I feel living within the IT industry right now is like living in the middle of a storm with many disruptions. We hear repeatedly how IT companies are transforming themselves while at the same time driving the transformation of customers, whose own challenges are shaking the pillars for so called more traditional IT businesses. Our words in fashion, are becoming a popular part of our jargon – agility, digital business models, ecosystems, etc..
Indeed, the new digital economy is responding much better to our evolving needs, in a world not just inhabited by human beings, but more and more by humans and machines interacting within a hyperconnected society of individuals that want to embed technology into their lives to have better experiences.
So, what does technology really mean for business nowadays?
I would dare to say technology in business means ‘Everything’. Technology – hand in hand with globalization - is revolutionizing B2B, amplifying and adding complexity to commercial interactions. Competitiveness has increased significantly; the IT market is saturated with suppliers and solutions. (We cannot forget how easy it is to introduce an IT start up these days, where you basically need to have a good idea and use low-cost access to technology. There is plenty of Open Source, on-demand technology out there, and many opportunities to get access to funds by venture capital investors or crowdfunding). Commercial interactions are less and less framed on a two party dialogue, and more and more developed based on collaboration among codependent parties acting with no intermediaries.
Technology is also reshaping the IT business operations, with the rise of robotic process automation displacing offshoring, and replacing headcount with an increased demand for different skill sets. Adaptability, innovation, openness to co-creation are required abilities that supersede the credentials that knowledge and experience have had until now.
And, if that is not enough, technology is also transforming the supply chain, making us rethink which contracting terms can better support the new ecosystems and transactions.
- Do we really need to continue having long contract negotiations on parties’ responsibilities in a business environment where technology itself is bringing trust?
- Do we need to continue defining service level agreements and associated penalties in fully automated services where limited human intervention will secure limited errors?
- Do we need to continue defining delivery and acceptance provisions when technology provides traceability? The answer is probably “no”, and we will need to change the contracting terms to make them simpler and the negotiation efforts to be more focused on the business and opportunities to be built together and not so much on the risks against which to be protected.
So, technology is key, and the evolution of technology will end sooner than later in a magic integration of digital and physical worlds -- which looks exciting. Technology is and will continue to be the driver of the commercial and contracting challenges and changes around us.
But is it all as good as it looks? Is there anything we should consider or question?
Well, in my modest opinion, the future with technology will be fantastic as long as we do not underestimate the importance of two major topics: human centricity and sustainability.
- Human centricityThe evolution of technology, at its high speed, is somehow invasive. As humans, we are embracing new technologies with excitement, allowing them to penetrate our bodies and lifestyles, because they help us to make things possible. But we do not take the time to think in advance about the additional effects that such technologies could bring, just because they are fancy and easy to use. Indeed, much of this is so innovative that we are not good at anticipating the longer-term impacts, good or bad.
Technology changes are smoothly reshaping the future role humans will play in a world that is increasingly inhabited by machines of many forms and sizes. I do not want to appear negative, because the evolution of the technology is not questionable -- it is providing exponential benefits for us. But I want to be cautious, because we need to continue questioning how such evolution is driven, and if it is acceptable or necessary for technology to take control out of human hands. Where are its limits, who will define them, how will they be enforced?
- Sustainability In parallel, the population in the world is continuously increasing, which is naturally raising demand for our finite natural resources, such as water. The massive popularity and usage of technology is generating huge global energy consumption. For example: did you know that some of today’s supercomputers already consume as much electricity as a small city? Furthermore, the globalization of our way of living has significantly increased carbon emissions with more people flying and travelling for business or leisure.
So, why do I bring these two topics into the IACCM Contracting Excellence Journal? After all, how does thinking “human centric and green” correspond with the role of contract and commercial management (CCM) professionals? Great question.
Well, for me, the IACCM with almost 60,000 members from over 170 countries, across 19,000 organizations -- is a perfect forum to raise awareness and debate on these two topics.
