Sourcing and vendor management

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Get off the policy soapbox and meet your new end users

Consumer tech is leading the way so go with the flow

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Too often at Forrester, sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals tell us things like, “oh, we’d never implement a Bring-Your-Own-PC program. It would increase our risk and reduce our negotiating power with our PC vendor” -- only to find out later that their colleagues in the infrastructure team have in fact already implemented such a program.

The reality of today’s environment is that your end users have wildly different expectations of technology, and of the people who procure it for them.

These users are mobile, empowered to make their own technology decisions, impatient to get what they want, and have multiple new technology options like BYOPC and cloud that make consumer-like enterprise purchases possible. Yet too often, SVM professionals hide behind their corporate sourcing policies rather than try to get ahead of user needs.

You know the risks of denying a trend - users going around SVM with loopholes in the corporate policy to buy what they want, while selecting new vendors that don’t meet your risk criteria. And I know many of you are trying to avoid this fate.

You’re already expanding your efforts beyond IT to work more with your marketing teams and spending more time giving guidance to individuals sourcing SaaS contracts rather than trying to take over responsibility for those contracts yourselves.

But even as these issues have been gaining steam for a while, 2011 is the year that the trends accelerate and converge. Why? The recession is mostly behind us and the effort to grow quickly brings out the natural tendencies of end users to focus on speed over risk or total cost.

2011 is the year you need to stop slow-pedaling new models of sourcing emerging technologies and instead put your foot on the gas. Get out there and be more proactive with your stakeholders about social technologies, mobile devices and applications, and:

  • Make sure your empowered end users know you - for the right reasons. We know that users like to paint SVM professionals as “only focused on cost. They don’t understand what we really need.” That’s an outdated perception, but many SVMs have done little to change it beyond their direct stakeholders. It’s time to go on the charm offensive, and introduce yourself to non-traditional buyers and explain how you can help them. Yes, we know - they should come to you if they have a sourcing need. Get over it, and start the conversation yourselves.
  • Be a force for good in acquiring innovative technologies. How well do you know the business of your end users? Not just their title and division, but really what that user is trying to accomplish in the market. Don’t wait for a contract to cross your desk then complain you get no notice in order to do a proper negotiation. You need to update your understanding of your stakeholders’ objectives and bring proactive suggestions of technologies and vendors in your portfolio that can help them achieve their objectives. If they want other options, you’ve at least demonstrated that you are worth consulting and they’ll be more likely to come to you later.
  • Bring a process that employees have a chance of actually following. So many end users will source technologies themselves - smart phones, apps downloaded to those devices, SaaS software they access from work and home, and the list goes on. You can’t (and frankly don’t want to) be involved in every $29.99 technology purchase but you have a responsibility to ensure that your firm isn’t opened to unnecessary risk related to those purchases. Create a policy that non-SVMs can understand and can be followed easily. This way you’ll have compliance with sourcing policies even in an Empowered era.

If you are in the US, come to the IT Forum and hear the Sourcing & Vendor Management Analysts address how to get out from behind the policy shield and work together with your users to innovate and grow in 2011.

Posted by Christine Ferrusi Ross

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