10 Strategies Used by Top IT Procurement Teams

ten

Companies often perceive their IT Procurement teams as having one purpose: to minimize expenses for purchased goods and services. While purchasing is certainly a core functionality of the Procurement team, the Procurement team can also become a significant business driver that can positively affect the company’s bottom line. Borrowing strategies from the most innovative Procurement teams can help internal stakeholders to recognize that Procurement isn’t just about costs; it provides significant value to the company.

We took a look at several top Procurement teams to analyze their unconventional strategies and approaches. Below are the top 10 strategies that we found many of them had in common:

1. Be willing to step out of your vendor comfort zone

One natural tendency is for businesses to use a vendor because of an established relationship. Even more common, IT Procurement leaders inherit vendors from previous leaders. You don’t want to disappoint your vendor by withdrawing your business, and it can feel risky to try something new. However, you might be locking yourself into inefficiencies or expensive contracts. Make a point to review relationships and ensure that you’re getting the best.

It will be important to maintain active communication with internal stakeholders at the company about any inefficiencies you do uncover and any changes you might want to make.

2. Be an instigator of transformation

Don’t let old processes linger for the sake of convenience. Constantly re-evaluate, if something seems unnecessary or inefficient, consider potential changes.

One great way to drive changes is to ‘brand’ initiatives (as suggested in this article from Coupa). Create a compelling story about why the change is necessary and how it will benefit the company. Generate collateral around the story and share it internally. Find an advocate for the change, or be that advocate yourself! Evangelize the change and use data to back up the reasons you believe the change is necessary.

3. Train effectively

When someone joins the IT Procurement team, most companies provide a  standard training regimen and plenty of on-the-job training. Top IT Procurement leaders (such as Christian Schuh who wrote about training in “How to Become a Procurement Champion“) understand how critical additional training is in areas that may be overlooked, such as: negotiation skills, contract writing, risk analysis, and courses in Excel. Finding top talent is key, but developing your talent and ensuring that new employees are familiar with the latest tools, technology, and procedures is equally important.

4. Closely track and analyze spending

Know your team’s spending habits. Keep track of growing costs and question every increase. This will enable you to bring data to the table in negotiations with existing and new vendors, and allow you to track trends.

5. Maximize efficiency

In evaluating the Procurement process, understand the intrinsic value of every step. If there is a step that doesn’t provide sufficient value, remove it. This will keep costs low and decrease the timeline of the Procurement process.

6. Unite the procurement team

Make sure that every individual on the procurement team is on board with decisions and that each team member is all able to convey the value of the decision to internal stakeholders. A united procurement front in which every player possesses the ability to explain the buying process is key.

To unite the team, it’s important to have a tool for communication between members. Tools such as Slack and Flowdock are effective at enabling group conversation and collaboration.

7. Utilize agile communication

Here at MobileDay, we use an agile development methodology in which cross-functional teams collaborate continuously, helping them rapidly respond to changes. Communications between IT Procurement professionals and suppliers or vendors should share similar qualities. Agile methodologies emphasize adaptability and continuous iteration, and these concepts shouldn’t be confined to the development team.

If there are processes in place that may be acting as barriers to communication between teams and vendors, identify these barriers and work with the involved teams to determine a more agile approach.

8. Correlate procurement goals to overall business goals

Identify how the procurement department can permanently eliminate costs for the business rather than focusing on saving money short-term. Achieving goals that affect the company’s bottom line will begin to transform the procurement department. Once executives view Procurement as not simply a department that tries to reduce costs but as an element of the company  that can add real value, it will be easier to gain funding for new projects. In turn, Procurement can maximize efficiency even further and add value. It’s a continuously improving system!

9. Cost isn’t ALWAYS king

Procurement departments are necessarily adept at finding the lowest cost technologies and reducing expenses. However, this might not always be the ideal strategy (from this article by Veda Applied Intelligence). For example, Procurement is becoming more and more involved with the purchasing of marketing services and ad spends. While this strategy does reduce cost in the short-term, Procurement might not always recognize the importance of finding the highest quality marketing and ad products for the money, which are not always the least expensive. Over time, the lower quality purchases could start to undermine marketing efforts and decrease the value of the company as a whole. Instead of solely focusing on the short-term savings of a procurement initiative, make sure you contemplate the long-term benefits of projects and expenses.

*Note: In order to understand how expenses may be beneficial in the long run, it is critical to maintain open communication between departments (see point number 7 about agile communication strategies). Be receptive to the marketing department’s justification for costs and communicate openly with all company stakeholders. This lesson can be applied across several Indirect Procurement categories as well: hardware, HR services, and other IT-related services.

