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.
I joined an impressively large crowd at SAP’s World Tour event in Birmingham,UK, last week and was able to spend an hour with Tim Noble, head of SAP’s UK and Ireland business unit, and Chris McLain, who leads SAP’s team focusing on its 150 largest accounts in EMEA. I'm writing an update of my 2007 report "Effective SAP Pricing And Licensing Negotiation" and wanted to know what they thought about the clash between traditional deal-based sales incentives and Forrester’s clients’ need for commercial flexibility and more recognition, by their key software providers, of the wider relationship. It’s a topic I’ve raised before (http://blogs.forrester.com/duncan_jones/10-03-19-open_letter_season_sap), and I was very pleased to hear some things that SAP is doing to reduce this conflict.
I explained why, from my research, software vendors’ insatiable craving for recognizable license revenue at the expense of creating shared incentives for success is damaging to customers and to the vendor. Both Tim and Chris clearly understand the problem. Tim keeps reps on the same accounts for several years and rewards them for metrics such as customer satisfaction to avoid the revolving door sell-and-run approach that characterized software selling before the advent of SaaS. Chris has a team of Global Account Directors that works with local sales, pre-sales, and delivery teams to provide the holistic view that Forrester clients want and struggle to get from SAP’s competitors.
Yesterday I attended Computacenter’s Analyst Event. It’s a major independent provider of IT infrastructure services in Europe, ranging from reselling hardware and software to managing data centers and providing outsourced desktop management. My main interest was how it manages the potential conflict between properly advising the client and maximizing revenue from selling software. For instance, clients often ask me if it's dangerous to employ their value-added reseller (VAR) to advise them on license management in case the reseller tips off its vendors about a potential source of licence revenue.
An excellent customer case study at the event provided another example. A UK water company engaged Computacenter to implement a new desktop strategy involving 90% fully virtualized thin clients. Such a project creates major licensing challenges on both the desktop and server sides, because the software companies haven’t enhanced their models to properly cope with this scenario. The VAR’s dilemma is whether to design a solution that will be cheapest for the customer or one that will be most lucrative for itself.
As we said in our recent report “Refresher Course: Hiring VARs,” sourcing managers should decide whether they want their VARs to provide design and integration services like these or merely process orders at a minimum margin.
Computacenter will do either, but they clearly want to do more of the VA part and less (proportionately) of the R. So, according to their executives, they have no hesitation doing what is best for the customer even if it reduces their commission in the short term. But they didn’t think many of their competitors would take the same view.
I recently finished the draft of my report on the ecosystem of innovation services providers. This report, to be published in July, explores the landscape of companies that are unified by a single purpose: they are dedicated to helping their clients unleash their own innovation potential. These are not companies who simply use "innovation" as a marketing buzzword. Rather, they are dedicated to the discipline of innovation – and bring unique innovation expertise to clients in wide variety of corporate roles. This report builds on much of Forrester’s previous work related to Innovation Networks and Innovation Management, but expands the "ecosystem" to consider all of the companies I interact with that have a distinct innnovation focus. In the report, I explore the offerings of:
Strategy consulting organizations
Technology service providers
Product management firms
Outsourced product development firms
Idea management/solution generation companies
Other niche service providers (including training program, design firms, and others)
I argue that this ecosystem of providers will be an increasingly important part of a comprehensive innovation strategy. However, it will be up to very knowledgeable and “connected” individuals within companies to help manage the diverse players, and connect suppliers to the right role, at the right point in the innovation process. I also argue that this is an opportunity for SVM professionals who want to play a more strategic role in their organizations.
Earlier this week I was in Milan, speaking at the CPO Forum event about the importance of good procure-to-pay (P2P) systems to deliver sourcing's theoretical savings into real bottom-line improvements. As England's ex-goalkeeper Robert Green showed us last week, savings opportunities aren't the same as real savings. :(
I had some subsequent discussions with attendees about P2P best practices and how you maximize adoption by business users. One tip relates to the optimum number of approval levels — my conclusion is: the fewer the better. As one procurement director put it, "We empower our people, and show that we trust them, but not unconditionally. We monitor individual expenditure closely, so each person knows that we may subsequently ask him to justify anything exceptional that shows up in the report." His firm had actually cut consumption of health & safety equipment by 20% by eliminating pre-approval and replacing it with exception reporting. He'd also streamlined the MRO procurement process. "We approve the maintenance work order, but then we used to have to separately approve the parts used to do the job. I convinced my colleagues that the second approval was a waste of time."
