Digital Age Sourcing

Last week I had the honor of giving the closing session at SIG’s latest event on my side of the Atlantic: the SIGnature event in London, hosted by Mayer Brown. At that event, Peter Dickinson, global co-lead of Mayer Brown’s Business & Technology Transactions practice (and a great friend of SIG) gave a fantastic presentation in the morning on “Reimagining Sourcing for the Digital Age” where he looking at emerging technologies and services, the benefits and challenges that they provide, and why a new approach to sourcing is required when it comes to operating in this brave new world.

Sourcing and outsourcing lawyers benefit from a very useful – if hard-earned - combination of perspectives, in that they are as deeply immersed as anyone in the minutiae of specific deals while at the same time needing to maintain as broad an understanding as possible of the macro-level trends and developments driving the evolution of the space: it’s impossible to serve a client adequately, let alone superlatively, without knowing what’s happening far beyond the confines of one deal and/or partnership. Peter demonstrated to our London attendees just how potent that mix of perspectives can prove with a fascinating “state of the nation” address examining how the key emergent technologies are driving change in the outsourcing landscape, in how providers are serving their clients (and who’s doing both buying and selling), and in how corporate strategies and behavior are being transformed by an extraordinary complexity of overlapping factors – all illustrated on a micro level by well-chosen examples pulled from the extensive experience of Peter and his team at Mayer Brown.

“The traditional approach to sourcing does not really fit with these emerging technologies,” Peter said, for a host of reasons – one being that typically prescriptive RFPs issued in the expectation of whatever customization might be necessary down the line are of no interest to cloud providers, for instance, with standard offerings which one can take or leave. Similarly, as few people active in this space for any length of time will be unaware, the longterm deals which pretty much defined outsourcing for the vast majority of its history, are now increasingly history themselves (which in Peter’s view is a benefit to both sides of the deal). In their place are risk-based arrangements in which the provider typically now accepts much less liability than used to be the case, with pricing adjusted accordingly.

This is, of course, merely a taste – perhaps even a taste of a taste – of Peter’s compelling and wide-ranging assessment of how technology is propelling radical evolution of an industry which was anyway comparatively new and fast-flowing; to convey it all in one blog post would be an impossible task – but that’s not my intention here. What I do want to do – and please forgive the blatant plug – is to point you towards Peter’s various articles on the Outsource website (his most recent effort, Artificial intelligence and the insurance industry: the journey has just begun, where you’ll find him addressing a range of topics much more eloquently and insightfully than I can convey his thoughts at secondhand here; and of course to urge you, where possible, to grab any chance to hear him in person and benefit from that compelling combination of perspectives I mention above. 

While I’m plugging… at the start of this month Outsource launched its latest writing competition, aiming to discover new editorial talent and thought leadership within the sourcing and outsourcing community. If you (or a colleague or other connection) have thoughts you’d like to share with the Outsource audience – and at the same time stand a chance of winning a place on a forthcoming SIG University course, as well as plenty of profile-boosting coverage in Outsource – this is an opportunity not to be missed: please see my column launching the contest and feel free to contact me at for any more information – I’m also more than happy, of course, for you to get in touch regarding any other matters of interest. I look forward to hearing from you and, hopefully, to receiving a raft of first-rate competition entries from SIG members!

Jamie Liddell, Editor, Outsource

Jamie Liddell is the Editor-in-Chief of Outsource. He is a journalist with extensive B2B and consumer experience, particularly in the sourcing and international property sectors. A graduate of Cambridge University, Jamie worked as Chief Foreign Correspondent for property media company Blendon Communications before moving into full-time B2B journalism as launch editor of the Shared Services & Outsourcing Network. He took over the helm of the Outsource brand in April 2010 and has since overseen its transformation and evolution into the world's leading publication focusing on the sourcing, outsourcing and business transformation space.