10. Explore new tools to increase efficiency 

Another natural tendency in the Procurement department is to stick with what’s known and firmly established in the company. Some of the top Procurement pros understand that in order to take the Procurement department beyond its traditional role, they have to try new tools and processes. There are tools that will show ROI over an extended period of time, but there are also tools (such as MobileDay) that will dramatically affect a company’s bottom line by reducing costs immediately.

 

In sum, IT Procurement departments can be much more than cost-saving teams in today’s business world. The most successful procurement professionals realize the importance of effective leadership, communication, training, team-building, and purchasing strategies. Teams who exemplify these best-in-class traits help their companies simultaneously achieve broader business objectives and save money and increase ROI.

 

Startup Summer with Howard Diamond

Startup Summer

Startup summer

Popularity surrounding startup companies and culture is at an all-time high.  There’s a hit HBO TV show called Silicon Valley, and a clothing line at Banana Republic called “The Startup Guy .” And now, there’s Startup Summer!

Startup Summer is an internship program for college students looking to pursue a career in entrepreneurship. In addition to top-notch financial, technical, and managerial expertise from some of the entrepreneurs in the startup community, the program offers immediate exposure to startup culture. The everyday interactions with these CEO’s who know what it takes to make it are what make this experience so unique. They provide students with the necessary tools and advisement in order to build their own startup.

In addition to the one-on-one interactions students get with the head honcho’s, they also attend a series of startup seminars. As a sponsor of Startup Summer, MobileDay hosted an event Monday evening where students came to listen and learn from our CEO Howard Diamond. We were impressed by the questions the attendees asked, and the active participation.

Check out the blog written by the Startup Summer participants.

How to Make a Reliable App

reliable app

 Making a Reliable App

What’s one of the most important qualifications for a reliable app? Stability. Nobody wants to deal with a buggy app that causes a frustration overload. A mobile application with poor stability quickly leads to abandonment. According to research from TechCrunch, mobile application crashes and freezes are the leading types of problems encountered by users who experienced a problem with their mobile app.

Plan for all Possible Outcomes

In reality, there are so many factors that go into developing a mobile app, that it is hard to plan for all possible outcomes. Our friends at Pronq by HP outline a few popular approaches to avoid development crashes, such as surrounding your code with a Try/Catch Block, and implementing an exception handling strategy. Both methods possess potential temporary solutions but fail to eliminate the exception on a long-term basis. Bottom line: neither approach can ensure 100% coverage, so the work does not stop there.

There are several digital libraries for reporting application crashes. Application Crash Report for Android (ACRA) is a popular crash report library among Android users.  It allows the application to catch and report an error and its details moments before the application crashes, even if a user doesn’t proactively report the error. While ACRA is an effective tool, it contains potential drawbacks and considerations.

HP AppPulse Mobile is another tool that provides application crash tracking. AppPulse Mobile reports a crash and directly correlate the crash to the root cause user action.

At MobileDay we use Crittercism for app performance monitoring. The tool performs root cause analysis of problems, and prioritizes business critical issues. It is absolutely essential for our app to perform reliably, and without this tool we wouldn’t get a real-time view of app diagnostics and crashes. We’re able to act quickly and prevent issues from arising rather than reacting quickly when they do arise!

Other Reliable App Strategies

We know that practice makes perfect. We’re constantly improving, undergoing application-testing every day to make sure our users’ work lives run smoother. MobileDay offers consistent application functionality, optimal security protection, and lightning fast customer response times so we can make our user experience as ideal as possible.

Our testing procedures to ensure stability are extensive. Every employee in our company is involved with testing the application – we go through training to learn how to effectively test and how to report problems with our conference calling app. One favorite test is adding an email account to the phone and syncing 4,000 contacts with meetings every few minutes – we use this test to find out how the app acts when the phone is bogged down with tons of information, simulating a busy business professional’s experience. If the app is anything but flawless, it’s reported and addressed right away.

Simple Conferencing

One touch conference calling

Stability is an essential component of an effective app. No matter how awesome the app features are, if it experiences frequent crashes or slows down with too much information, it cannot possibly be relied upon. MobileDay works hard to make sure that our users can steadfastly depend on dialing into their conference calls with one touch, because otherwise they’d have to *shudder* dial all the numbers themselves (now that would just be silly)!

