What Role Does Diversity Play In Enterprise Purchasing Decisions?

Posted on May 4, 2010

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Innovative new technology coupled with the recent economic downturn and political climate has given rise to new pressures for both the public and private sectors to create greater transparency and accountability with regard to contractual compliance, public engagement, costs and profits, and operational efficiency. To best achieve these goals will require smart, timely and data-driven decisions. Nowhere is this need more keenly felt than in government, where economic development around Diversity businesses, overall contractual compliance and the right decisions can mean all the difference between policy and execution. With limited budgets and staff size, there’s little margin for error.

from Accessing Intelligence and the Power To Act: A Clear View to Proactive and Effective Enterprise Decision-Making (White Paper) – PI Social Media Publishing April 2010

When I first considered writing a white paper on the at times competing forces of interests that intersect in the procurement process (especially within the public sector), the issues surrounding supplier diversity have often times resulted in programs being viewed through a lens of being the “right thing to do,” but not necessarily the “smart thing to do.”  In short, and like taking cod liver oil, while it is good for you it is not at the top of your flavor favorites.

In fact in a December 3rd, 2008 post titled “SWaM: A Transformation in Mindset from an Adjunct Undertaking to an Economic Necessity (Report on Virginia Forum 2008),” I made the following observations:

“While the common practice of establishing set-aside programs for what has traditionally been seen as underutilized suppliers has been a key lever for governments, the practice itself has in many instances done more harm than good.  This is due to the fact that there has been an unspoken intimation that the benefactors of these programs are somehow unable to fend for themselves and therefore require the bolstered support of “big brother” to level the playing field.

It is something similar to when my big brother was “persuaded” by my mother to let me tag along to his sandlot football games with the admonishment that he should make sure that “Jon was allowed to get into the game and catch a few.”  By the way, with age I got bigger and ironically better so that the tag along label was replaced by a “make sure you bring Jon to the next game” refrain from his friends.  What is the old axiom about having to be a football hero to get all of the pretty girls?!

My point here is that at the time, I needed my mother’s intervention to make sure that I got the chance to play.  However, had I not possessed the necessary ability to develop into a good player as I got older I would probably have pursued other avenues of interest for which I would have been better suited.”

This hardly represents the foundation for a sustainable model, whether centered on an enterprise’s intention to develop a strategy around supplier diversity, or for that matter any critical element of the enterprise decision-making process.

True sustainability in terms of an initiative’s ability to consistently deliver maximum value has to be tied to substantive insights that address the key points described in the opening paragraph excerpt from the referenced white paper.  However, and citing what has been one of the main stumbling blocks to seamless adoption of a diversity policy, is the onerous task associated with capturing, tracking and reporting on the program’s progress.  In essence measuring and adapting transactional activity as it relates to specific targets.

Now I have frequently written about the emergence of what I have referred to as “dashboard intelligence technology,” and how it “provides 360 degree real-time visibility on an enterprise’s diverse operations.”  While some mainstream pundits have expressed the opinion that “dashboard intelligence technology,” and “accessibility to a broader supply base” is more rhetoric than reality, one does not have to look much further than the transformational impact solution providers such as Binary Fountain are having on the industry as a whole.

In fact, I actually heard about Binary Fountain through a satisfied end-user client who has leveraged their technology platform to streamline the utilization of Small, Women and Minority-owned suppliers.  Once again, we are not talking about conceptual architectures or fanciful future functionality here (say this one fast three times).  What we are talking about, is a solution that has been delivering value through an intelligent dashboard technology which has effectively removed the operational barriers that have limited program success.

Based on the results to date, not only is intelligent dashboard technology real, it has also been proven in a true production environment.  For this reason, I know that you will find this new white paper both informative and interesting.  I of course welcome your comments and feedback.


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