FACULTY INSIGHTS
6 APRIL 2016

“My job”, says Neil Rainey, GM of Telstra’s Strategic Partner Program, “is to help increase the velocity of innovation at Telstra”.

A lucky alignment of schedules meant that the very busy Neil Rainey was able to visit the Brisbane Roundtable in early March to share the story behind Telstra’s Strategic Partner Program, aimed at strengthening competitive edge and spearheading innovation for Telstra.

Although Rainey and his small team don’t belong to the Procurement function at Telstra, he is heavily involved in driving innovation amongst the organisation’s top 12 strategic partners, representing 32% of spend. The language he uses about the critical importance of building relationships to drive innovation mirrors that used by CPOs – in Rainey’s view, a strategic partner helps Telstra:

  • create a great experience for its customers
  • improve its competitive advantage
  • create world-firsts.

Bridging the ideas gap

The Australian concern with the “tyranny of distance” has been with us since the first European settlement, but as far as ideas go, organisations like to believe that the information age gives us instant access to new research and development. Rainey, however, disagrees:

“The decision-makers across our 12 strategic partners rarely come to Australia, so it’s up to Telstra to go to them. It’s part of my role to help ensure Telstra has a strong presence at all the major international conferences. All the critical development in our industry takes place on those trips.”

Each and every year Rainey helps prepare a contingent of senior Telstra executives to attend a round of partner meetings and industry conferences, from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, Europe, Israel, Ireland, Philippines and India. The team is hugely active at these conferences to ensure they get in the room with companies such as Google and Apple. At the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, for example, the team had 150 meetings across 20 attendees. Building relationships through individual and face-to-face meetings is everything – Rainey reviews a report every six months on the top 100 influencers in Silicon Valley and counts how many his team has personally met.

Betting on technology

After each conference, Rainey’s team reports on the opportunities and develops a program of work. “You have to place strategic bets on technology – it’s not all going to work out”, Rainey says.

Telecommunication companies such as Telstra are “small R, big D”. They undertake a lot of development with partners. A key part of innovation, therefore, is brought in by working with its biggest partners. “We’re at the centre of a dartboard, surrounded by all these truly innovative partners with huge research budgets”, Rainey says. “It’s all about tapping into that potential by collaborating, communicating and innovating together.”

What’s next?

Rainey shared with the Brisbane Roundtable the following key trends on his watch-list.

  • Increased innovation in our own backyard
  • The changing nature of customer demand in the age of social media
  • Geopolitical power shifts
  • Consumer, business and enterprise cloud
  • Mobile commerce and advertising
  • Commoditisation of data traffic
  • Corporate social responsibility.


The Faculty Roundtable comprises of an influential group of procurement leaders who gather to share their experiences and insights, to achieve greater commercial success for their organisations. Through The Roundtable, members have access to leading-edge thought leadership and commentators, a ready supply of valuable expertise through exclusive market intelligence, as well as networking and professional development opportunities for themselves and their team members.

The Asia-Pacific CPO Forum is the region’s premier procurement event dedicated to accelerating commercial leadership at the highest level. It is a once-a-year opportunity for leading Chief Procurement Officers to engage with peers and like-minded business leaders in an intimate and interactive setting. The Forum is designed for delegates to facilitate the sharing of best practice strategies, develop innovative and responsive procurement approaches, and hear from a compelling speaker line-up of influential thinkers, eminent business leaders and commercially creative minds.

In 2016, The 9th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum will held on 18th and 19th May in Melbourne, Australia. For more information contact Program Manager, Belinda Toohey, on +61 3 9654 4900 or via email.​