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.
Was the introduction of the Ford Model T an improvement or an innovation over the horse drawn wagon?
As an SVM professional, you may ask, “Why is this question important for me?” But as an ever-growing number of companies invest in innovation, they will realize a significant portion of this can come from the existing relationships with suppliers.
Forrester surveyed over 1,000 IT executives and technology decision-makers in Q3 2011 about which priorities will have the most significant impact on this year’s IT services spend. The top answer, at 56% of the respondents, was the need to innovate and grow their business. In fact, innovation rated higher than the ever-important lowering operational costs (40%)!
To execute on these innovation priorities, you — the SVM specialist — must understand the innovation potential of your suppliers and how to leverage this in the future. Success on this endeavor will require setting the stage. SVM pros need to understand the difference between a supplier-driven improvement — that we expect — and a service or business-focused innovation that needs investment and management. SVM pros can start with three key items: 1) Use an innovation screening checklist to understand who to partner with; 2) educate vendors on business priorities and key stakeholders within the business to enable innovation; and 3) manage delivery-oriented innovation as a part of your daily vendor governance.
In October, with great fanfare, the Open Data Center Alliance unfurled its banners. The ODCA is a consortium of approximately 50 large IT consumers, including large manufacturing, hosting and telecomm providers, with the avowed intent of developing standards for interoperable cloud computing. In addition to the roster of users, the announcement highlighted Intel with an ambiguous role as a technology advisor to the group. The ODCA believes that it will achieve some weight in the industry due to its estimated $50 billion per year of cumulative IT purchasing power, and the trade press was full of praises for influential users driving technology as opposed to allowing rapacious vendors such as HP and IBM to drive users down proprietary paths that lead to vendor lock-in.
Now that we’ve had a month or more to allow the purple prose to settle a bit, let’s look at the underlying claims, potential impact of the ODCA and the shifting roles of vendors and consumers of technology. And let’s not forget about the role of Intel.
First, let me state unambiguously that one of the core intentions of the ODCA, the desire to develop common use case models that will in turn drive vendors to develop products that comply with the models based on the economic clout of the ODCA members (and hopefully there will be a correlation between ODCA member requirements and those of a wider set of consumers), is a good idea. Vendors spend a lot of time talking to users and trying to understand their requirements, and having the ODCA as a proxy for the requirements of a lot of very influential customers will be a benefit to all concerned.
As many readers know, I have a strong interest in understanding the practical realities of innovation and want to help companies define what that "buzzword" means -- what it is, who manages it, and why it's important (see my just-published report on the ecosystem of innovation services providers).
I believe Sourcing and Vendor Management (SVM) can and should play a critical role in the innovation process. However, my biggest disappointment when I speak to many technology vendors, IT professionals, and business users is when they tell me that they avoid working with SVM when purchasing (or in the cases of vendors, selling) a new technology. Fairly or unfairly, they see SVM's involvement as a bureaucratic stumbling block that will stifle their ability to move quickly or pick the technology vendor they want. For these people, SVM acts as a barrier, not an enabler, of innovation.