Category Archives: Technology

IT and Functional Departments – Finding the Middle Ground

Today’s guest post is from Torey Guingrich, a Project Manager at Source One Management Services, who focuses on helping global companies drive greater value from their Procurement expenditures.

One of the challenges Procurement can face when working within the typical IT category is working on IT-related services that are used to support functional areas. Think of the marketing group or supply chain function; there are a number of different systems or software products that support those departments, but how clear is ownership of the solution between IT and the business group or function that the solution supports?

The answer to that question can vary across companies, across industries, and even across those within IT and the department utilizing the solution. Given this ambiguity, it is critical for Procurement to ensure representation from both and IT and the functional group for sourcing efforts that involve products and services that are not “purely IT”.

Does Procurement really need to be involved?

For many organizations, IT groups tend to work in a vacuum or keep their sourcing efforts separate from Procurement. While there are nuances that Procurement professionals need to be aware of and navigate within IT, there is clear value that Procurement brings to the table, especially when other functional departments are involved. Those in Procurement should be comfortable working with different areas with differing needs and finding a cohesive path forward. Procurement also brings market information (suppliers, price points, service levels) that IT may not be as focused on, but that could be critical to the overall solution. IT groups can at times limit themselves to certain suppliers for system or software solutions, but there may be alternate suppliers that easily integrate, or provide enough value to justify the effort required for working with disparate suppliers or systems. Procurement can bring that perspective forward and champion the needs of the business to balance the costs associated with IT change.

How do I know if something is “purely” IT or not?

When we look at organizations today, there tends to be a number of software and hardware suppliers that are categorized in spend data as “IT,” but fulfill a more functional or business need. When looking at spend and suppliers considered as IT, be sure to think through your organization’s end users and how the program or solution is being used by different groups. Marketing, HR, supply chain/logistics, and finance are all key functional areas that likely use some form of software to support their processes and should have a principal role in selection, whereas supplier selection for hosting or PCs and related consumables may be made more centrally within the IT area.

How do I get IT and functional departments to work together and come to a consensus?

When working with multiple stakeholder groups, no matter the departments involved, it is important to establish roles and responsibilities from the onset of the initiative. A key to working with these two groups is to consider what is most important to each group. Likely the functionality, ease of use, and flexibility of the solution will be top of mind for the functional department, whereas IT may be more focused on integration and hosting requirements, continuity with the company’s overall technology strategy, and licensing/purchasing models. Beyond IT and the functional area, discuss what other stakeholders may be affected or if other IT systems (and those who administer them) would be impacted downstream in the process. Focus the two (or more) groups on the goals for sourcing and what criteria is going to drive supplier selection – this will help to ensure that any critical issues or “deal-breakers” are identified and don’t come up later in the process. Each group will likely have their own set of requirements and criteria that need to be aligned and prioritized to ensure they are not in direct contrast with each other. Ask each group to look at their requirements and define the priority of each (e.g. rank as nice-to, prefer-to, or must-have) to ensure the core solution encompasses all must-have requirements.

Who ultimately makes the decision?

This is likely going to depend very heavily on your organization’s priority of functional and IT requirements. Ideally, Procurement can help bring these two groups together and drive to a decision point that all, including Procurement, can agree on. When the solution is business critical or the department relies heavily on the given product/service on a day to day basis, the business function is likely to be the lead in terms of making a decision, but IT will in any case need to validate that the solution will work from an infrastructure and support position.
While most may think of Procurement as a cost-reduction engine, we are uniquely positioned to enable relationships among different groups within the organization. Especially when working with software and hardware systems to meet business needs, it is critical to bring in IT stakeholders at the onset of the process to enable a more efficient and effective sourcing process that balances the needs of IT with the needs (and wants) of different functional areas.

Thanks, Torey!

Still Using Product Photography to Drive Sales? Part II

Today’s guest post is from Brian Seipel, a marking project expert at Source One Management Services focused on helping corporations achieve both Marketing and Procurement objectives in their strategic sourcing projects.

While this guest post is a bit off of the beaten path for SI, it’s a very interesting one and relevant for those Procurement professionals that want to run with the marketing bulls.

Five Ways Rendering will Beat Out Photography

In Part I, we noted that rendering needed to be “as good” as a photograph for organizations to ditch photography, and for this to happen, rendering needs to offer more. What is the “more” that is needed?

