Monthly Archives: February 2017

Expert Interview (Part 2): Robert Corace of SoftServe Discusses Digital Transformation Challenges

In Part 1, Robert talked about how critical importance of digital transformation for organizations. In part two, highlights the results of recent research on digital transformation with a focus on the common challenges organizations face. He also provides some examples of  innovative strategies that companies such as Netflix and Amazon are using to tackle these digital transformation challenges.

What are the most common frustration or challenges your clients are coming to you with to solve? How do you help them?

As our recent research showed, security is the chief concern and the biggest challenge to solve. As I already mentioned, data mining and analytics is also a struggle for many, as well as experience design and organizational inflexibility.

On a higher, more strategic level, though, many companies understand that they need to transform, but they lack clear vision into what areas they need to focus on, where to start, and how to move forward with their transformative initiatives in the fastest and most efficient way. That’s why we have SoftServe Labs, in fact, to help our clients with research and proof-of-concept before they make large investments.

I wouldn’t describe these as purely challenges, though, as these companies also stand to gain a lot. Digital asset management, Cloud computing, mobile technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) approached as a part of digital transformation efforts can bring a lot of benefits to consumer facing operations, retail, the finance and banking sector, and many others.

What are some of the digital transformation challenges facing organizations today in harnessing their data?

Numerous security breaches and hacking attacks serve as a proof that we haven’t yet solved security challenges facing all businesses, small and large. Privacy is also a big concern, especially when it comes to access to personal data in healthcare, education, state and government organizations, etc.

blog digital transformation Expert Interview (Part 2): Robert Corace of SoftServe Discusses Digital Transformation Challenges

Data security is one of the common digital transformation challenges facing businesses today.

Another aspect of it is legacy software that cannot handle the amounts of data that require daily processing, and it can’t be all substituted within a couple of days due to financial and resource strains it would put upon the organizations. Artificial Intelligence (AI), though hugely promising, is not yet at that stage when it can automate decision making for truly impactful processes, beyond initial analysis. However, it can facilitate and speed them up considerably.

Related: The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Sales and Account Planning

It also is very important to remember that harnessing data is not an end in itself, but rather a means to help organizations achieve their business and strategic goals. And the consumer – a human being– is at the heart of all of it. So, no purely technical solution, no matter how powerful or innovative, will bring true value if it’s not applied correctly or as a part of a well-thought and comprehensive strategy.

What organizations do you feel have been especially forward-thinking and/or innovative at leveraging their data to solve? What can we learn from them to solve our own digital transformation challenges?

Well, when it comes to leveraging data and personalization, giants like Google and Netflix immediately come to mind. It’s interesting how thoroughly analyzing data and making the right predictions, Netflix managed to reduce the range of content available on their platform while improving customer satisfaction.

And look how Amazon is using data from different sensors and machine learning to disrupt the grocery business with their “Amazon Go” retail store.

When it comes to attracting new customers, which is also a challenge for traditional companies, I like the example of L’inizio Pizza Bar in New York. Their manager decided to attract Pokémon Go players to the place, and he spent just $ 10 to have Pokémon characters lured to his restaurant. The business went up by 75 percent. So, it’s never about technology or software only, it’s about innovative thinking and human ingenuity.

How can organizations manage their data assets more efficiently and effectively? What should their data management strategies include?

With the “Internet of Everything” and connected everything blurring the concepts of office and home devices as well as working hours and workplace, data assets need to be secure and protected and accessible from a variety of different devices, in different formats and easily searchable.

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For some organizations – most likely in the government sector, finance, and insurance, etc. – it will require switching to intranet to secure their assets from any unauthorized access or potential loss of information. For others, where remote access from any place, any time is a higher priority, omni-channel and compatibility will be the key focus. The challenges here include the already discussed legacy software and integration issues.

According to IDC research, by 2022 almost all data – 93 percent – in the digital universe will be unstructured. It will also, most likely be content in different formats, including audio and video files, images, interactive content, etc. Not only will this require greater storage and processing capacity, it also means that this data will need to be easily searchable and user friendly if we want it to be used versus stored.

When it comes to customer-facing content, another requirement is consistency across various channels. On the whole, when it comes to data, the current leaders in asset management are platform providers. With these platforms, instead of building their own solutions from scratch, which is a costly and time-consuming approach, businesses can quickly customize and scale a ready-made solution, adding and discarding additional features depending on their current needs.

