A Unique Opportunity

            One of my favorite events each year is the IT Procurement Summit produced by Caucus – the Association of Technology Procurement Professionals

            What sets the IT Procurement Summit (ITPS) apart from other conferences, seminars and workshops is that its intimate size creates an environment charged with enthusiasm for the profession. 

            Thanks to the efforts of the Caucus Executive Advisory Committee – a dozen dedicated volunteers from some of the nation’s leading enterprises – hundreds of topic suggestions and dozens of speaker applications are distilled into an information-packed two day, multi-track event. ITPS speakers are actual practitioners of the trade, bringing their practical experience and insight into every session. 

            The ITPS isn’t “pay to play;” that is, speakers don’t pay for the privilege, and they don’t attend with the purpose of hawking their wares. (In fact, supplier participation and access is carefully restricted.) 

            Speakers are carefully selected based on their professional experience and the topic of their presentation.  The result: a more compelling presentation and a more compelling conference. 

            And because of its intimate size, networking opportunities abound. So it’s a great chance to meet others in the profession, problem solve, and share ideas, information and experience.

            The 2011 IT Procurement Summit will be held on October 27 & 28 in Orlando, FL.

            There are two unique opportunities in connection with the ITPS will disappear on December 31.

            First, the Caucus Executive Advisory Committee issued its Call for Speakers earlier this fall.  If you’re a dynamic speaker with experience in the technology acquisition field, then you can contribute to the profession by submitting a speaking proposal by December 31.  More information may be found here. 

            Second, the Caucus Executive Advisory Committee has authorized steep discounts for those people who register by December 31 and pay by January 31.  Caucus members can register for $895 per person and non-members can register for $1,295 per person.  Email Caucus Members Services or phone (407) 740-5600 for more information.

            I hope you’ll consider taking advantage of these opportunities, so you can see why I think it’s such a great event.


They’re Your Vendor Not Your Partner ~ Revisited!

            You know it’s a recurring theme of this column to take pot shots at companies that insist that their suppliers are their partners.  Well, here’s a true story – the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

            A few years ago, our organization was called in to make a presentation to senior executives of a well-known communications company.  Our Executive Briefing focuses on the role of effective technology procurement in achieving overall business objectives and includes a segment called “The Ten Truths in Technology Negotiations.”  Naturally, one of the truths is your vendor is not your partner.

            The senior-most executive in the room took great exception to that fact and went off on a rant about how all their suppliers are their partners and how contentious and negative we were to even imply that suppliers should be treated as anything but partners…

            Needless to say, we weren’t invited back.  But the story gets better.

            Two years later, we received a RFP from the company inviting us to bid on renegotiating their maintenance agreements.  It seems that they discovered that nearly fifty of their “partners” were overcharging them for maintenance.

            Mr. Senior-most Executive is no longer with the company. 

Our guest blogger is Dan Wallace, a staff member at ICN and Caucus-The Association of Technology Acquisition Professionals. For advice on how to renegotiate your maintenance contracts, contact ICN.  If you have a story worth sharing, please contact ja4@dobetterdeals.com. 

Technology Acquisition Professionals to Convene in Chicago

(Orlando, FL – 07/28/10) CAUCUS, The Association of Technology Acquisition Professionals, announced it is holding its 2010 IT Procurement Summit (ITPS) in Chicago on September 20-21.  This is the 15th year Caucus will hold this significant industry event.  “Our members have been working hard to organize this event,” said Sarepta Ridgeway of CenterPoint Energy and Conference Chair.  Professionals, both members and nonmembers, will attend to learn the very latest best practices for putting together cloud computing and SaaS deals, software license agreements, telecom transactions and service level agreements.  Risk management , supplier relationship management and CTPE / CTPS Certification classes with exam  will be among the other subjects or areas to participate in.

The annual summit provides acquisition professionals with the latest information on all facets of the acquisition process.  “Networking opportunities abound, many of the interactions initiated at the conference develop into long-term business relationships,” said association founder Joe Auer. “If you do any type of technology acquisition, this is where you need to be on September 20-21.  The presenters are the very people that do these types of deals…everyday!”

Attendees come from a variety of disciplines including procurement, finance, legal, IT and contract management and represent organizations of all sizes from all sectors of the economy, including large global corporations;  small and medium sized businesses; not-for-profits, government agencies, states and municipalities.

The 2010 ITPS will be at the InterContinental Hotel on Michigan in Chicago and the early-bird has a deadline of August 12th.

Caucus – Established in 1994, Caucus is the only association serving the specialized needs of technology acquisition professionals. Members come from a variety of disciplines including procurement, finance, legal, information technology and contract management.  Membership gives them an invaluable edge – the Caucus Advantage. Caucus also provides certification in this field as a CTPE or CTPS.



