Comcast, Pinnacle design new supplier diversity playbook

By Melissa Lowery

Photos by Dave Moser


Healthy partnerships are built on mutual respect, shared vision and the ability to work together successfully. The best partnerships elevate each member and positively impact the world around them. This year, Comcast and Pinnacle Group celebrate a decade-long partnership and a thriving, innovative supplier diversity program.


A strategic partnership

Jeur Abeln is senior vice president within Comcast Enterprise Procurement and, as part of his broad scope, oversees third-party professional services spend across the global media and technology company, including segments of NBCUniversal Media LLC in the United States and Sky Ltd. in Europe. His team secures professional services that accelerate innovation and the time to market — all with enterprise focus on diversity, sustainability and security.

“My team works to create group efficiencies across various spend categories, managing a trusted global supply base, minimizing supply risk and driving long-term value to Comcast. Managing third-party professional services and expenditures for the company means working with many internal and external stakeholders and requires good policy and process,” he said.

Purpose underscores the work within Comcast Enterprise Procurement. The company has a long-time commitment to diversity and inclusion and is continuously expanding the positive impact to diverse-owned entrepreneurs. A decade ago, recognizing the responsibility that comes with leveraging Comcast’s scale, Abeln assembled a team, together with Peter Kiriacoulacos, executive vice president and chief procurement officer, to ambitiously scale engagement of diverse suppliers within one of the more complex spend categories — professional services.

 “When we started out 10 years ago, we did not have complete visibility over the professional services supplier landscape.This made it difficult to drive meaningful change and create real opportunity for new and existing diverse suppliers,” Abeln said. “We said to each other, let’s create visibility and be intentional about driving results. And that’s what we’ve done.”

Enter Pinnacle Group. Founded by Nina Vaca in 1996, the Dallas, Texas-based workforce solutions company has always specialized in information technology and professional talent acquisition and over the last 17 years has grown an impressive managed services provider (MSP) practice. As a minority- and woman-owned firm, Pinnacle brought a unique perspective and vision to the table. Abeln and his team recognized a kindred spirit, willing to grow and innovate alongside Comcast.

“During the competitive selection process, there was an immediate connection with Nina and her team. We ended up selecting Pinnacle as one of our partners. Now, 10 years later, our partnership is as strong as it has ever been,” said Abeln.

By choosing Pinnacle to play a strategic role in its new MSP program, Comcast immediately demonstrated the sincerity and seriousness of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, creating the opportunity to do something truly different in the marketplace.

“Comcast selected a minority-owned company for a very, very strategic piece of business within their organization, and that’s a real difference,” Vaca said. “Companies often give minority-owned firms commodity business — not strategic and impactful work. Comcast’s vision of having Pinnacle play a strategic role in something so important demonstrated that it was already thinking bigger than most companies about diversity and inclusion. We knew we wanted to be a part of it every step of the way.”


A new kind of supplier diversity

From the start, the partners were unified in their vision to build an inclusive contingent workforce program from the ground up.

“Our partnership with Pinnacle started with a business need,” said Ajamu Johnson, Comcast vice president, procurement, who leads supplier diversity and responsible procurement. “We identified that there were some inefficiencies or just a better way of approaching contingent workforce within the company. We wanted to bring a level of intentionality and inclusion to the [request for proposal] process. It was never a separate diversity conversation or business conversation. It’s just the way we approach going into the marketplace and finding the right partners and the right solutions.”

Jason Beattie, vice president, Comcast Enterprise Procurement — who was recently named a DE&I Influencer by Staffing Industry Analysts — sets the strategic vision for the company’s contingent workforce sourcing efforts and oversees day-to-day operations. He works closely with Pinnacle, and together, they pioneered a new model for inclusive sourcing.

“When this relationship began, there was an industry playbook for supplier diversity that didn’t deliver the results that we wanted. So, we created a new one,” he said. “Part of the value of Pinnacle to us was an openness in charting a new path together. We had ideas; they had ideas. Pinnacle provided insights and counsel; they challenged some of our assumptions and direction, and, ultimately, went with us on this journey to where we are today.”

Michael Keiper, senior vice president, strategic services, Pinnacle Group, partners closely with Beattie on achieving Comcast’s goals for the program. He applauded the company’s creativity, commitment and willingness to be leaders in professional services procurement and supplier diversity.

“Comcast’s commitment to diversity is unmatched in our experience,” he said. “Together, we have achieved a near-100% diverse supplier inclusion rate and tripled the number of requisitions filled by diverse suppliers. It’s been incredible to witness.”

