Suppliers as innovation referees

UK IT is a small world. Consequently, many CIOs know each other and that close-knit community has allowed several ‘structured’ collaboration initiatives to flourish.

Many IT leaders are working with such groups: for example, British Airways CIO Paul Coby is the chair of SITA, the main IT supplier for the airline industry and Sarah Winmill, head of IS at the Victoria & Albert Museum, is chair of the Charities Consortium IT Directors group.

Advantages of these initiatives – which could be independent entities formed by IT leaders themselves, the so-called ‘end-user groups’ or supplier focus communities – include the opportunity to share IT best practice, and impressions around new technology trends, as well as networking.

We have just reported on a recent case of collaboration between Aurora Fashions and BT Expedite through a focus group ran by the vendor. According to Aurora’s CIO John Bovill, this works as a way to reduce the risk of project overspend and failure.  

Given the constant pressure on CIOs to innovate using fast-changing technology tools with little money, such vendor-led focus groups may help IT leaders to keep their ears on the ground.

This is certainly beneficial to suppliers; because it helps them guide product development based on the findings of the experiments and position them as real business ‘partners’.

But some might argue that most attempts of setting up such partnerships have largely failed and both sides became cynical, given that they often have different desired outcomes.

There are many platforms available to collaborate if CIOs want to do so. But as Bovill says, it must deliver value to all stakeholders.