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.
In Forrester’s latest report, “Tracking The Renegade Technology Buyer,” we uncover the motivations and technology spending priorities of over 1,000 North American and European business executives. The data from the Forrsights Business Decision-Makers Survey was collected in Q4, 2012. Of the 891 respondents that had a budget over US$1 million, 824 spent their own money on hardware, software, telecom or services. Twenty-four percent of the 891 spent over 21% of their budget on technology, accounting for over $US 31 billion in expenditures. Senior management and sales and marketing were the top spending business functions and financial services/insurance and telecom/utilities lead the pack from a vertical perspective.
So why are business leaders carving out part of their own budgets for technology? It’s contrary to what you think. The high business spenders are not doing it because it is faster or cheaper than central IT – they are doing it because they see technology as too important to their success not to be involved. In parallel, senior management is more relaxed in dealing with the technology – 33% of the high spenders say there technology IQ has increased and they are more comfortable working with IT. Another 20% say that their use of consumer technology has changed their expectations of how technology should be used. The consumerization of IT is not just about younger Gen Y staff wanting to bring their own Macs and iPhones to the office; just as or more importantly, it’s also changing the way senior managers drive business and technology strategy.
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.
As well as an adaptation of a festive song this could be one of the guiding jingles for ServiceNow.
This week I have been attending, along with my colleague Stephen Mann, the Knowledge11 conference in Frankfurt. ServiceNow is one of those companies that ITSM practitioners have an interest in because of their phenomenal growth and go-to-market model.
So what are their secret ingredients that make the solution so appealing?
Is it simply, that their key differentiator is that they provide a SaaS-based model and have experienced a bit of luck with the ‘cloud’ computing phenomenon? Is it that they have a great company name which lends itself well to becoming a brand? Is it that their sales and account managers have mythical powers?
My answer to you, after spending time with their clients, is that, firstly, they have inherent or at least portray a focus on the end ‘customer.’ They understand that their customers are looking for fast integration that will link in and improve their current ITSM and other business workflow processes. Also, the majority of their customers adopt the SaaS-based solution; it means that they can’t hide behind the age old cloak of “It must be the users infrastructure/network/environment/processes, etc.” If there is a problem with the software they have to fix it because the chances are that another customer will experience the same issue.
I handle many inquiry calls from clients asking for help negotiating with large suppliers, and often they claim the supplier is a strategic partner. I’ve noticed that many clients use that term, but when I ask them what it actually means in practice, I get varying responses. So Forrester recently surveyed over 150 sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals to ask them what they expect to get from strategic partners, and what they offer in return. I was bit disappointed with the results. For instance, while 68% said they would always expect partners to give them the best possible discount, only 6% said they would always make the partner their sole source for specific technology categories.
What’s wrong with this picture? Well, to quote Godfather 2, when explaining Hyman Roth’s longevity, Johnnie Ola says, “He always made money for his partners.” That concept doesn’t seem to apply in the technology world. On the one hand, buyers complain about vendors’ unfair policies (see my recent report Buyers Should Reject Unfair Licensing Rules) and transactional sales approach. Yet OTOH they want to squeeze their partners’ margins while still expecting them to sell their wares site-by-site and product-by-product around their enterprise. As one senior software executive told me the other day, “Sure, I’ll waive my usual policies for partners, but only if they let me off the huge cost of supporting individual, small product buying decisions.”
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.
We met with 30 Sourcing & Vendor Management Professionals during an action session at Forrester’s Sourcing & Vendor Management Forum in Chicago to discuss how to improve governance for large implementation projects. Clients were looking for help across the sourcing life cycle – from determining who manages the RFP process, to determining scope with internal stakeholders, to driving governance after the contract is signed.
What tactics are Sourcing & Vendor Management Professionals using to tackle these challenges?
1. Renegotiate rates with current players. Forrester’s recent survey found that 68% of organizations are renegotiating with their existing suppliers. One attendee said, “This has always been a priority, now we are bringing more efficiency and innovation to the process.”
2. Drive innovation from vendors. Everyone wants innovation from their suppliers but few receive it. Attendees shared tips for how they overcome major hurdles to achieving this in their supplier relationships:
a. Define what you mean by innovation. Many struggle to get innovation from their providers because they haven’t defined what that means — are you looking for idea-sharing or process improvements? Determine which type of innovation you need and communicate that to your vendor.
b. Identify metrics. “It’s not just how you measure innovation; it’s how you measure successful innovation.” Clients shared a variety of metrics such as:
i. Requiring the vendor to submit continuous improvement ideas they agree are impactful to your organization
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:
Software AG announced today a significant change in their executive structure. After the acquisition of webMethods back in 2007, the second largest software vendor in Germany acquired IDS Scheer last year, at topic we explored already in this report.
If you follow Software AG over this time, you might realize that the way CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich runs a post merger process may involve dramatic disruptions in the executive structure of the company. Dave Mitchell, the former webMethods CEO left some months after that acquisition. Today, the Chief Product Officer, Dr. Peter Kürpick surprisingly left the company. Peter was a member of the executive board since 2005, and, although his contract officially runs until 2013, he is leaving at his own request immediately. He stood for the successful turnaround of Software AG’s product strategy and repositioned Software AG from an outmoded mainframe shop into a leading global integration player. The successful merging of Software AG’s mainframe and integration know-how with the newer webMethods product stack into one interoperable integration stack was one of Peter’s major achievements. Peter also took over the responsibility for Software AG’s ETS (mainframe) product strategy after the integration business reached a solid stability. He would have had the skills and experience to create a consistent technology stack spanning from the mainframe over the WebMethods integration up to the business architecture tools of IDS Scheer (ARIS).
On two occasions in the past few months, I’ve given a speech to members of Forrester’s Market Research Forrester Leadership Board about vendor management best practices, a topic I’m writing a report on.[i] With market research budgets increasingly shrinking and research expectations growing, we see that market researchers need to select, manage, and measure their vendors more efficiently.
The key to success here is to develop partnerships with your key vendors. Why? Because conversations with Market Research professionals at a variety of organizations show that partnering with research vendors leads to better projects, deeper insights, and lower costs. As one of my interviewees said: “It’s about intellectual ROI: You need to invest less time for each project. You build a lot of equity. You also get more of a team thing going — to me, this is very important. You work with these people on a daily basis, so finding the right vendor and contact is critical, as we see them as colleagues.”
To understand how Market Research professionals currently collaborate with their research vendors, we surveyed our Market Research Panel earlier this year. The majority of our panelists feel that they already have established partnerships with most vendors, and two-thirds state that price is less important than quality.