'Get out of the office to find innovation'

20 June 2018

Immerse yourself in the marketplace you are buying from to find innovation, procurement has been told.

James Taylor, head of marketing procurement at Diageo, the company behind drinks brands including Guinness, Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker, said the way buyers get better at bringing technological innovation into their business was by attending industry events and meeting suppliers.

Speaking at the ProcureCon Marketing conference in London, Taylor said procurement could be a “big enabler” of new technology and innovation, but that buyers needed to “get out of the office and into the environment you’re trying to buy from”.

He said: “How we get better at this stuff is getting to the marketplace. Making sure we’re investing time in the marketplace and in the suppliers. Getting away from the clever sales guy in the suit and actually getting to the developer and the tech guy and understanding what these things can do for us.

“We need to be at tech conferences. I don’t understand how blockchain works, but actually if that’s the reality of what we need to be involved in the future we need to go and find out these things.”

Taylor said buyers needed to be a users of technology, both in a business context and as individuals. “Actually play around with these things, download the tech on your phone, go play around with the technology that exists. Be a user, that would be my one big message,” he said.

Diageo is currently exploring different technologies including voice search and blockchain, but Taylor said procurement also needs to look past the “big hardware” to see what other new technologies are available in the software and publishing space. For Diageo these include the dating app Tinder and the website LadBible, which Taylor described as “innovative opportunities to get to our consumers”.

Marketing procurement has been leading the way for innovation at Diageo, said Taylor. Part of this success has been by working in partnership with other departments, including marketing and digital, and with its marketing agencies.

Taylor also cautioned against “getting caught in the headlights of the new tech”, and said procurement always needs to be clear what the business strategy was behind any new innovations. “It shouldn’t be an innovation agenda or a procurement agenda, it’s got to be the business strategy,” he said.

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