Resolving the Technology Clash Between Procurement and IT
In today’s competitive business climate, technology allows companies to accomplish things that seemed like the stuff of science fiction just years ago. Data is accessible in real time, powerful analytics deliver actionable intelligence, and communications span the globe in an instant. The IT teams that implement and manage this technology hold business continuity and competitive advantage in their hands, and the procurement organizations put in place to evaluate solutions, negotiate terms and pricing, and manage solution provider relationships are highly skilled, strategic professionals.
If all of the above is true…
Why do IT and procurement seem to clash so often during new technology evaluations?
The role of IT is to make sure the business has what it needs from a technology standpoint: staying on top of the newest capabilities and models while ensuring data security. Procurement shares those objectives while adding on their own goal of ensuring that all solutions are evaluated through a competitive bid process and that ROI stays top of mind during the decision making process.
None of that seems to be in conflict, and yet, projects where procurement and IT must work together to evaluate and select new technology add such strain to their working relationship that it lingers long after a decision is made and the implementation is complete. If neither procurement nor IT is the problem, it must be the evaluation process itself that is the root of the conflict. With all of the money spent on enterprise technology contracts, there must be a better way to manage each selection.
In order to achieve alignment, not to mention arrive at a better decision sooner and relieve tension within the team, procurement and IT should think of the selection process as a ‘third party’ player to be coached and improved such that it serves their needs rather than holding them back. By finding common ground, clearly delineating roles and responsibilities, and making use of proven tools and techniques for managing the technology evaluation process, procurement and IT can make it through the process without the culture clash we have come to accept as disruptive but inevitable.
With the inherent complexity of today’s technology, collecting and finalizing the requirements that will ultimately be used to determine which solution is the best fit is a critical process. IT naturally considers themselves ‘closer’ to the technology and so feels that they should take the lead. Procurement, on the other hand, has considerable experience making sure requirements are both complete and general enough that they do not inadvertently favor one solution over another.
The resolution to this can be found in the fact that in many cases, developing a requirements list is a ‘solved problem’. Unless you are evaluating a highly specialized or custom solution, the odds are that someone else has already collected the key requirements. By starting with a pre-existing set of requirements and tailoring it to the needs of the organization, procurement and IT are working side by side rather than at cross purposes.
Although both procurement and IT use technology themselves, most of their technology evaluation efforts are begun to select solutions that will ultimately be used by others in the organization. This brings business stakeholder groups into the effort, which never simplifies things. Add to this the fact that (according to The Conference Board) 40% of technology selections are now business-led rather than IT-led, and you have a whole new reason for procurement and IT to find a way to improve the evaluation process if they are to avoid being bypassed altogether.
IT and procurement teams exist because they offer very specific value to the organization. If they can improve the joint customer service they provide to the business by initiating a more collaborative, consensus-driven process that caters to business urgency without compromising on the rigor required to ensure long term success and security, everybody wins. Evolved approaches to technology evaluation, such as employing a technology selection management service, help procurement, IT, AND their stakeholders all focus where they can contribute the greatest value to the effort.
Once requirements have been finalized, stakeholder input has been incorporated, and proposals have been received, the actual comparison must begin. This is where the pressure is highest on the project team. Will all of their work lead them to the right solution provider or will they join the long and depressing list of technology evaluations gone wrong?
Fortunately, the answer to that question doesn’t have to be left up to chance, and there should be plenty of opportunities for all teams to contribute in their own unique way. In addition to the information collected already, IT, procurement, and the business should be able to ask suppliers additional questions that reflect their perspective on the solution. Once that information is collected, it should be captured and stored centrally so that everyone on the team with a vote can incorporate a range of perspectives into their decision.
Working on cross functional project teams requires special care and effort if the result is to achieve its stated goals and meet the objectives of the organization. Although procurement and IT have very different perspectives, ways of working, and performance metrics, they do not have to be in conflict over technology evaluations. By incorporating proven tools and techniques that allow them to benefit from a better way to work and sit on the same side of the table, the improved speed and selection will lead to a rate of success that everyone can agree is a good thing.
SelectHub is a cloud-based technology selection management (TSM) software platform helping streamline software selection and IT sourcing to be more agile and collaborative. The platform supports a comprehensive set of evaluation stages from requirements gathering to vendor shortlisting, demos and user trials, RFIs / RFPs and contract negotiation. SelectHub customers include Hunter Douglas, Advanced Energy, CNO Financial Group and the State of Colorado.