What are some of the most exciting Big Data trends or innovations you’re following right now? Why do they interest you?

SoftServe’s 2016 Big Data survey showed 62 percent of organizations expect to implement machine learning by 2018, so apparently machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are huge Big Data trends we’re following right now. Chatbots as a customer-facing form of AI technology have gained momentum and are quickly becoming an area of huge interest for all kinds of user support activities.

But from a high-level perspective it’s nothing new, really. Once again, it’s all focused around building a better, different experience for a consumer, so machine learning, AI and chatbots are in fact just new(ish), possibly more effective ways to achieve the same goal: leveraging data to improve customer experience and stay relevant in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

For more on challenges driving digital transformations, download the eBook “Hadoop Perspectives for 2017” which offers an in-depth look at the results of Syncsort’s annual Hadoop survey, including five trends to watch for in 2017.

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The Silent Marketing Roadblock – Choice

The Silent Marketing Roadblock – Choice 351x200 The Silent Marketing Roadblock – Choice

Minimize the Risk of Purchase

“Decision overwhelm” is fueled by the fear of making the wrong decision. You finally make a choice after sampling ice cream, but even though you’ve chosen chocolate mint, you’re still thinking about the mango sherbet you passed up. B2B purchases aren’t ice cream, but the fear of making the wrong decision is still great – and arguably the stakes are much higher. So how can you minimize the risk?

In addition to using social proof, reduce risk by offering escape options. Money-back guarantees and no-hassle return policies reduce the fear of getting trapped by the wrong product choice. As a result, the perceived risk of moving forward with a purchase is far less, which drives higher conversion rates.

Reduce Items per Page

Marketers often carefully design website home pages and landing pages to create the highest conversion rate. But it’s wise to revisit these pages frequently, especially when seeking ways to simplify and reduce decision-making fatigue for your customers. But how?

Start with the category pages. Navigating through your website should require the fewest decisions and least energy possible. So ask yourself, “How can we streamline navigation to result in fewer decisions to arrive at the intended destination? Can we simplify messaging on the home page or include fewer but higher-impact calls to action?” Seek opportunities to make the website more straightforward and user-friendly and reduce resistance in the online experience.

Moving Forward With Less Fatigue

It’s tempting to provide customers with more – increased options, multiple calls to action, and greater benefits. The research, however, is clear: If you want to create more positive feelings about your brand, reduce confusion, and increase sales, you must provide less.

Fewer calls to action and fewer choices help consumers arrive at decisions faster, which may help shorten the sales cycle. As Barry Schwartz, the author of “The Paradox of Choice,” points out, you must find a sweet spot. He says, “Do people benefit from variety? Absolutely. But you must strike the balance between variety and not paralyzing your customers. And once you find this magical spot, you can maximize each and every marketing effort.”

Do you think that decision-making fatigue affects B2B marketing? Share your experiences and results.

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What CFOs Need To Know Now About Country-By-Country Reporting Legislation

272149 272149 l srgb s gl What CFOs Need To Know Now About Country By Country Reporting Legislation

Procurement is often viewed as a numbers game. A delicate mix of costs, vendor performance ratings, and operational efficiencies is calculated and used to meet the precise needs of the corporate strategy. However, math alone does not forge the best supplier relationships. It’s creating the right balance between fairness, accountability, and value within the supply chain.

Throughout my 12-year experience with the finance and procurement function within SAP, I have grown keenly aware of this need for balance in the supplier network and the organization itself – including the representation of women. The longer I work within these functions to address business needs and hear customers discuss their transformations in finance, shared services, and procurement, the more I realize that the lack of women with decision-making responsibility is hindering performance company-wide.

A personal testimony to the value of gender diversity within procurement

I was engaged not too long ago in a difficult contract negotiation with a global telecommunications vendor. After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to agree on pricing, our board-level executives got involved, and we were in a vicious cycle of arguing the same points over and over again.

Realizing that such wrangling was unproductive and wasteful, both sides agreed to take a break so I could appoint a new person – with a fresh perspective – to lead the negotiation and assume full decision-making responsibility. And yes, I chose the only woman on my team, and it was the best decision I could have made. She turned the entire situation around in ways that none of us had thought about weeks beforehand. She asked questions instead of following the process for agreeing on line items in the contract. This approach changed the entire conversation and delivered the biggest savings in a single contract in SAP’s history.

