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The Four Pillars for a Powerful Tech Partnership

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By Eric Lefebvre, Chief Technology Officer at Sovos.

 

Many technology vendors will make all sorts of promises and claim to have miracle solutions for your business needs. However, it’s important not to be swayed by vendor promises. Instead, it is critical to have a set of standards and criteria for the tech your business uses and needs. This will guarantee that you are making the right purchases from the right vendor.

If you’re seeking a reliable partner, you should validate four core pillars of a vendors’ solution: reliability, scalability, security, and experience. By taking this precautionary measure, you’ll be able to identify the perfect match.

Reliability is key

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2021 set the record for the highest percentage of people working from home. With this quick shift to remote working throughout the pandemic and with little time to prepare, many businesses faced the sudden challenge of creating and developing digital adoption strategies in order to simply stay afloat during this period of change. Paired with the increasing consumerisation of technology and the always-on/always-available culture, IT teams need to ensure that the technology solutions they provide need to work all the time, with minimal disruption.

Being able to depend on your technology partner’s expertise to support your company and help keep up with these unprecedented changes is a key factor in building a successful business relationship. Technology is always evolving, and businesses should be able to place total trust in their tech partner to handle any back-end tech issues. Having a reliable partner ensures that businesses won’t lag behind as these market changes occur.

Scalability support

As the online market expands, many businesses are evolving or implementing digital solutions to capitalise on this growth. Businesses that are experiencing rapid growth and expansion in the market should not be hindered by a lack of experience or involvement in technology.

Eric Lefebvre

When searching for a technology partner, it is important to find one that will propel your company forwards in every way, especially digital transformation. For instance, Renolon reported that, on average 93.79% of businesses use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and others to reach their markets. With the rapidly changing needs of businesses and their consumers in today’s market, it’s important to ask if your vendor partner is prepared to support a sudden increase in sales volume, should your business experience an unanticipated response to a media campaign – even something as random as an influencer promoting your product/services on Tik Tok. This is not an uncommon occurrence and businesses can experience exponential growth as a result of these reasons.

The right partner, committed to supporting the expansion of your services, products, and reach into the digital space, will enable your business to reach its goals and objectives as quickly as possible.

Secure systems

Security is inevitably a key consideration when entering a partnership with a technology vendor because they will be responsible for preserving a business’ functionality. It’s vital to assess your partner’s security posture, given that your sensitive business and customer data will be vulnerable to exposure on systems and networks that are beyond your control. Choosing the right partner should give you peace of mind as they will do their utmost to keep you safe from cyberattacks, hackers and data leaks, which will ultimately protect your reputation.

You should be able to trust your technology partner with all the information they need to improve your business. Your partner should be keeping up with your business in every sense, including minimising security threats in the digital space. Providing secure IT solutions and services to your organisation is essential for a successful partnership.

The people and the tech make up experience

Effective technological support is an important part of any business operation, and it’s something that you should be able to count on your provider to commit to. In the search of a partner, it’s essential to understand what level of tech support they can provide. Evaluating this will help to determine if they’re the right fit for your business and if they can meet your business needs.

What’s more, when partnering with a provider that takes the people factor into account, you can be sure that employees and customers will have a positive experience with your business. This, in turn, leads to improved morale, loyalty, and retention. According to a survey conducted by Partner Path, solution providers ranked the ‘People Pillar’ as the most important factor when considering any partner experience.

A first-class experience affords easy access to various business solutions, imparts the domain expertise and knowledge required to make the convoluted appear effortless, and provides products that are so intuitive that guidance is scarcely needed. Technology companies such as Stripe, Square and Uber cemented their widespread reputation outside of their target market, simply because of their user-friendly nature.

All in all, the right technology partner can help improve and scale your business in many ways – they can help shorten your sales processes, improve customer and employee experience, and better meet user needs.

Turning the tide with the right tech partner

Essentially, like any partnership, it all comes down to trust. So, keep in mind those key components listed above – reliability, scalability, security, and experience – and you’ll be able to find yourself a trustworthy IT partner.

