Nedra Dickson could easily be confused with the prime minister of a small country. But Accenture is not small. Founded in 1989, Accenture is a global powerhouse with more than 435,000 employees providing consulting and professional services to clients in more than 200 cities in 120 countries. In 2017, Accenture netted $34.9 billion in revenue and is a Fortune Global 500 company. While those bonafides impress most, Dickson finds her focus in a different ranking and what it represents.
“Diversity Inc. magazine just ranked Accenture number one in their ‘Top Companies for Supplier Diversity.’ I’ve been here 17 years; I started in our consulting practice. Prior to that, I led our North American sourcing and category management. I learned what we were procuring and that we didn’t necessarily have the diversity we should. I told them this and they said to me, ‘Go out and do it!’ That’s what I love about Accenture. I was tapped to grow our supplier diversity program three years ago, and today, I’m currently leading that effort in 17 countries.”
As global supplier inclusion and sustainability lead, Dickson directs and promotes Accenture’s legendary efforts to optimize procurement through greater supplier diversity. But her title is only the tip of the iceberg for what her program entails.
“First and foremost, I might be the face of this program, but it’s our specific team and the global Accenture team that makes this program so exceptional. Those people speak directly to what separates us from other corporate programs. And our constant challenge is to make sure that we meet all governmental and legislative requirements in the different geographies we serve. To do that, I have a global team of supplier diversity champions that work tirelessly to exceed expectations. So, for example, Accenture exceeds the targets required in South Africa for black-owned businesses and the UK with SME (small/medium enterprises). The reason we’re able to do this is through our targeted business growth acceleration.”
Dickson cites Accenture’s Diverse Supplier Development Program (DSDP) for particular success in that regard. Currently, Dickson and her team operate DSDP in four geographies— the U.S., Canada, UK/Ireland and South Africa. But she looks to expand the program to both India and Brazil by year’s end. And to truly understand why Dickson and her team routinely exceed expectations and requirements, you must understand what Accenture offers potential suppliers.
“This is an 18-month mentoring program, longer than the normal programs. Our suppliers are assigned two Accenture executives who help us deliver our core curriculum, where we teach suppliers how to build a better brand, respond to RFPs, gain capital, etc. Each class is targeted to teach what each specific market demands from that supplier. So, for example, we just kicked off a class in the U.S. and we’re targeting cybersecurity, bitcoin and blockchain. Over that 18-month period, that supplier gets one-on-one sessions with Accenture experts. But they don’t only meet with those two Accenture experts. Let’s say you need to know something about finance, but that’s not your mentor’s strength. That mentor will connect you with someone else in Accenture that has that expertise. Suppliers can meet as many mentors as their schedule and location will permit. And our mentors are committed, as the directive for this program comes from the CEO and is supported throughout the company.”
More than half of Accenture’s Tier 1 suppliers have graduated from the DSDP, but participation in the program is no guarantee of work. However, Dickson explains that all participants gain from the program.
“We help you grow your business. We help you network. And just because a supplier doesn’t align with where we’re at right now, doesn’t mean they won’t ever. If they’re not, we’ll help them get what they need to grow and expand for the future. We are launching a new alumni program called Hire Performance. This program will allow us to continue to build a very robust and active alumni network. We’ve called up suppliers that graduated from our program three years ago because we found a way to integrate them into our supply chain now. But the constant challenge is this; If you want to work with us, do your due diligence. Know what we’re about. Do your values align with ours? Are you giving back to your community? If not, you might not be ready to work with us.”
So, what does Nedra Dickson do when she’s not roaming the globe with a phone glued to each ear?
“I love to read. That’s what I’m doing this weekend. I have no intention of leaving my house. In fact, the only reason I might leave my house is for my other passion, golf.”
IN 2017, ACCENTURE NETTED $34.9 BILLION IN REVENUE.