This is not to say that one gender outperforms another in managing relationships with multiple vendors and stakeholders analyzing data to pinpoint the best strategy, or negotiating effective, yet mutually inclusive, contracts. However, building a team of diverse perspective – across gender, age, nationality, and race – does make a real difference.

Embrace gender diversity – and raise the value of procurement

Whether I am heading a procurement organization or driving digitization strategies with multiple customers, I have always asked myself one simple question: “Is procurement underrated as a career path?” In my opinion, there is no better function than procurement to gain insight into the organizational setup, deeply understand the business model, and acquire functional expertise. Focusing on these benefits might attract more people to this kind of work, especially as millennials and women view such opportunities as a prerequisite for developing their careers.

Here are four ways procurement leadership can help address the gender gap:

  1. Cast a light on the hidden areas of the supply chain: To hire new talent, leadership must do a better job in explaining the function, demonstrating its integral value in business operations, and showcasing the various roles – visible and invisible – that make it happen.
  1. Rethink the procurement leadership path: If procurement organizations want to attract women, they need to look beyond their four walls and possibly outside the industry. By focusing on the skills of the individual and not just their background, hiring managers can discover perspectives and abilities that are missing – and likely much-needed – in their team.
  1. Create a strategy and put it into action: Lip service alone will not encourage women to join the ranks. Building diversity requires a growth strategy. Organizations must prioritize business needs, promote open collaboration, and plan for the long term.
  1. Remove unconscious bias from hiring and talent development processes: Here’s a harsh reality that has always stuck with me: Fewer large companies are run by women than by men named John. To avoid unintentional hiring bias, businesses should consider restructuring and redefining hiring processes. By identifying and targeting key competencies required for the position and creating a process to fulfill those needs, recruiters, hiring managers, and interviewers can better assess whether a candidate can do the job and if that person has skills that transfer well.

Gender-diverse procurement leadership bring greater value and opportunity

Leveraging the skills of a diverse team makes procurement processes better informed and equipped to answer global customer demand; weigh the risks and opportunities of contracting suppliers from different countries; and see the bigger, long-term picture of the entire supply chain. But first, the challenge must be addressed the same way a critical business issue would: Thinking ahead, setting measurable and meaningful goals, and committing those plans to action. Then, as more women engage in senior leadership positions, the door opens for real, accelerated, change.

Hire the best talent – the right people – to move the business forward. Isn’t that the point of creating a diverse workforce?

For more on creating the most effective teams, see Everything You Know About Leadership Is Wrong.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube


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Big Gun Will Travel

Now that’s open carry!

rhPUIpn Big Gun Will Travel

“Goin skeet shootin.  Open carry in Texas.”
Image courtesy of

U.S. Government Extends ZTE's Temporary Export License

The United States Department of Commerce has reportedly agreed to extend ZTE’s temporary export license to March 29, 2017, allowing American companies to continue to provide software, technologies, and restrictive components published in March 2016 to ZTE.

Prior to this, the Chinese telecom device manufacturer received an export restriction from the American government and its export license was due for expiration on February 27, 2017. However, the extension is shorter than the previously approved 90 days by the United States Department of Commerce, which means ZTE is still facing pressure.

ZTE stated on February 14 that they were negotiating with the United States Department of Commerce, United States Department of the Treasury, and United States Department of Justice to end their investigation about ZTE’s violation of American laws by exporting U.S.-made products to Iran and other sanctioned countries.

ZTE also said that the expected punishment may bring a huge impact to the financial performance of the company. At present, ZTE’s annual sales are over USD15 billion.

ZTE is one of the largest telecom device manufacturers in the world and it has about 10% market share in the U.S., where its suppliers include Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Intel. The company is also the fourth largest smartphone supplier in the U.S. and its clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

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Creating a Memorable Customer Experience with Dynamics 365/CRM

CRM Blog Creating a Memorable Customer Experience with Dynamics 365/CRM

If there was a single recipe for success in today’s business environment, a great customer experience might just be it. In recent years, the tables have turned in the relationship between businesses and their customers. Our always-connected society has changed what customers expect from brands and how they share their brand interactions with others.

Customer experience, also sometimes referred to as CX, is often seen as synonymous with customer service or simply thought of as marketing. In actuality, it is both of these things and much more.

