How CIOs can pick partners who unleash innovation

Give vendors the right challenges and they’ll do more than simply provide IT products and services. They’ll provide real ideas that can transform the business

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One of the most important elements for CIOs to be successful is to select the right technology partners – never an easy task in a world of infinite choices and changing supplier landscapes.

We all know the potential pitfalls: allowing pricing to override quality, a bad cultural fit and not having well-defined benchmarks in place for the selection process. Then there’s another one: not ensuring your relationship will unleash innovation.

As a longtime CIO and as an active participant in many industry forums, I believe that once you get beyond all of the complexity and specific organizational requirements and pressures, the challenges to facilitate revenue and profit growth, improve customer service, enhance employee productivity and reduce operating expense are universal for CIOs. So is the need to be innovative. Of course, the approaches to address these challenges can and do vary widely based on the strategic starting point, the existing assets and the rhythm of the business cycle.

Here’s what I try to do: carefully select partners that you can build a deeper more meaningful relationship with and leverage those capabilities to the greatest extent possible. A few years ago when I was at Hudson’s Bay Co. (Hbc ), for example, we created a Strategic Technology Alliance with IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco and Symbol Technologies (now part of Motorola) to work on our “Store of the Future” project that helped us create an Hbc Retail Showcase.

Each of those suppliers were challenged to come up with new ways of doing business that added value to our bottom line and to improve our customer experience in the stores. It was tough going, as the suppliers were more used to the traditional way of doing business and we had to reach beyond the account teams into their product development organizations. An example of the type of value was the creation of LIDS (Listed Inventory Database System) a proprietary wireless, integrated, replenishment and stockroom management system, which later won Best Corporate System at the sixth annual Retail Systems Achievement Awards.

The implications are that the suppliers really do need to understand your business better and do need to be prepared to invest for the longer term gains in their overall market share, as their customers are more successful because of their solutions.

Take the next step in developing a successful vendor partnership by reading “Improving Operational Efficiencies Through Managed IP Services.”

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