The Procurement Assessment

Note:  This article originally appeared in a 2002  issue of ICN’s Tools & Tactics and has been updated for presentation here.

You’ve trained and coached your staff, coached key executives and IT project managers, made presentations, developed form agreements, created a deal repository . . .  But, are those involved in evaluating, buying and paying for technology acquisitions actually following your processes?  Have you changed your organization’s culture, making sure that the new procedures are “stick-ing”?  How much success are you having in negotiating those deals?

There is no doubt that best-in-class technology procurement organizations have processes and tools in place, and their personnel are both trained in the methodologies and use the tools and re-sources available.  Their results demonstrate cost savings, vendor management, resource and fi-nancial control and short and long-term risk avoidance. 

A Procurement Maturity Model (PMM)  might take this form:

How do we measure the maturity of your procurement organization?  The Procurement Assess-ment is the most comprehensive way for an organization to audit its current utilization of the methods, tools and resources you’ve put in place.  A Procurement Assessment will measure your progress toward achieving best practices and will help you establish annual goals for your or-ganization.

Look at the following four areas:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Initial Efforts Methodology Established Integrated Method-ology, Standards
Common  language   established

Cultural and management change initiatives

Integrated  methodology establishedCross-functional teams Cultural and management supportPolicies established
Issues addressed organization Focus on individual projects Intangible benefits made apparent
Training Level 1 Tangible benefits   made apparent Form Agreements
  Training Level 2 Deal repository
    Training Level 3
Level 4 Level 5
Comprehensive Continuous Improvement
Integration of resources, tools, culture Continuous learning, process improvements
Vendor policy     and management Lessons learned, knowledge transfer
Qualitative and quantitative measurement of results Strategic planning

• Processes.  Robust processes based upon sound industry best practices provide the requi-site infrastructure to move a procurement organization forward. Processes provide consis-tency of approach and the organizational discipline that assure that best practices are syn-thesized within the organization.

• Resources. Appropriate, experienced, knowledgeable and professional resources must be available when required. An organization must commit to attracting top talent or out-source the IT procurement function to knowledgeable experts.

• Tools. Effective tools provide consistency of approach and also streamline the overall procurement process. Some of the more important tools include deal checklists, standard form contracts, templates for Requests for Proposals, Requests for Information, vendor evaluation matrices and so forth. These tools and others must be fully integrated into pro-curement processes.

• Organization. There must be organizational commitment that supports and nurtures the development and use of an IT procurement function.
Determine the effectiveness of your organization

The Procurement Assessment works as follows:

Develop the Survey Tool. The procurement management team develops a survey that will elicit responses from the organization on current practices and knowledge in the four categories:  proc-esses, resources, tools and organization. The survey asks a series of questions to ensure compli-ance with the required processes and procedures or to evaluate current practices as they relate to industry best practices. Although the internal procurement organization may perform this audit in some companies, having an outside party perform the audits gives the process a measure of inde-pendence, avoids “turf wars,” and may provide more focus for senior management.

Determine Survey Population.  The size of your organization will determine the number of par-ticipants.  Generally, a sample of ten to fifteen individuals from a variety of functional roles should be included.  A representative cross-section of people from the CIO office, procurement, vendor management, IT project managers who are involved in procurement activities, finance, end-user deal makers and legal should comprise the survey population.

Conduct Kick-off Meeting.  An initial meeting with the survey population to explain the proc-ess and answer questions is an important step in preparing them for their participation.

Conduct Interviews.  Using the customized Procurement Survey described above, interviews of the survey population are conducted.  Interviewing in-person on a one-on-one basis enables par-ticipants to be more candid in their responses. (Complete candor may be achieved when a third-party conducts the survey.) 

Summarize the results and prepare the findings.  Following completion of the interview phase of the survey, the obvious next step is to analyze the results and prepare a report that sum-marizes the current status of the company’s processes, resources, tools and organization. The outcome of the analysis should be a reliable indication of your company’s progress towards achieving a best-in-class technology procurement organization.  Based on the levels of the find-ings, the team can determine the maturity of the procurement process and create (or update) the plan to reach the next level. 

Conduct Executive Briefing.  The results of the Procurement Assessment, next action items, strategies and recommendations should be discussed in a briefing with appropriate personnel.  Because executive buy-in is critical to a successful implementation of best-practices procurement processes, the results should also be summarized and sent to the technology procurement stake-holders including the CIO, the procurement management, legal and key senior business manag-ers.

By performing a number of assessments over time, you can gain a sense of whether processes, tools and resources are being successfully integrated into your procurement organization and take appropriate corrective action if necessary.

Our experience has proven that most businesses can benefit – financially and functionally – when they evaluate the quality of their existing procurement programs.  By implementing the right procurement methodology, you can realize considerable savings with minimal impact on your core business.