CPO Forum Special Edition, June 2012

Just keeping up is not enough

“If God designed a website,” mused Peter Williams, Director of Deloitte Digital, “Twitter is precisely what he would have designed.”

Arguably the hottest topic at this year’s CPO Forum, Williams, something of a social media evangelist, believes that when it comes to social media, procurement either needs to get on board, or get out of the way!   

Once more about compliance and control, the most progressive CPOs recognise that today, procurement is just as much about dialogue with stakeholders, sparking supplier creativity and tapping into vast knowledge networks. 

“In the same way people connect on Facebook, what would it be like to have your organisation truly networked?” asks Williams.  “What would it be like to be able to tap into your entire organisation’s collective knowledge at the same time?” 

There’s no shortage of early adopter organisations willing to testify how social media has transformed the way they operate.  It may sound like hyperbole, but Williams says that social network Yammer has exceeded Deloitte’s expectations for what was possible. 

A social media network, much like Twitter or Facebook, Yammer operates in a private and secure environment.  “It helps us spread ideas more quickly and build community.  We are literally finding new ways to extract more value from the tool each and every day,” says Williams.  

A key to Deloitte’s success with Yammer is undoubtedly that it is supported from the top-down.  Executives are highly engaged and regularly converse with people at all levels of the business using Yammer.  “A company policy was changed in 24 hours because of open conversation and collaboration on Yammer.  Normally, this would have taken weeks.”

But far more than hopping aboard the social media bandwagon, Williams challenges procurement to take the lead and drive.  “Fact: The innovators in your business are going test new platforms and social media tools,” says Williams.  “They’re already going around IT and procurement to do this.  Procurement has an imperative to facilitate social media if it wants to stay relevant.” 

Laggards remain concerned about security, lack of control and the potential for social media to generate negative publicity or even litigation.  Botched social media campaigns have certainly made headlines for all the wrong reasons.  Williams suggests making your organisation’s Head of Legal responsible for developing the social media policy and in the end, if you’re not sure whether something is ok to post, Williams says: “Just ask yourself - what would mum say?"

And what about the future?  Well, as Williams remembers, “Yammer wasn’t exactly a strategic plan for Deloitte. We just saw it and thought, ‘Cool.  Let’s Try that.”  Social media is not a blip. It’s here to stay in what just might be the perfect combination of functionality and fun.