Also, we, as a community of CCM professionals, can take decisions and actions into our daily operations that can really impact these two challenges. What about doing the following:
- Include corporate social responsibility as a driver of your contracting supply chain.Why not promote collaboration with companies committed to sustainable development both with employees, and with best practices – such as specifying how employees are to work externally with society at large?
When setting the requirements for vendors in your procurement chain, ask them also to show credentials in terms of corporate social responsibility and environmental challenges. There are plenty of recognized agencies performing environmental assessments today, such as CDP (one of the most recognized Climate NGOs), Eco Vadis (one of the most recognized rating agencies in sustainable supply chains), or DJSI (one of the most recognized sustainable financial indexes).
- Connect social responsibility and sustainability with your own contract and commercial department objectives and performance. You can launch small initiatives to positively contribute to reduce the impact of environmental challenges. Here are some suggestions:
- Conduct team meetings with an objective of zero plastic/carbon cups. Each member can bring a coffee cup from home and avoid waste and recycling.
- Build up the annual budget for travel while calculating -- at the same time -- the carbon emissions that each of those trips will represent. This will help you analyze those trips from a different perspective, and with an eco-mentality you can save costs from your budget and show to your management the positive environmental contribution your team is doing.
- Mobilize your team to come to the office (when possible) by biking, walking or sharing public transportation. With this habit change and fewer private cars used for commuting, you will help reduce the global emissions.
- Create ethical committeesor nominate ethical champions linked to the contracting lifecycle. These committees or champions could be empowered as third parties to review and provide input regarding the design and implementation of new contracting processes or technologies to ensure they follow a human centric approach. They could evaluate questions like these:
- Will the new process or technology empower or weaken humans on unsupervised decisions?
- Is the new technology or process fair, bringing transparency and equality ecosystems of customers, suppliers, or third parties? Companies committed with this human centricresponsibility will probably see higher ratings of employee engagement and satisfaction.
With these thoughts in mind, I spoke with IACCM, as a professional organization, to test their feelings and experiences about it. Not surprisingly they confirmed that they share this view and contributed to this article with their own food for thought (thanks Tim Cummins and Sally Hughes) as follows:
- What are CCM practitioners doing to take waste and environmental harm out of our daily procedures? For example, how often do we and our colleagues wastefully print materials, rather than working online? Maybe developing an internal League Table of Paper Use would be interesting! And have we pushed simple initiatives like switching to digital signature and making it easy (and attractive) for internal and external users to access contracts and related information on-line? Are we monitoring our use of email – the volume and frequency, especially internal to our team or department?
- Are CCM and Legal groups ever proactive in facilitating sustainable policies and practices? Just this week, IACCM undertook a commercial capability assessment with a major global corporation. Their executives have set some very clear goals for sustainability and innovation by 2025. It is clear that these will have major impact on their relationships and terms with key supplier groups and customers. Yet this Legal group has given no thought to what changes are needed; it seems they are waiting to be told. Our community must become activists, enthusiastic for change. Compliance is not an answer or an excuse when our social values and our planet are under threat!
So let’s take this momentum please, at least within your area of responsibility, take action even if you start small, because every action counts. We can all make this digital revolution to make the future of us as humans more powerful and make the future of our planet less fragile. Why not do it?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Beatriz Antona Rodriguez, is a regular contributor to IACCM events and publications. She is a proactive and enthusiastic professional with law and economics background and extended expertise in the field of Contract Management particularly in the IT Industry. Since 2013 she is Group Head of Contract Management in Atos, and has previous experience working for Accenture and law firms.
Atos is a SE (Societas Europaea) with main headquarters in France, and which is listed on the CAC40 Paris stock index. The Group is a global leader in digital transformation, European number one in Cloud, Cybersecurity and High-Performance Computing. Atos is the Worldwide Information Technology Partner for the Olympic & Paralympic Games. Atos operates worldwide under the brands Atos, Atos-Syntel, Atos Consulting, Atos Healthcare, Atos Worldgrid, Bull, Canopy, Unify and Worldline.