Intelligence Led Procurement: Killer Questions

Following a more detailed discussion with Jenny Sener, CIO and Operations Board Director of OCS Group, this posting looks at how her intelligence led procurement process opened up a path for a smaller company to take on a critical application...

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Following a more detailed discussion with Jenny Sener, CIO and Operations Board Director of OCS Group, this posting looks at how her intelligence led procurement process opened up a path for a smaller company to take on a critical application which would have typically gone to a major supplier (see previous blog for the context).

Killer Questions
Having got her internal cross-disciplinary team together to look at the unified comms requirements in the widest possible way, the third party benchmarker drew up structured criteria to produce the long list from those who could best tick the right boxes. To prune that long list down to manageable proportions Jenny then introduced a pre-qualifying hoop with killer questions in it to separate the sheep from the goats.

The killer questions were open ended, designed to judge the potential bidders' true capabilities. For example, one was around the ability to listen to strategy imperatives and the readiness and agility to meet them.

Responses to those killer questions decided the short list. “The key is that it was time efficient and deliverable efficient, and above all was a structured, transparent and open process,” she says.

Business to business communication won the day
The unified comms deal quickly ended up being a two horse race between a multinational and Azzurri Communications. Effective communications was key in making the final decision. “A big determinant with Azzurri was that they were ready to listen to our challenges, recognise we are a customer driven organisation and needed them to be agile, responding quickly when we needed to move sites and upgrade sites quickly.” she says.

“Azzurri won because early on we had the attention of their most senior layer - the Managing Director and UK Sales Director. We could talk business person to business person.”

The benchmarker played a key role. “Suppliers are very challenged and surprised because we have access to very precise market data about pricing. Pricing depends on scale and we had access to the best pricing against the scale of our business. We knew we could target 25% savings on the telecoms contract: we achieved 30% savings.”

Lessons for Innovators
Key takeaways for companies with innovative products or services are that they can beat large established supplier companies, but they have to be flexible and must be able, above all, to communicate effectively at a business level with the customer to demonstrate that they really understand the the business challenges and can deliver against these.

Good directors can spot flannel and puff immediately. They are show stoppers so don’t make any claim unless you are sure you are 100% able to fulfil them.

The OCS example also demonstrates that although Jenny was the final decision taker there was a selected group of supportive decision makers throughout this intelligence led procurement process.

So this shows the importance of keeping abreast of the impact of a product or service from different perspectives within one organisation. That's a challenge because the wider procurement team changes with each project.

To understand any one large company involves hard work networking and gathering information about it. This OCS example also illustrates the sort of role independent third parties can play within a procurement process. That’s why as well as understanding the target corporation, it is also important for innovators to get their capabilities known widely in the market place, especially among the army of consultants, advisors, and influencers, and, of course, benchmarkers.

* Searching for success: I'm always looking for practical case examples showing how innovative companies have successfully broken through generic barriers into large enterprises or government. Please point me to good examples you know! Thanks!

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