Here are several examples of what “more” means in this sense:

  • Perfect conditions – every time. Let’s face it: there are plenty of elements of a photo shoot that can (and will) go wrong. This is especially true of outdoor shoots or tricky products. Think of Breyer’s next “ice-cream-cone-on-a-hot-summer beach” ad. With rendering, you control all aspects of the environment, leaving nothing to chance – bad weather can’t shut down your rendering, and there’s no hot sun to melt your product.
  • Don’t like it? Change it. Another reality of product photography is its element of permanence. Once a shoot wraps, it is over. Small-scale changes may be possible in post-production, but also may incur additional charges. Larger changes will require a costly reshoot. Rendering provides the flexibility to make changes right up until the point you have your perfect image.
  • Rendering goes where photography can’t. Imagine filming a fly-through of the many intricate elements of a watch, with the viewer flying over the watch face and delving deep into the watch’s moving inner gears. Imagine this watch transitioning from a solid object to an exploded view, showing how a thousand individual components come together to form the whole – all while still ticking away and moving in time. These are powerful ways to showcase a product, but creating them with traditional photography or videography would be a struggle at best. With digital rendering, achieving these views is no more difficult than capturing a standard image.
  • Entrée into augmented reality. Just how far augmented reality will go in helping an organization reach customers is still an unknown. However, definite marketing plan synergies exist by developing a rendering that could not only replace a photograph but also feature in an augmented reality app.
  • Rendering keeps getting more cost-effective. To be clear, rendering may still be expensive depending on what work you need done. However, the fast pace of advances in this area have dramatically cut costs to the point where many organizations see a direct financial benefit to making the move. Photography costs are much less flexible – the costs related to studio space, product and equipment storage, and prop warehousing will always be present. Even though photography equipment keeps getting better, staying on the cutting edge of hardware still requires a large outlay of cash for studios, which is passed onto customers in every shoot.

Is Rendering Viable Now?

Given the speed at which technology is moving and just how lifelike the results are becoming, a transition to rendering from photography will, for many organizations, be a matter of “when” and not “if.”

So, at what point is this switch viable? For many organizations, this is a judgment call. For many, rendering can achieve results faster than photography and at a better price point. For others, rendering supplements photography to achieve results that traditional production can’t.

Thanks, Brian.

Still Using Product Photography to Drive Sales? Part I

Today’s guest post is from Brian Seipel, a marking project expert at Source One Management Services focused on helping corporations achieve both Marketing and Procurement objectives in their strategic sourcing projects.

While this guest post is a bit off of the beaten path for SI, it’s a very interesting one and relevant for those Procurement professionals that want to run with the marketing bulls.

Still using product photography to drive sales? Why there may be a better way!

Pictures are certainly worth a thousand words when it comes to products sales, and well-shot product photography is a key aspect of many sales and marketing budgets. Many organizations recognize that those “thousand words” are the least of their worries, however – those pictures are worth a large chunk of their budgets as well. In fact, the higher-end or more physically detailed the product is, the more organizations can expect to pay for a proper photograph.

Any organization operating in the luxury space has likely asked the question, “Do we really need to put so much money towards product photography?” Unfortunately, the answer has always been a resounding “yes” from Marketing – until, perhaps, now. As with all areas of business, technological advances are offering a clever disruption to the product photography space.

Digital Rendering: The Product Photography Killer?

Many organizations are either turning to, or considering a test run of, digitally rendered images to replace product photography. In a nutshell for those unfamiliar, a rendered image is one generated entirely from a computer. Without going too deep into how rendering works, here is a brief overview:

  • The Wireframe: To start, we need to build a model of a product. The wireframe defines the shape of an object by taking a 2D or 3D drawing and developing it into a digital model.
  • The Skin: At this point, the model alone has no form. Typically, this empty “space” is represented visually as a simple set of intersecting lines (hence the name “wireframe”). The skin, or texture, applies visual characteristics to the model. Consider a product made with both white gold and brown leather – two materials that are very visually different. The gold would be light, smooth, and highly reflective. The leather would be rough, rich in dark color, and non-reflective. All of the attributes of these materials must be perfectly reconstructed in a digital environment.
  • The lighting: When a product photo is taken, excruciating attention is paid to creating a compelling lighting setup. Lighting is used to evoke specific emotional reactions or showcase key elements of a product. This is just as true for rendering – lighting sources have to be both created (how bright, focused, and warm or cool the light source will be) and directed at the model (determining what direction light should come from, and how many sources are needed to effectively light a product).