In contrast, what can happen if you have too many approval levels?
Forrester recently surveyed nearly 3,000 technology decision-makers worldwide and found that emerging geographies -- Latin America, China, India, Russia -- are heavy adopters of software-as-a-service. [Source: Forrester's Enterprise And SMB Global IT Budgets, Priorities, And Emerging Technology Tracking Survey, Q2 2010.]
Latin America led with the highest rate of SaaS adoption, with 30% of companies reporting SaaS use. Latin America also reported a high percentage of budget going to SaaS at 12.4%. (For comparison, North America, where many SaaS deployment options initially saw traction, showed 25% adoption and represented 7% of overall software budgets.)
Other emerging geographies that reported high adoption included emerging Asian countries (China/Hong Kong/India/Russia). This group reported 21% SaaS usage and 8.9% of software budget going to SaaS. More established Asia Pacific economies (Japan/Australia/New Zealand) reported only 16% SaaS adoption and only 6.5% of software budget going to SaaS.
For more on the data including more details and more insight into additional geographies, look for our upcoming report.
I once played golf with an ex-politician who ran Liverpool Council until he had to resign after being caught accepting bribes from local firms tendering for lucrative council contracts. He claimed there was no impropriety because all the bidders paid him the same amount. I remembered this story when the leader of IBM’s sell-side e-commerce program, presenting at Ariba Live this week, talked about moving selling “off the green and into the blue.” His goal is to make IBM customers’ on-line buying experience (the blue) so great that IBM can reduce the time its sales reps spend playing golf with customers (the green).
Of course, that message went down like a lead balloon at a software event packed with sales reps and purchasing managers (not to mention analysts) who regard frequent corporate shindigs as an important compensation for an otherwise overworked and underpaid existence. He is right that suppliers should integrate their order processing system with customers’ eProcurement applications, such as via a supplier network, but not at the expense of the business relationship. Moreover, though it’s a nice tag line, it confuses sourcing (deciding from whom to buy) with procurement (getting things you need from the approved sources).
Unfortunately, this week’s IT Forum is at the same time as the World Innovation Forum, which many of my professional colleagues are attending. But Forrester’s IT Forums still give me a much great opportunity to interact with people who are working on innovation initiatives, so I'm not complaining. I’m looking forward to reporting on my experience in Lisbon next week.
Here are a few of my observations from the Vegas event:
Bob Calderoni and Tim Minahan, Ariba’s CEO and CMO respectively, explained their vision for the future of supplier networks at the company’s Ariba Live customer event this week. The basic concepts, of a B2B community with value-adding services for sellers, such as prospect discovery and multi-customer e-invoicing, is one I’ve advocated to network providers for a long time, including in my report of internetwork interoperability (Enterprises Should Push Supplier Networks To Deliver Interoperability). The community concept is certainly fashionable at the moment, with lots of business-to-business (B2B) technology vendors trying to match the success of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the like. The big question is whether Ariba can achieve the universal reach that the commerce cloud will need if it is to deliver value to its members.
Social media consumers don’t seem to be worried by monopolies. As my daughters tell me, people of their age have to be on Facebook to know what’s going on. There’s no point using other services like MySpace or Bebo (or, for older readers, Yahoo Groups, Geocities, Friends Reunited, and their equally overhyped predecessors), because everyone uses Facebook, and the community only works if everyone’s in it. It’s the same with B2B eCommerce — supplier-side members want to know about all the relevant parties (i.e., RFX’s), and party organizers (i.e., buyers) want to publish the invitation in one place yet still reach all their potential friends. In practice, this means the community must either be:
a) a broad stratus formation covering everything,