Consumer Tech Meets Your Sourcing Group: How to Transform

Over the past few years, new devices and new services have made technology a nearly universal part of the consumer marketplace. At Forrester, we refer to this shift as Tech Populism, a trend that has changed the way individuals use and consume technology in both their personal and professional lives. And in Forrester's new book, Empowered, analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler examine the potential of this trend: proactive business leaders are harnessing the power of consumer technologies as a way to enhance customer intimacy, improve levels of internal collaboration, and foster innovation.

While examples of consumer technologies affecting the marketplace are abundant, at Forrester we're watching four key "groundswell" technologies that are putting more power into the hands of consumers--and which are gradually shaping the way technology is consumed in the enterprise. These include: social, mobile, cloud, and video. But despite the widespread availability of these tools, companies are still lagging in the adoption process. Why? In part it's due to the nature of the tools. Although each of these technologies are capable of providing significant enterprise benefits, they are also closely tied to significant risks.

But how do these groundswell technologies, and their associated benefits and risks, affect the sourcing and vendor management professional? Consider this: when we ask IT professionals about these four technologies, most will say they are interested in making them available, even if they haven't moved forward with companywide implementation strategies. But, when we ask sourcing and vendor management professionals the same questions, they are downright resistant. I've heard protests from clients such as: "these are just marketing tools" and "sourcing doesn't get involved in cutting-edge technology." And while there are ample justifications for these statements, it's also true that business professionals will need help from sourcing professionals in order to effectively source these new technologies--and the result will be a business value that extends beyond just generating cost savings.

The Evolution of SVM Depends on Enabling Technology HEROes

Central to understanding the changing role of technology within the business is accepting the role of highly empowered and resourceful operatives (or HEROes). These workers are using groundswell technologies at the office to improve business and help customers. But a substantial 80 percent of information workers don't feel empowered to execute their jobs with new technology--meaning there is significant room for improvement, and consequently an opportunity for sourcing professionals to transform their role within the business.

To initiate this strategic transformation, it's time for sourcing professionals to enable more HEROes by considering the evolution of the sourcing and vendor management organization across two vectors:

1. Enabling new technology adoptions. SVM professionals can help identify which groundswell technologies are most relevant to business needs. For example, SVM can help highlight the risks in SaaS adoption, discuss the criteria for evaluating social technology vendors, or show the benefits of new telecom delivery models.

2. Adapting to new business models. To keep pace with key trends affecting the business technology landscape, such as Tech Populism, SVM professionals need to evolve their skill set by, for example, hiring new talent from the Gen Y workforce.

But recognizing the strategic value of these vectors is only the first step for sourcing professionals looking to increase their role and visibility within the organization. To take proactive steps toward transforming the sourcing and vendor management organization, sourcing professionals should:

Become a HERO. It's relatively easy to dismiss the value of consumer technologies in the workplace until they're a part of your daily activities. Making a conscious attempt to incorporate groundswell technologies into your own job responsibilities might reveal how the benefits outweigh the risks.

Enable HEROes outside of IT. Marketing and sales professionals can be quick to dismiss the role of sourcing in the new technology evaluation process--that is, until they engage with sourcing and reap the benefits. We've heard from proactive SVM professionals that have played a valuable role in helping marketing understand key evaluation criteria related to scalability and organizational risk. Enabling a technology HERO positions SVM as a value-added innovation partner.

Make the case for SVM's role in more HERO technologies. It's unlikely business users will actively involve sourcing in the new technology adoption process until they have reason to do so. Consider marketing sourcing's value to key stakeholders--the CIO, CMO, and other technology business users--and use your experience in other groundswell technology sourcing initiatives as proof points.

Chris Andrews is Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, serving sourcing and vendor management professionals. His research focuses on how organizations can identify, integrate, and manage innovation and emerging technologies.

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