Customer experience is made up of every interaction that a customer has with your organization, and how he or she perceives those interactions. Whether an individual is reading an email from your company, visiting your website, engaging with your brand on social media, speaking to an employee personally, or actually using your product or service, every touch point is a part of your brand’s customer experience.

Microsoft Dynamics 365/CRM is a powerful tool for gaining insights into and improving the customer experience by:

Centralizing customer information. When customer data is decentralized, it is very difficult to get a clear picture of who your customers are and even more difficult to see how they interact with your company at various touch points. Dynamics 365 makes it easy for individuals throughout your organization to organize and access vital customer data.
Building personal relationships. One-to-one relationships with customers are now more important than ever, and CRM systems were designed to manage those relationships. Use the data about customers that you store in Dynamics 365 to treat customers as individuals and to personalize the customer experience.
Discovering what customers really want. Being responsive and proactive is a big part of the customer experience. Dynamics 365 allows you to see which products or services your customers are interested in or have already purchased, which can help you proactively offer other relevant products, services or information before they even ask for it.
Providing faster customer support. Nothing puts a damper on a customer’s experience with a business like a slow response time when they have a problem with or question about a product or service. The case entity within Dynamics 365/CRM can help you assign, track and manage issues, making their resolution faster and more seamless for your customers and your team.
Staying in touch. Customers today like attention, and ongoing communication is now an essential part of the customer experience. Beyond just storing customer contact information, CRM can help organizations segment contacts into marketing lists that can be used in customized communications and campaigns.

Ready to learn more about creating a memorable customer experience at your organization? Download our free eBook, The Customer Experience Cookbook: Engaging and Delighting Customers with Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

Posted by ClickDimensions.

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4 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Not long ago, I received an email from my health club. I’ve been member there for 13 years, and this was the first of its kind. It said, in part:

“Dear Chris,
We’ve noticed you haven’t been in as regularly in recent weeks. I understand there may be many reasons for not being able to make it in, but I just wanted to send a quick note to check if you’re happy with the service we’ve been providing. Let me know if I can be of any assistance and I hope to see you very soon!”

While I appreciate that the health club is at least trying to stay in contact, this email managed to do several things wrong all at once — and they’re all avoidable.

Don’t Put the Recipient on the Spot

My reaction to this email was probably not what they thought it might be. I felt defensive. “Hey! I went last Friday!” I thought. “I’m planning on going tonight, already!”

Then I caught myself. I used to go to the club three times a week. Since having a child, it’s usually twice a week for two hours. Some weeks more, some weeks less. Still, I don’t have any need to explain my behavior to a health club that gladly takes my money regardless of how often I go.

It wasn’t the club’s intent to raise my defenses. In fact, it’s a smart thing for them to encourage people to continue a regular, ongoing relationship with the club and to make attendance a habit — because membership renewals then become a habit, too.

It’s all about the message — and the audience. I know they know how old I am, and I know they know my actual attendance patterns. When the club “notices” behavior of the doughy middle-ager and calls him on it — even in gentle terms — it can start the conversation off on the wrong note and negate any positive aspects of the message.

Don’t Make Personalization About the Data

Hey, wait a minute — I’m not doughy! I go to the gym pretty often, considering! However, this email was sent on Jan. 12. I suspect it was generated when my attendance dropped below a certain threshold, or was down a certain percentage of visits over the typical month.

“There may be many reasons for not being able to make it in,” indeed. December is anything but a typical month, and I didn’t get to the health club much the last two weeks of the year, thus triggering this email.

So, while it might appear personalized, it isn’t. It’s not about me — it’s about my data. It’s driven by attendance statistics compiled each time I use my badge to check in, but it has nothing to do with my greater life.

In the case of the month of December, the events of that greater life are easy to infer.

Don’t Give Grammar Short Shrift

The email itself uses the pronouns “we” and “I” almost interchangeably. The signature is from the general manager — so the copy ought to read like it’s from her.

I am fairly certain she is not the queen of any known nation, so the royal “we” is inappropriate.

Don’t Be Stingy With Added Value

A check-in is nice, but without some additional information, it seems like just a nudge to guilt the reader to come back in to the club. To be fair, the end of the copy includes links to an article on fitting exercise into a busy schedule and to the class schedule. However, other information would have made the email much more useful.

For example, over the holiday break, the club swapped some new weight training equipment with some older machines. In fact, the next time I went in, I had to hunt around find the equipment for my regular routine. A little update would have been nice: “The next time you’re in the fitness area, you’ll notice some things have changed…” Or, even better: “We’ll have a trainer on duty specifically to make sure you learn your way around the new gear!”