 

Sales Productivity – Evolve with Mobile

Sales is a business discipline that is really a life skill as much as it drives revenue for businesses. Becoming effective at sales is crucial to both a business and in our role citizens. The art of selling evolves over time and is often supplemented with technology. Increased quotas and a fixed time to achieve them say you’ve got evolve to survive. Productivity is a key to sales success, especially when you are mobile. Technology has long contributed to effective marketing and sales via the web. It’s difficult to argue that now mobile sales and marketing prowess are a large part of that evolution and a contributing factor of sales success. Some would say that grasping mobile technology is paramount to becoming productive and therefore more effective as a salesperson. It’s also not just about the hardware like iPhones, Android smartphones or tablets like the iPad. The mobile apps available to you in sales can help to leverage the devices that you have invested in and sell more effectively.

Don’t just take it from me. In no particular order, here are a few experts in sales and marketing that I spend time following who have opinions on this topic of mobile sales and marketing.

Donal Daly, Dealmaker365 (@dealmaker365)

“Unless mobile is a core element of the strategic plan of any business, the business will face severe challenges over the next few short years. For business strategists, marketers, sellers and buyers alike, mobile is becoming the hub around which business revolves.”

Donal Daly’s blog is a wonderful collection of deeply insightful content that goes into the heart of developing global trends that could have a profound impact on how sales are done. The blog also focuses in on changes that can be made to the traditional sales model.

http://sales20network.com/blog/

Anthony Iannarino, The Sales Blog (@iannarino)

“A great salesperson won’t need your best leads; they’ll produce them. If you give them the best laptop, smartphone, sales force automation, mobile hotspot, and sales collateral, they’ll put it to good use, but these external accoutrements won’t be nearly as important to their results as to what is inside them.”

The Sales Blog is run by Anthony Iannarino, the President and Chief Sales Officer of SOLUTIONS Staffing, as well as Managing Director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy. The blog is Anthony’s tool to provide readers with advice and insight on the many different aspects of sales, such as cold calling and sales fundamentals.

http://thesalesblog.com/blog

Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter (@TheSalesHunter)

“Just as we rely on technology to make things run smoother, we also rely on our sales processes to keep our profits coming in. When we run into a glitch in those processes, our natural tendency is to let our attitude tank. In every difficulty, though, there usually is an opportunity to learn and get better.”

Aptly nicknamed the Sales Hunter, Mark Hunter (along with occasional guest writers) provides keen tips and motivational words of wisdom on his blog. With over 18 years of experience in sales and 14 years as a sales consultant, Mark has plenty to offer for sales people of all levels.

http://thesaleshunter.com/category/blog/

Tibor Shanto, The Pipeline (@TiborShanto)

“One impact of technology on selling, are the increased number of ways of organizations and individual sellers can “connect with their clients”, even when they don’t have to.”

Tibor Shanto is the founder and President of Renbor Sales Solutions, Inc., as well as the main writer for The Pipeline sales blog. Through his blog, he offers great tips for sales people, drawn from his own longtime experience in sales.

http://www.sellbetter.ca/blog/

Ivana Taylor, DIY Marketers (@DIYMarketers)

“Technology of the 21st century has led most business owners to use only electronic means to market their products and services. Though these types of campaigns can be successful for your bottom line, direct mail is still an incredibly effective marketing tool.”

Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIY Marketers, a blog with a great mix of innovative ways to utilize technology tools (did you know you can use a 404 error page for marketing purposes?) and fundamental sales advice.

http://diymarketers.com/blog/

Nancy Nardin, Smart Selling Tools (@sellingtools)

“In the dynamic and high-demand world of selling, the evolution of tools has had a significant impact on our ability to perform our jobs, present our ever-expanding array of solutions, service our customers, and generate revenue—the life-blood of our companies.”

One of our favorite features on author and sales consultant Nancy Nardin’s blog is the Sales ToolSkool, where she introduces technology tools that can help increase revenue and efficiency. The blog also has some great insight on sales tools, as well as sales tips in general.

http://www.smartsellingtools.com/blog/

Miles Austin, Fill the Funnel (@milesaustin)

“As a sales technologist, I am always looking for the next new thing…As a student of change, I look at it from the other side of the table. As a sales person, I see opportunities.”

A well known expert on using Web Tools for sales, speaker and trainer Miles Austin uses his blog to share his favorite Web Tools, as well as how to use them effectively for sales.

http://www.fillthefunnel.com

Alen Mayer, The Science and Art of Selling (@mayeralen)

“Technology is developing at a pace that rarely anyone can catch up, and especially the last two decades many trained sales people are not in the position to utilize the advantages of the technology. In this regard, the technology can be your friend or foe.”

