Are you purchasing for innovation? You should be.

Successful procurement teams leverage technology spend and IT stakeholders to drive innovation

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The formula for achieving enterprise success in today’s always-on, always-evolving business environment begins and ends with innovation. It’s a prerequisite for staying ahead of the competition and customer needs. Likewise, constantly evolving your business model to align with customer buying behavior is the new normal. Despite this reality, delivering on innovation remains a challenge.

Why are some procurement teams better at innovation than others? And how are some able to deliver on innovation so much faster than others? The answers are twofold and a fairly simple concept:

  1. Successful procurement teams leverage technology and IT stakeholders to drive innovation
  2. They allocate indirect spend resources to innovation

SIGNS THAT INNOVATION IS A PRIORITY

As I travel the country talking with IT stakeholders, it’s apparent that most all of them understand IT and technology purchasing has become highly strategic and the role they play in the spend-cycle has evolved accordingly. But it’s also apparent there are wide gaps between those enterprises that are helping lead or deliver transformation and those that are simply along for the ride.

Sometimes the differences are easier to spot. Though in most every case, there are clear signs that demonstrate an IT team is “able to innovate.” That is, that they have the time, resources and alignment with procurement to apply to it, as well as support from leadership to pursue it.

SIGNS OF INNOVATION

  1. Dedicated Leadership
    When I walk into a meeting with IT stakeholders, and the Director of Innovation is involved, it’s a clear sign innovation is alive and well here. When leadership is supportive of forward thinking technology it simplifies the process for IT and procurement to partner on innovation for the enterprise. (By the way, if you’re a CIO and you’ve been thinking about this, you should move quickly because it’s possible leaders in other areas are thinking the same thing.)
  2. Cross-Functional Engagement
    If the CIO has invited peers from procurement, operations and/or IT, for example, that’s another sign these teams have a seat at the table and are viewed as innovation leaders within the company. The coordinated and proactive alignment between key purchasing and implementation stakeholders can allow enterprises to achieve their innovation goals quicker and more efficiently.
  3. Passion For Your Business
    Workers in all functions and roles have a clear understanding of, and like to share and discuss, their business initiatives. Coordination and transparency in future business goals from department to department demonstrates a mindset on future thinking and future proofing.
  4. An Open Mind
    You’re interested in understanding technology options that can help accomplish your objectives, and are open to ideas and discussion versus a typical RFP-style response. Procurement can maximize the full enterprise’s impact when you have clarity on ‘big picture’ results that are driven through leveraging technology spend.
  5. Shifting Resources
    Internal IT resources are shifting from day-to-day maintenance, or “keeping the lights on,” and they’re looking for partners that can provide managed solutions to help make this shift. This is where procurement can have the greatest impact and why cross-functional alignment is key to innovation.
  6. A Solid Cloud Strategy
    Finally, businesses are moving enterprise applications and services to the cloud to become more agile and execute on their vision more quickly than the competition. Partnering with IT stakeholders will allow for a strategy to drive forth a cloud initiative that will suit each business’ specific innovation goals.

WHERE DOES YOUR TEAM FALL IN THIS MIX?

The important question to ask yourself now is whether or not you see any of these innovation signposts in your organization. Does your enterprise have time to devote to innovation? Does your executive management team support procurement’s role in advancing the innovation agenda? If the answer is yes, you’re on your way to where you need to be. Procurement’s position has become more and more strategic, putting you in the best position to take on the innovation initiative. At the core of that initiative you’ll find a range of new technologies, accelerated cloud adoption and a shift in resource allocation.

If the answer is no, it’s not too late to get ahead. Even the most innovative organizations still report spending the highest concentration of their time on core IT functionality. For example, The 2016 State of IT Report from Salesforce Research showed increasing employee productivity at the top of IT’s to-do list. Yet the ROI of an innovation agenda can be big, with data showing leading innovators in customer experience outperforming the S&P 500 by 35%, while laggards trailed by 45% - Watermark Consulting Customer Experience ROI Study. Additionally, a 2016 ‘Work in Progress’ survey found, 85% of U.S office workers say technology makes them more productive, but a mere 1 in 4 currently feel their working environment is equipped with forward thinking technology. It is clear that innovation has been taking a back seat in many enterprises.

SHIFTING TOWARDS INNOVATION

It was recently suggested that the formula for business success is:

  1. Picking the right technologies that have a positive impact on your customer experience
  2. Implementing them faster than your competition.

I couldn’t agree more. There is no better time than the present to put innovation on the combined IT and procurement agenda, and the first place to start is to ‘shift’.

Shift to the cloud, shift resources to innovation and shift to vendors that become partners in enabling your transformation. Through your membership with Corporate United you have access to strategic supplier partners that will assess your current environment to develop a customized, scalable solution to revolutionize your IT infrastructure and bring you closer to the innovation you require.

Make the time for shifts like this now and there are no limits to where you can go from here.


Greg Griffiths: Vice President, Vertical Marketing and Strategic Alliances at Windstream
Greg is responsible for driving the company’s goto-market initiatives for key industry verticals. Greg was previously VP of Marketing for EarthLink prior to their merger with Windstream, as well as VP of Marketing for New Edge Networks, a leader in IP-based WAN/network services acquired by EarthLink in 2006. At New Edge, Greg led the company’s retail industry strategic focus, and had overall responsibility for all aspects of marketing including brand, communications, demand generation and channel strategy. Prior to that, he held executive positions with Eschelon Telecom and Enhanced Telemanagement. Greg is a graduate of Washington State University with a degree in marketing and has served as an adjunct instructor.