Connecting with customers in a subscription business is vital to survival. However, the best approach is to do it in a way that makes the customer feel good about the relationship, that provides a reason for the customer to engage with the message, and that reflects positively on the business.

The goal of email communications should be to strengthen the bond. Don’t give the customer any reasons to think about switching to a competitor.
end enn 4 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Chris%20Bucholtz 4 Email Marketing Mistakes to AvoidChris Bucholtz has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2009. His focus is on CRM, sales and marketing software, and the interface between people and technology. He currently serves as director of content marketing for
CallidusCloud and writes the Stevie Award-winning Lead to Money blog. Email Chris.

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Expert Interview (Part 1): SoftServe’s Robert Corace on Why Digital Transformation is Critical

Robert Corace is the executive vice president of digital disruption at SoftServe, a digital solutions company. As a seasoned industry professional with more than 25 years of experience leading sales and implementation teams, technology groups and global delivery centers, Corace is an expert in digital and technology enablement, digital transformation, digital disruption and digital futurism.

We recently checked in with Robert to get his insight on Big Data and current trends in data and the Internet of Things (IoT). Here’s what he shared:

Can you talk about SoftServe’s mission? What sets you apart from your competitors?

SoftServe was founded in 1993, and we have more than 20 years of experience building cutting-edge business solutions for clients all over the world, ranging from the Fortune 1000 enterprises to some of the world’s largest technology and services firms.

Our motto is “Experience Matters,” and this is at the core of who we are and how we serve our clients. Our “Think. Iterate. Deliver.” process enables us to engage with our clients across the innovation journey. We partner with our clients to design, create and build extraordinary experiences, that are instilled with user empathy and facilitate meaningful transformation. Our clients – and their end customers and users – are at the heart of everything that we do.

SoftServe’s differentiators include our people, proprietary processes and IP. With our unique twist on experience design, prototyping, UI/CX, architecture and development, we set ourselves apart from others in our space who struggle to create and put forth a cohesive and aligned team that can ensure constant and predictable delivery.

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Our focused and purposefully designed platforms, IP and accelerators allow our clients to increase quality, decrease time to market and increase time to ideation across the digital experience. One of our most recent creations, BioLock, was listed as finalist by the 2017 SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards in the Smart Cities category.

Why is digital transformation so critical to businesses today?

The technology sector has been discussing digital transformation since the 1990s, and the term has become the buzzword of the day. But the momentum it has gained recently is the direct result of the changes that industries all over the world are experiencing right now.

We are on the threshold of fundamental changes to the way that business and business transactions are being done. In other words, everything that companies did before is no longer enough. Customers demand unique, personalized and thoughtful experiences.

Many organizations have an inordinate amount of data about their customers just sitting there (and consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, which means they understand there is wasted opportunity). There’s just no excuse why this data is not being used to make the omni-channel user experience connected and flawless.

Consumers have become digital, and all domains, from chain stores and restaurants to healthcare, education and governmental bodies, need to meet their expectations. However, many companies are not yet equipped to extract analytics from the collected data or react to customer demands quickly enough. Digital disruption is necessary to help them adjust their organizations to what the market requires and match their clients’ expectations.

And organizations realize this, too. In fact, a recent digital transformation survey conducted by SoftServe revealed that 72 percent of organizations have already implemented a transformative strategy, either across their entire business or some parts of it. And, a further 25 percent plan to adopt such transformative strategies in the future.

What should businesses be doing in IT today to prepare for the future?

First of all, just as consumers have become digital, businesses need to be digital, too. It means becoming a part of digital ecosystems, learning about your consumers’ likes and needs (here again comes Big Data and analytics), their preferences, and their expectations. IT can no longer be considered a separate division or a separate industry. Every company that wants to sell to digital consumers will need to be, in some respects, an IT company  – and having a website or online shopping channels will not cut it.

We’re now at a stage when crafting your offerings based on consumer groups no longer makes sense. The whole user experience needs to be reinvented, hence a need for user empathy and design thinking to track the customer journey from the very beginning and make it better next time, every time. Companies have enough data to make their offerings targeted not at a couple of groups, but at every consumer individually.

