Alcatel-Lucent: Cultivating Strength From Within

From Mark Artigues’s point of view, the argument for supplier diversity is simple: diversity is an important part of everyday life, and should therefore be an important part of corporate development.

Most major corporations have supplier diversity departments to champion for diverse-owned businesses trying to break into the industry. At Alcatel-Lucent—a French-based leading IP networking, ultra-broadband access, and cloud-technology company—Artigues is that champion and the senior director of supplier diversity.

Alcatel-Lucent is involved in major technology projects all over the world and employs over 52,000 people. All of the major cell phone and cable providers use their products, and Alcatel-Lucent has helped bring up-to-date technology to millions. Artigues’ job is to make sure that diversity is always a part of the process.

From transportation to training, logistics to installation, Artigues and his team work to ensure that the supplier chain is populated with companies that are owned by minorities, women, veterans, service-disabled veterans, and other diverse groups.

“If everybody was just like me, life would be boring. We wouldn’t be eating some of the best cuisines the world has to offer, and there would be a lot more we wouldn’t be doing or be interested in. We strive for  diversity within companies from an employment standpoint,” Artigues says. “Diversity brings different perspectives to the community, to the workplace, and to the supply chain.”

And even though Alcatel-Lucent is not a consumer products company, Artigues has noticed that diversity is something clients are increasingly interested in.

“Our clients want their supply chains to be representative of their customers,” he says. “What’s important to our customers is always important to us.”

There’s also a positive economic impact. Diverse suppliers are often small businesses who hire within their local community, and being contracted by Alcatel-Lucent helps create jobs locally.

To find diverse suppliers, Artigues is frequently on the ground, networking with businesses through the National Minority Supplier Development Council or the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, both of which certify minority and women-owned business, and also work to provide educational and networking opportunities.

Though he has been with Alcatel-Lucent for more than 20 years, Artigues only took over the supplier-diversity program a few years ago. “I knew in a general sense what supplier diversity did, and  I thought there were things I could do to help the program  grow even more,” he says. His short time with the department has been, “in one word, enriching,” says Artigues.

“There’s nothing as rewarding as when a supplier we introduce to the company is able to win some profitable business,” he says.

Although Artigues helps work with diverse suppliers to find opportunities within Alcatel-Lucent that might be a good fit, they don’t have any special incentives over non-diversely owned companies.

“We try to bring those in that we feel can compete,” he says. “If they offer  quality products and services and are competitive, they have a good chance to win business. That’s always a great moment when they do.”

While many other big players in the tech world such as AT&T, Verizon, Intel, and Apple also focus on supplier diversity, Artigues says there is no competition among them in the supplier-diversity community.

“There is a community there I can lean on,” he says. “Our focus is to try to bring diverse suppliers into the supply chain of every area of the company, but especially those in high-tech.”

For such a large company with so many procurement needs, Artigues only has three people on his supplier diversity team.

Artigues also works to raise awareness within Alcatel-Lucent about what, exactly, supplier diversity means and why it’s so important. He works with different employee resource groups to build advocacy for the issue.

“In a lot of cases, people might not really know it exists unless they’ve been exposed to it. But there are a lot of small businesses out there and a lot of benefits to utilizing diverse suppliers,” he says. “We have to continue to create that awareness and make sure it is something that people think of.”

Artigues sees first-hand how new suppliers help the company strengthen from within. He has never been more sure that the more diversity equals more benefits for Alcatel-Lucent and companies like it.

“From a supplier standpoint, those diverse companies have different backgrounds and different ideas,” Artigues says. “They are going to provide us with different solutions that can possibly help save costs and keep us competitive.”