Of course, the right tech partner will be different for every business. But, it’s crucial to ensure your potential partner can deliver on these crucial areas that are specific to your organisation’s needs to build trust and create a successful partnership. A business / vendor relationship is only as strong as the trust between them.

Business

Why Procurement is key in delivering your ESG strategy

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By Edward Cox, Principal at Efficio Consulting

 

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) has shifted from a niche to a mainstream topic across the board-level and multiple stakeholders, due to its potential to influence business performance, risk, and growth.

However, as businesses evolve from the global pandemic, many are struggling to enforce sustainable change due to other conflicting priorities to manage since the pandemic – from costs savings to ensuring business continuity. Nevertheless, the cost of ignoring the sustainability agenda and calls for change can cause significant issues for businesses in the future.

Procurement has been seen to play a vital role in driving actionable change, for issues such as ESG policies. Procurement teams are in the position of having the most comprehensive overview of the corporate ecosystem and are able to ensure that organisations can perform on all levels and remain socially and environmentally responsible.

Procurement’s prime position to be a lever for sustainable change can be maximised by following the 10 steps to sustainable procurement:

 

Step 1: Understand organisational objectives

Driving any sort of actionable change begins with setting and understanding organisational objectives. Many organisations fall into the trap of wanting to improve everything all at once, but this simply isn’t realistic. Understanding what is truly important to your organisation and where you can help needs to be the very first step.

Step 2: Engage sustainability leads

If your organisation has a sustainability function, then it should be setting the business-level strategy from which the procurement team derives its own strategy. This sustainability function should also act as the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to guide around policy, sustainability approaches, and requirements.

Step 3: Baseline your approach and capability

As the agents of change, your team needs to be equipped with the right targets, skills, and tools, so make an honest assessment of your current capability. Does the team understand the sustainability agenda and how it can play a part? Is sustainability built into the fabric of the procurement process, especially in category strategies?

Step 4: Triage your spend categories

A key step is to triage spend against agreed sustainability themes to understand which spend areas can drive which themes. These areas should be weighted by spend, sustainability opportunity, and ability to impact.

Step 5: Improve your sourcing approach

Sustainable procurement does not require a new skill set, but it does require a new mindset. Companies must train and encourage their teams to think in terms of cost, service, and ESG and, as such, to adapt sourcing methodologies to reflect this additional parameter. Implementing new tender questions (refined by theme or capital), new scoring and evaluation approaches, as well as effective sign-off governance will ensure ESG is effectively considered and does not become a box to be ticked.

Step 6: Implement a SRM (Supplier Relationship Management) approach

Sustainability requires collaboration, and this means ensuring suppliers align on approaches. Business strategies should be underpinned with macro goals shared by the many, distilled into multiple and sustained changes to behaviour. In turn, this should mirror a more collaborative approach that seeks to deliver long-term value through better engagement with supplier partners. A fair and well-communicated roadmap is essential to success.

 Step 7: Invest in training

Whilst there will be motivation in procurement teams to drive change, it is all too easy to revert to previous behaviours when the next cost target lands or performance reviews come, and they do not evaluate ESG value delivery. Training is key to embed change. Start with the basics and move towards a specific toolkit.

Step 8: Establish clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Currently, sustainability improvements are being hindered by an inherent lack of accurate data. Without it, organisations find it hard to make decisions as they lack the objective insight – and they then fail to get the feedback loop that informs them of the impact of their decision making. Each sustainability theme should have a measure and target while the data improves – even if they are crude at first. If you can convert the KPI into a currency measure (£/$,€ … ), even better.

 Step 9: Build a playbook

Each of these steps should be encapsulated into a playbook that can act as a guide and governance to procurement teams – laying out what Procurement will do, how it will do it, and whom it will engage with to maximise outcomes. The sustainability landscape is developing quickly, and we all need to absorb best practice as we find them.

Step 10: Communicate your policy

Sustainability-related issues present a key opportunity for Procurement to rebrand itself as more than a business function for delivering cost optimisation, and instead one that can be a meaningful driver of the sustainability agenda – one of total value, rather than total cost.