And when I say users or consumers, I don’t only mean paying clients. Your employees are users, too. Your partner organizations and vendors, as well. The clients of your clients. It’s an extended network, and each part of it can be vastly disrupted and improved via digitalization.

For more on challenges driving digital transformations, watch our webcast which highlights the results from Syncsort’s recent annual Hadoop survey.

In the second installment of this two-part interview, Corace discusses how the results of recent research on digital transformation highlight the common challenges organizations face, and discusses some of the innovative strategies to meet those challenges.

 Expert Interview (Part 1): SoftServe’s Robert Corace on Why Digital Transformation is Critical

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Top Ten Digitalist Magazine Posts Of The Week [February 27, 2017]

the future of supplier collaboration 9 things cpos want managers to know now blog 300x200 Top Ten Digitalist Magazine Posts Of The Week [February 27, 2017]As a sourcing or procurement manager, you may think there’s nothing new about supplier collaboration. Your chief procurement officer (CPO) most likely disagrees.
Forward-thinking CPOs acknowledge the benefit of supplier partnerships. They not only value collaboration, but require a revolution in how their buying organization conducts its business and operations. “Procurement must start looking to suppliers for inspiration and new capability, stop prescribing specifications and start tapping into the expertise of suppliers,” writes David Rae in Procurement Leaders. The CEO expects it of your CPO, and your CPO expects it of you. For sourcing managers, this can be a lot of pressure.

Here are nine things your CPO wants you to know about how supplier collaboration is changing – and why it matters to your company’s future and your own future.

1. The need for supplier collaboration in procurement is greater than ever

Over half (65%) of procurement practitioners say procurement at their company is becoming more collaborative with suppliers, according to The Future of Procurement, Making Collaboration Pay Off, by Oxford Economics. Why? Because the pace of business has increased exponentially, and businesses must be able to respond to new market demands with agility and innovation. In this climate, buyers are relying on suppliers more than ever before. And buyers aren’t collaborating with suppliers merely as providers of materials and goods, but as strategic partners that can help create products that are competitive differentiators.

Supplier collaboration itself isn’t new. What’s new is that it’s taken on a much greater urgency and importance.

2. You’re probably not realizing the full collective power of your supplier relationships

Supplier collaboration has always been a function of maintaining a delicate balance between demand and supply. For the most part, the primary focus of the supplier relationship is ensuring the right materials are available at the right time and location. However, sourcing managers with a narrow focus on delivery are missing out on one of the greatest advantages of forging collaborative supplier partnerships: an opportunity to drive synergies that are otherwise perceived as impossible within the confines of the business. The game-changer is when you drive those synergies with thousands, not hundreds of suppliers. Look at the Apple Store as a prime example of collaboration en masse. Without the apps, the iPhone is just another ordinary phone!

3. Collaboration comes in more than one flavor

Suppliers don’t just collaborate with you to provide a critical component or service. They also work with your engineers to help ensure costs are optimized from the buyer’s perspective as well as the supplier’s side. They may even take over the provisioning of an entire end-to-end solution. Or co-design with your R&D team through joint research and development. These forms of collaboration aren’t new, but they are becoming more common and more critical. And they are becoming more impactful, because once you start extending any of these collaboration models to more and more suppliers, your capabilities as a business increase by orders of magnitude. If one good supplier can enable your company to build its brand, expand its reach, and establish its position as a market leader – imagine what’s possible when you work collaboratively with hundreds or thousands of suppliers.

4. Keeping product sustainability top of mind pays off

Facing increasing demand for sustainable products and production, companies are relying on suppliers to answer this new market requirement.

As a sourcing manager, you may need to go outside your comfort zone to think about new, innovative ways to collaborate for achieving sustainability. Recently, I heard from an acquaintance who is a CPO of a leading services company. His organization is currently collaborating with one of the largest suppliers in the world to adhere to regulatory mandates and consumer demand for “lean and green” lightbulbs. Although this approach was interesting to me, what really struck me was his observation on how this co-innovation with the supplier is spawning cost and resource optimization and the delivery of competitive products. As reported by Andrew Winston in The Harvard Business Review, Target and Walmart partnered to launch the Personal Care Sustainability Summit last year. So even competitors are collaborating with each other and with their suppliers in the name of sustainability.

5. Co-marketing is a win-win

Look at your list of suppliers. Does anyone have a brand that is bigger than your company’s? Believe it or not, almost all of us do. So why not seize the opportunity to raise your and your supplier’s brand profile in the marketplace?

