3 Ways Sourcing Pros Can Serve An Innovation Agenda

Many sourcing professionals are now actively connecting IT and business professionals with the service providers that can contribute to specific innovation objectives, Forrester Research data shows. Here are three ways sourcing professionals can help.

By Chris Andrews
Wed, August 11, 2010

CIO — As the economic downturn begins to loosen its grip, many organizations are moving away from cost cutting and toward innovation and growth. The CEOs behind these strategic decisions recognize that in a business environment characterized by higher levels of uncertainty and risk, the ability to generate and sustain innovation programs will be a crucial element of long-term differentiation and growth. Despite this executive-level focus, however, Forrester has found that corporate leadership often lacks the strategy and tools to support a comprehensive innovation agenda.

A lack of active innovation management can lead to confusion — and even backlash — to CEOs' stated innovation strategies. In addition, companies are often unwilling or unable to invest in the innovation process and look to third-party service providers as a way to quickly fix their lack of formal innovation strategy. Without a robust innovation strategy supported by senior executives, employees quickly revert back to "business as usual" — business leaders go back to focusing on quarterly business goals, product managers focus on incremental product improvements, and CIOs continue to cut costs. The frustration that inevitably results from failed innovation efforts translates into an opportunity for sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals to play a more strategic role in their organizations.

Just as the innovation objectives of a company are not limited to a particular consulting engagement or the adoption of a single innovation management tool, neither is the market for expertise in innovation limited to a single group of thought leadership providers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, or technologists. SVM executives that understand this diverse ecosystem of innovation suppliers are in the unique position to ensure that their IT and business counterparts are working with the right innovation partners at the right time. And in this position, they establish their role as a crucial partner in the innovation process. Although managing a diverse ecosystem of innovation suppliers has not traditionally been a priority of the SVM team, this is about to change.

The ability to balance the expertise of third-party service providers with the internal needs of the organization strikes at the heart of the sourcing professional's expertise in "buy versus build versus partner" decisions — and these capabilities become more important given the rise of innovation models that area more global and more open.

Recent research from Forrester shows that many sourcing professionals are now taking an active approach to connecting IT and business professionals with the service providers that can contribute to specific innovation objectives. To stay ahead of the curve and add the most value, sourcing should work with third parties to:

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