Alongside board-level commitment, procurement is the key catalyst for organisations to successfully drive measurable sustainability improvement and achieve their ESG objectives, as they can select and nurture relationships, partnerships, and strategies that best promote their company agenda.

 

 

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Business

Hidden channel costs: how to find and tackle them

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By Mark Wass, Strategic Sales Director, UK and North EMEA at CloudBlue 

 

Growth for businesses will always be a key objective. However, in this digital age, if it occurs too rapidly, it can often unearth cracks that harbor hidden costs and pre-existing efficiencies.

 When it comes to channel distribution, for the majority of partners, hidden costs are widespread. A lot of partners work with multiple channels and systems, and this can become complicated. It can also affect their ability to track information.  On average, 30%-40% of IT spending  in large enterprises is accountable to inefficiencies caused by shadow IT.

 There is no single root cause of hidden costs. An array of issues such as wasted resources, labour, time constraints, poor implementation oversights and maintenance issues are all contributors, and the cuts only get deeper as partners scale. Here are the ways service providers can eliminate hidden costs.

 

Where to look for hidden costs 

 In general, unaccounted, or unattributed costs originate from four areas, with the first being shadow IT.

 Shadow IT is the use of systems, devices, software, applications, or services without explicit IT department approval. The phenomenon has grown in recent years due to the adoption of cloud-based applications and services, with the average company using 30% more unique SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) apps than they were in 2018. Thanks to the ease of adding new software, departments are going it alone and buying platforms that can be niche, or duplicate processes, and even in some cases using multiple versions of chat apps to communicate internally. 

Mark Wass

The next hidden cost stems from implementation and integration. Channel partners need to work within different systems, and almost always underestimate the budget needed to work with new software solutions. A consistent blind spot across the industry is the inconsistency of implementation and integration at budget.   

In terms of maintenance, it is especially difficult when partners create homegrown software to handle provisioning, relationship management, or data management. While such proprietary software might perform well for initial purposes, maintenance and upgrades can be a nightmare. Likewise, internal knowledge transfer in this situation is crucial.  

And finally, the scalability of expanding from one market to the next is not linear and neither is the cost. Partners that have already launched in one part of the world often think that it will cost around the same to expand into another region, like between the US and Europe. However, this thinking does not consider the additional effort to contend with the new currency, language, audience, and regulation, as well as local operations within the region.  

 

Tackling hidden costs  

The good news is that there are multiple remedies to hidden costs. Integrations, for example, successfully bring together disparate systems and improve efficiency. Partners that have manual processes and pull information from one system before typing it into another are wasting time and resources by dedicating an entire person to this process. Clearly, this should be automated to cut down on human errors and save in the long run. 

Along with integrations, partners should purchase software with scalability and unification at heart. There is no magic platform that does everything entirely so companies should opt for the best of breed, even if the initial investment is a bit more. This will help to offset the concerns of scalability, maintenance, lack of expertise, and potential unforeseen overheads. Moreover, best-in-class platforms help to paint a consistent long-term picture of the health of channel operations. 

For channel health, it is also integral to integrate outside experts to perform an overall business diagnostic. These can be consultants, solution architects, and those alike that know channel software and best industry practices to help architect a scalable and efficient platform. Working in conjunction with the team, these objective outsiders work to find the gaps and tighten any software screws. 

 

Helping the channel by combating inefficiencies

Hidden costs can become widespread, and this can lead to channel partners paying up to twice the price for half the output.

 More than the financial downside, though, hidden costs should be thought of as hidden inefficiencies. Especially in today’s accelerated digital transformation, inefficiencies can make or break fast-growing channel operations. Therefore, weeding out hidden costs with improved efficiencies can work wonders by saving budget and running a tighter ship. 

 Integrated software and platforms can then be used for change. By unifying and standardising existing systems, managers receive a single view of contracts, reporting, sales, marketing, and day-to-day operations. This  provides them with the right tools to achieve sustainable growth. Rather than overwhelming teams with several types of platforms and software, this single operational view allows for the much-needed oversight that is necessary to set a business up for success. 

 It is essential for channel partners to seize the moment and eliminate the perils of hidden costs, especially given the rapid growth of businesses in the digital and cloud spaces.

 

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