Think about any Pixar movie you’ve ever seen – these are beautiful examples not just of rendering, but also a fair representation of just how far advances in rendering have come. As amazing as they seemed to us when they first hit theaters, early digitally rendered movies look crude by today’s standards. The pace of development is moving extremely fast, thanks to refined techniques, better digital tools, and more powerful computer platforms to run them on. In fact, it is becoming extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discern a photograph of a product from its comparable rendering.

But it isn’t enough for a rendering to be “as good” as a photograph. For organizations to ditch photography, rendering needs to offer more. And it will. How? Come back for Part II.

How Do We Drive Technological Advances? Part V

This post concludes our series in which we note that an organization, which needs to master the three T’s to excel in Supply Management, must not only get a grip on modern technology, but acquire and adopt modern technology (in daily use) in order to begin its best in class journey.

In Part I, we noted that just having the right talent and transitional strategy is not enough, that talent and transition must be powered by modern technology. In Part II, we discussed a classic Chief Executive article that purported to provide seven strategies for driving technological advances, as there are not enough articles on the importance of the right technology in an enterprise (and, as such, it caught the doctor‘s attention), and noted that while it was a good start it didn’t really explain the process of getting technology acquired and adopted.

Then, in Part III we focussed on how the key to acquisition of a technology (that an organizations wishes to adopt), which requires budget that the CEO and CFO does not often want to allocate, was to identify one or more benefits important to the C-Suite — namely a quantifiably realistic ROI, visibility into data or processes of interest to a key C-Suite member, or support for an organizational initiative being championed by a C-Suite member. And yesterday, in Part IV, we focussed on the 4 P’s that define key elements that must be present in a technology to enable adoption (and that define necessary, but not sufficient, conditions).

And we left off indicating that in this, our fifth and final post in the series, we would translate how you take an adoptable solution and begin your journey on the road to adoption.

While there can be no guarantee of success, as success ultimately requires not only a good process transition, but a talented person spearheading it, and even the best process can flop in the hands of an inappropriate individual, this process does provide a foundation for adoption and might just be your best class of getting an appropriate solution adopted.

Identify the value to each function you want to adopt it.

While a few people will be screaming, screaming, screaming (along with some guy screaming in a leather jacket) for a new solution, most will be very resistant even to the mention of a new solution. There will be a strong resistance to change. There will be many reasons for this. Previous solutions didn’t address core needs. Manpower requirements didn’t decrease or value extracted didn’t increase. The previous attempt at a solution upgrade was abandoned. Etc.

Unless there is a clear value, who would even want to look at it given the average organizational track record in solution selection? So if you want an SRM – what does Procurement, Operations, Finance, and the C-Suite, for starters, get out of it? (Hint: many of the answers can be found in posts in the extensive SI archives.)

Identify those who could be champions in each function.

People want to adopt software that will not only be easy to use, and make their live’s easier, but that their peers will use. Everyone ones a collaboration platform, but few want to be the first to adopt. You need to find the champion who will both be the first to adopt but also convince their peers to be next in line, so the collaboration happens and the benefits materialize.

Determine what each champion wants, really, really wants and identify, in detail, how the solution will give it to them.

Do they want ease of use? If so, prepare a short, sweet demo that shows them how to do their most time-consuming daily tasks in a matter of minutes, and with ease, in the new solution. Are they looking for savings? Work out how they can get their ROI from the solution, share that process, and walk them through a what-if. Do they want collaboration — get a few people from the selection team online and show them how great collaboration can be. Then show them and get them hooked.

Prepare an easy to implement train-the-champion program.

Once you get the champions on board, you will need them to get more people on board. You will need a program that will help them identify

  • what their team members need to do,
  • how their team-members will be able to accomplish it quickly and easy in the solution,
  • how they will put together demos that will get their teammates on board,
  • how they will get their teammates set up on the program, and
  • how they will help their teammates get quick and easy answer to questions that arise in the course of their work.

This is not a train-the-trainer program. That comes after there is wide adoption and you want to mass train on advanced features. You need adoption first — and you often need it reasonably quick — and that’s what most train-the-trainer programs miss. The champion should not be the one setting the team up or the expert, but the one who interfaces with the support team to get the team set-up and knows where to direct each person who needs help (and make sure that help is received, and understood quickly).

In other words, don’t skip to the train the trainer or show the ease step — you first have to find the champions and first users (who might eventually become the trainers, but might not — maybe the last to adopt are the best at training but the worst at selling, and convincing someone to try something new is really a type of internal sales), get them interested, and get them on-board. Adoption starts from there.