Established companies are great at running their business. But, being superb at running your operation may come at a high cost: it’s hard to keep an eye on innovation.
Here is a way to solve that challenge: leverage your vendors to keep up to date or even to get ahead.
A Common Challenge
An established organization needs to be predictable in its operation. Everyone – from employees, to customers and stakeholders – needs to feel comfortable knowing that things will happen according to expectations.
So, it’s no surprise that delivering what’s expected becomes more valued than innovation in the daily routine. Bureaucracy sets up its roots while innovation is cast aside, not strategically or formally, but in daily work.
Why is that? Because dealing with what needs to be delivered and solving the issues is a tall task by itself.
But being dedicated to the operation is not the problem. The challenge is giving ourselves a chance to see what else is happening in the outside world, to see what may be useful and give it a try in our workspace. Here is an idea to do that.
Leverage Your Vendors
The vendors that are already working with you are there for a reason. They have passed your exhaustive selection process. That usually means they are specialists at what they do, and have to stay that way since they compete with other specialists to sell and deliver their services.
They probably know more than you about their area of expertise, and that’s OK, you know your business better than anyone. Let’s put those two capabilities together.
Start Conversations About “the New”
You can ask your vendor’s account manager to share with you the latest trends, business cases and the implementations of new technology. They will have specialists in your areas of interest.
Of course, you need to share information about your operation, challenges, ideas and so on; because that will help them to better understand how to help you. Challenge them, in a good way, to help you; so that, together, can come up with applicable solutions.
Set up a POC
Once you have identified a good idea, ask your vendor to set up a demo. If the solution looks good, you can ask them to help you set up a proof of concept (POC) to make it a reality in your area.
Depending on your relationship with your vendor and your particular need, the POC may be done at a nice discounted price (or even for free!)
Depending on your relationship with your vendor and your particular need, the POC may be done at a nice discounted price (or even for free!), since it would be an opportunity for them to increase your business in your account.
Once you see concrete results in your area, that can help you get a business case for funding. Your vendor may even help you create the business case.
Establish a Sandbox for Innovation
In today’s IT service industry, we have micro-services. That is, we have created modular systems, so that we can make a change in one service without disrupting the rest of the ecosystem.
What if we can have micro-teams or micro-areas, where we can implement new ways of doing things in a safe way? Then, if we like what we see, we can implement it across other teams or areas. A sandbox is your answer.
Leverage the people in your team that are more willing to participate in trying out new things.
Make it Part of the Annual Plan
Have annual planning sessions with your key vendors. This will help your vendor to have a plan of their own to help you.
Share your expectations for your fiscal year, whether you see growth for the account and upcoming key events. Then, ask them to present the trends that they are seeing and make a commitment to review those in detail during the year.
Be upfront and honest with the vendor’s account managers
Be upfront and honest with the vendor’s account managers. Let them know that you want their help to keep up to date with some specific innovations that are taking place. You may become partners to try out new technologies, processes or methodologies: this way, you get to be an innovator in your organization and your vendor gets a chance to get a credential that will help them drive other sales. Everybody wins.
In case you don’t know, an annual planning session may help your vendor to set up business development funding to help you. This means they will have resources to help you set up demos or POCs.
Where Some Organizations Go Wrong
I have personally seen cases where companies don’t want to talk to their vendors, it is as if they were afraid of giving them a bigger piece of their business. That, in my opinion, is a mistake. Your vendor already has some knowledge of your business. On the other hand, you know if that vendor has the scale, the technology, the people and the leadership to help you implement significant changes.
Improve those key relationships to the advantage of everyone and push for more success.