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Fortune 1000 CEO Priorities: Business Alignment and Risk Mitigation

By January 16, 2012Article

Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to meet personally with hundreds of C-level executives from the world’s most successful Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 companies. It’s a rare opportunity that offers unique insight and I always learn something valuable from the discussions.

What is particularly interesting to me – and perhaps to anyone involved in the building and sales of innovative technologies – is the fact that a few trends and issues seem to be recurring themes to CEOs and CFOs – whether that company is based in Boston or Brazil, Barcelona or Beijing.
As globalization and outsourcing accelerate, and economies and markets gyrate, our tenuous times seem to be solidifying certain trends and a strategic focus for global companies.

Business alignment

What are the aspirations of the world’s leading business executives? Perhaps chief among them is business alignment, a broad concept that centers on ensuring corporate objectives and intelligence are driving the organization and everyone from C-level execs to front-line managers and workers. Business alignment has gone from buzz word to core objective at global companies, perhaps driven by the globalization and the increasingly disperse and mobile nature of organizations. Now, more than ever, executives want to make sure their entire organizations are on the same page.

With greater control over their organizations and organizational intelligence, executives can ensure the achievement of strategic objectives – and the revenue and financial goals, which are of central importance. Today’s software companies are often in a great position to help companies achieve this alignment, certainly much better than the systems of record of the past.

Risk mitigation

In terms of challenges, the most prominent recurring theme I have heard from CEOs and CFOs is that of risk mitigation. Volatility and risk seem to be the hallmarks of our age. Whether it’s stock or commodity markets, gas prices or political climates, we live in an increasingly volatile world. As best-selling author Peter Bernstein will tell you, people have been trying to anticipate and mitigate risks since the dawn of time. What has changed is that with the help of technologies and the Internet, we finally have a reasonable and manageable opportunity to do so.

Risks that pose financial and operational dangers in good economic times can be fatal in harsher economic climates like the one we are currently experiencing. (Another author, Robert Rudzki, a former CPO and senior financial executive at Bayer Corp. and Bethlehem Steel Corp. delves into this topic in his book “Beat the Odds: Avoiding Corporate Death and Building a Resilient Enterprise.”)

Solutions for visibility into corporate spend, risks and opportunities

Since taking the helm at Emptoris, I have made it a priority to ensure that our solutions address these C-level priorities and maximize their impact on these opportunities (business alignment) and challenges (risk assessment).

While ERP providers have focused on managing the transaction, e-procurement vendors have focused on managing the order, and CRM providers have focused on managing customer relationships, Emptoris’ strategic focus is on supplier management, both managing suppliers and supply intelligence.

Since approximately 50 percent of the value and costs of any given company’s products or services is in the hands of suppliers, suppliers are central to risk mitigation, innovation and to controlling spending.

Companies need solutions that include spend analysis for global, enterprise-wide spend visibility and savings opportunity identification; sourcing software to get the best value, not just best price when buying products and services; and contract management software to enforce compliance and spend control and provide visibility into legal and other risks.

With a single suite of solutions for managing all the process and intelligence associated with corporate spend, contracts and suppliers processes, organizations can optimize business decisions and performance across the global enterprise. The intelligence and improved performance from such a solution can provide impacts on key corporate objectives from managing global growth, enforcing compliance and sustainably reducing costs – to mitigating volatility and risk.

Across my years at Oracle (in the 1990s), Aspect Development (acquired by i2), and PeopleSoft , I learned that the key to success in business is listening to customers – developing a plan to provide solutions to help them address their core opportunities and challenges – and then ensuring the solution’s adoption and value.

Too often software companies stop at the selling point – or at the implementation point. This is insufficient. Ensuring adoption and achievement of value are essential to ensuring the solution’s success and the customer’s satisfaction.

This may sound straightforward, but a dedication to this is essential to the success of a software company. You need to make sure you truly understand the customers’ challenges and the business value from their point of view.

A great book that examines these issues is “Escape Velocity,” by Geoffrey Moore, best-selling author of “Crossing the Chasm.” Moore’s books discuss the technology adoption lifecycle and the chasm between “early adopters” of a technology and the “early majority” of adopters – and how to cross that chasm to becoming a widely adopted technology.

I’ve made “Escape Velocity” required reading for my executive staff – and we’ve established a specific business group at Emptoris that is solely focused on ensuring the value of our solutions post-sale, post-implementation.

Emptoris’ Customer Loyalty Program measures the success of customers’ strategic supply management programs. More than 200 ROI and value assessments indicate that companies leveraging Emptoris’ SSM solutions achieve better than 99 percent spend visibility, confirm 90 percent of contracts under active management and compliance, and secure an average of 11 percent savings on total sourced spending.

Looking ahead, our customers have told us they are interested in “cloud control,” leveraging and filtering the best intelligence from the cloud – and in applying predictive analytics to volatility and risk management. Can game theory and predictive analytics be used to alert organizations to future risks?

I hope these insights from my visits with the CEOs of global companies, and my recent reading list, provide value to software companies and to software buyers in addressing C-level priorities in opportunities and challenges.

Patrick D. Quirk is President and CEO of Emptoris, Inc., and a former SVP of Sales at GoldenGate Software and General Manager of the supply chain division at PeopleSoft. Quirk has more than 25 years of experience in enterprise software management, research and development, and marketing and sales.

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