks.
While I’m not claiming SVMs have abandoned their focus on reducing cost, the need to take advantage of new opportunities is critical. As a result, there are three key areas where Forrester sees SVM investing:
Today, Forrester and Harvard Business Review Press released the print version of Empowered, a book by Forrester veterans Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler. This book is a quick and worthwhile read for just about anyone who wants to consider the changing role of technology in the workplace. After several reads of this book, I have found that in addition to a lot of great statistics, quotes, and case studies, there is a valuable message for how companies MUST change their philosophy and approach toward new technologies in order to stay innovative.
As a quick example of how quickly the technology landscape is changing, stop for a moment to consider just how many times in the past few days you have:
Received an invitation to LinkedIn.
Seen a personal acquaintance using Facebook.
“Tweeted” or heard someone comment on “tweeting.”
Checked your mobile phone — or seen a commercial for a cool new mobile app.