Sale expert Alen’s blog has many informative articles spanning various segments of sales. Carefully categorized, the blog offers gruseful content for anyone who may want to brush up on their sales knowledge and skills.

http://www.alenmajer.com/

Dan Waldschmidt, Edgy Conversations (@DanWaldo)

“Websites structured data with imagering and videos, allowing persuasive conversations to be prepared ahead of time. Then came video messaging and Skype which made peer-to-peer communication fast and free. And then it all came to the mobile phone. The conversation got supercharged.”

“Business is always looking for ways to make the conversations more effective. Stop worrying about the latest tools used to manage and create new conversations. The tools aren’t that important. It’s the conversation that matters the most.”

A CEO by the time he was 25, according to his biography, Dan’s blog is straightforward and no-nonsense in getting to the root of the problems that plague sales today.

http://danwaldschmidt.com/blog

Mobile Productivity and BYOD – 9 Experts Weigh In

 

As with any good argument there are usually at least two possible outcomes: The Good and The Bad. Such is the case with the Bring Your Own Device  (B.Y.O.D.) trend that has come to business mobile. That is, employees bringing the mobile device of their choice to use at work, such as smartphones and tablets. We won’t pass judgement or opinion in this post, but here is a list of experts we found whose opinion is well regarded on the topic of this consumerization of the enterprise. Does the increase in mobility that a corporate BYOD strategy offers increase or decrease ones personal productivity and therefore a company’s overall productivity? See what these experts have to say:

BYOD decreases productivity

  • Tom Kaneshige (@kaneshige) of CIO.com writes that BYOD can limit productivity when employees travel internationally. “Many BYOD smartphone-carrying knowledge workers often take international vacations” and don’t check in on work because their company won’t pay for international roaming. Before BYOD companies would automatically pay for global roaming because the phone was a corporate asset and employees would check-in on work during international vacations. He further predicts that BYOD will decline in 2013 because “support costs, compliance risks, and usage reimbursement typically lead to a higher total cost of ownership with no discernible return on investment or productivity gains,” citing a report from Nucleus Research.
  • Ndubuisi Ekekwe – On the Harvard Business Review Blog Ndubuisi writes that 24/7 connectivity eliminates predictable time off (a key part of a work/life balance) and this jeopardizes long-term productivity. At his company, “there was a perception that if a customer or a colleague needed something and couldn’t get it immediately, the firm would not be taken seriously,” so they implemented a 24/7 availability policy. “Six months later, we noticed that customer complaints were actually up, and team morale was down.”
  • Pedro Hernandez (@pedrohernandez), for Datamation, writes that privacy fears threaten gains in productivity from BYOD. He says 82% of enterprise workers were concerned or extremely concerned that their employer can track their web browsing, and 86% were concerned or extremely concerned that their personal data (photos, music, email) would be deleted without their authorization, citing a survey by Harris Interactive.

BYOD Increases Productivity

  • Peter Silva (@psilvas) in his series on BYOD policies for SYS-CON Media writes that using their preferred device makes employees happier. He goes on to say that “80% of Americans work an extra 30 hours a month on their own time with BYOD,” citing research from Good Technology.
  • Denise Deveau (@denisejdeveau), for the Financial Post, writes that telework has had no negative impact on productivity. “Productivity increases when people know they have the freedom to fit things in when they need to.”
  • Caroline Baldwin (@cl_baldwin) – On ComputerWeekly.com Caroline writes that, “nearly 60% of employees feel work would be more enjoyable if they had a say in the technologies they used, while 60% feel they would be more productive with better IT resources,” citing a report from Evolving Workforce Research.
  • Cesare Garlati (@CesareGarlati) write on the Trend Micro Consumerization Blog that BYOD boosts productivity because, “employees want to use their mobile devices, laptops and home PCs for work, and are also likely to get more out of the technology because they’ll be more familiar with it.” Further, “although productivity gains may offset many of the costs and risks associated with BYOD,” IT leaders should carefully evaluate the role BYOD would play in their organization before making a decision.

The Mobile Only Experiment

  • Benjamin Robbins (@paladorbenjamin) – The true mobile productivity test is underway. Can one truly be productive on a mobile device? How productive? Benjamin is contributing columnist with The Enterprise Mobility Foundation spending a whole year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only. Will he remain mobile-only after 52 weeks? Benjamin is also regular blogger on all things mobile in the enterprise.

As most anyone can attest, time is a valuable asset. In business, time is often a gating factor yet getting more done faster is the standard. The undeniable trend of mobile growth in business and personal productivity is both a variable and an opportunity when it comes to managing what little time we have.

Are you more productive in business when you are mobile?

Please share your comments.