Take Intel, for example. The laptop you’re working on right now may very well have an “Intel inside” sticker on it. That’s co-marketing at work. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s top 100 most valuable brands by Millward Brown Optimor, this largest supplier of microprocessors is world-renowned for its technology and innovation. For many companies that buy supplies from Intel, the decision to co-market is a strategic approach to convey that the product is reliable and provides real value for their computing needs.

6. Suppliers get to choose their customers, too

Increased competition for high-performing suppliers is changing the way procurement operates, say 58% of procurement executives in the Oxford Economics study. Buyers have a responsibility to the supplier – and to their CEO – to be a customer of choice. When the economy is going well, you might be able to dictate the supplier’s goods and services – and sometimes even the service delivery model. When times get tough (and they can very quickly), suppliers will typically reevaluate your organization’s needs to see whether they can continue service in a fiscally responsible manner. To secure suppliers’ attention in favorable and challenging economic conditions, your organization should establish collaborative and mutually productive partnerships with them.

7. Suppliers can help simplify operations

Cost optimization will always be one of your performance metrics; however, that is only one small part of the entire puzzle. What will help your organization get noticed is leveraging the supplier relationship to innovate new and better ways of managing the product line and operating the business while balancing risk and cost optimization. Ask yourself: Which functions are no longer needed? Can they be outsourced to a supplier that can perform them better? What can be automated?

8. Suppliers have a better grasp of your sourcing categories than you do

Understand your category like never before so that your organization can realize the full potential of its supplier investments while delivering products that are consistent and of high quality. How? By leveraging the wisdom of your suppliers. To be blunt: they know more than you do. Tap into that knowledge to gain a solid understanding of the product, market category, suppliers’ capabilities, and shifting dynamics in the industry, If a buyer does not understand these areas deeply, no amount of collaboration will empower a supplier to help your company innovate as well as optimize costs and resources.

9. Remember that there’s something in it for you as well

All of us want to do strategic, impactful work. Sourcing managers with aspirations of becoming CPOs should move beyond writing contracts and pushing PO requests by building strategic procurement skill sets. For example, a working knowledge in analytics allows you to choose suppliers that can shape the market and help a product succeed – and can catch the eye of the senior leadership team.

Sundar Kamak is global vice president of solutions marketing at Ariba, an SAP company.

For more on supplier collaboration, read Making Collaboration Pay Off, part of a series on the Future of Procurement, by Oxford Economics.


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What is Brand Marketing?

What is Brand Marketing 351x200 What is Brand Marketing?

And marketing automation can help brand marketers in several ways: brand identity management, social publishing, press release attribution, corporate and internal communications, event management and influencer relations.

Brand Identity Management

You can use your marketing automation media library to be the repository for your brand’s logo, website headers, footers and other templates, and other branded assets. That’s where your Demand and Expand teams can go to grab resources when building a landing page or creating an email. And with Act-On Anywhere (a Chrome browser app), your marketing and sales teams can access brand elements even as they work in other applications.

Social Publishing

Act-On’s social and advanced social publishing tools integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so you can post, listen, and measure social engagement from a single interface.

Press Release Click Attribution

You can also use marketing automation to create trackable URLs for press releases that will help you measure press release engagement and see how they contribute to your sales.

Corporate/Internal Communications

Like as you would send a newsletter or other communication to a prospect list, you can do the same for your internal communications and track employee engagement on corporate/HR campaigns.

Event Management

Whether it’s a virtual event or a customer workshop, marketing automation allows you to manage the process and track engagement from email invitations to reminders to post-event follow ups. You can create an automated workflow (save the date, official invite, seats are limited, registration responder and reminders), then re-use and refine the workflow for the next event.

Influencer Relations

“As a PR person or a brand person, you have your list of stakeholders,” Musto said. “These are typically the influencers you want to get in front of. You want to nurture them just like you would a potential buyer.

“But the outcome would be a mention in a research report or a quote in a key publication, or a written article about your company. The end deliverable is different. It’s not a dollar revenue thing; it’s qualitative storytelling that you’re looking to get out of them.”

She said you can manage your press lists just like you would your lead lists and do segmentation off both the behavioral intelligence that your marketing automation collects, as well as the demographic data from the CRM.

“The system does a great job at being able to score, segment, and track all stakeholder types,” she said, “just like you do with your prospects and customers.”

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