One of the keys to their success is the development of Pinnacle’s proprietary Data and Analytics (DnA) Platform to provide actionable analytics and insights into program metrics and outcomes. This technology analyzes supplier data and tracks performance, which allows Pinnacle to provide real-time feedback to suppliers and coaching on where to target their efforts for maximum impact.

“By providing real-time feedback to suppliers through our DnA platform, we’ve been able to level the playing field significantly for diverse suppliers, allowing them a real opportunity to excel at Comcast,” Keiper said.

Providing data visibility is key to the success of the suppliers, and also to proving their value and program outcomes within Comcast. “This type of technological innovation is crucial to the success of the program,” said Deepak Bharathan, Comcast vice president, strategic procurement.

“Inclusion and diversity are embedded in how we do business at Comcast; they are part of our core principles. But unless we make engagement easy and intuitive for our business stakeholders, we are not able to inject those principles into our supply base,” he said.

“The program itself has given us great visibility, great efficiencies and control for professional services here at Comcast,” Beattie said. “We’ve de-risked the operation through the control that we’ve established, and we’ve done it while growing our diverse supplier spend enormously. It has been a true win/win outcome.”



The Comcast-Pinnacle partnership is not just a supplier diversity success story, Pinnacle President Jim Humrichouse noted, it is also a diversity story within high-end enterprise technology roles. In other words, not only did Comcast want to build an inclusive sourcing program from the ground up, but it also chose to start with hard-to-fill technology positions. That means Pinnacle needs to know the company’s technical environment and choose suppliers that deliver to Comcast’s high standards.

“Comcast is as quality-focused as any customer we have,” he said. “These roles require high-end technology skillsets. As a result, the investment and degree of difficulty in the Comcast program is significantly higher than the average program in our industry.”

Along with leveraging its DnA platform to provide suppliers with visibility into their performance within the program, a significant component of Comcast’s supplier-diversity success has been Pinnacle’s focus on mentoring suppliers and setting them up for success and growth.

“Comcast has been deliberate in how it approached supplier diversity and has supported Pinnacle’s efforts 100%,” said Jessica Narvaez, Pinnacle’s chief diversity officer. “Generally, you can’t expect new diverse suppliers to succeed head-to-head against large, established incumbents. You have to understand their potential before you sign the contract. Then, put them in the right context, give them access to data and mentor them.”

Johnson said, “Jason’s team might identify gaps by way of certain underrepresented or diverse communities. Then they ask, ‘Is there something we can do through this program to try and close some of those gaps? Are there efforts that we can make to try and accelerate their exposure and opportunities within Comcast?’”

Vaca said, “What’s so great about Comcast’s approach is that they have a foundational commitment to diversity that they are deeply serious about, and they’ve partnered with Pinnacle to help back up the commitment with process, technology and mentorship. Many diverse companies have meaningfully increased their revenue. Comcast has very intentionally created a level playing field with real opportunities.”

The same level of intentionality that drives the program extends to capacity-building with suppliers.

“Our partnership with Comcast is a beautiful gift and an opportunity,” Vaca said. “The purpose of our company is connecting people with opportunity, and I feel responsible for taking this ‘capital O’ opportunity and turning it into more opportunity for other diverse suppliers.”

Keiper said, “I think a common misconception of diverse firms is that they are asking for an unfair advantage. But what they want is an opportunity. Comcast has proven that when you give diverse firms real opportunities to compete, they will work hard, they will be successful and growth can take place — while meeting and exceeding business goals.”

Pinnacle has also benefited tremendously from the mentorship and opportunities provided by Comcast. Vaca had already grown the company from a one-woman operation in 1996 into a national player by 2013. But since partnering with Comcast, Pinnacle has grown its own diverse spend sevenfold and now serves customers on four continents.

“Comcast has been a major driver for our growth,” Vaca said. “It’s been a tough coach who has challenged us time and time again to become the best version of ourselves. We could not be more grateful for the opportunity and the journey.”


Looking ahead

With 10 years of success behind them, Pinnacle and Comcast are celebrating their achievements and are energized for their next steps.

“[By] supporting hundreds of stakeholders to find external talent with industry-leading fill times at financially competitive terms and with a significant part of the supplier portfolio made up of diverse suppliers, Jason, Deepak and Ajamu and their teams — together with Nina and the Pinnacle team — have been leading the way all these years, and I am proud of what we accomplished together,” Abeln said.

“I sit back and look at the past decade and say, did we do what we set out to do?” Vaca said. “We set out to stand up one of the best contingent workforce programs in the industry — and also one of the largest — using innovative technology, starting from the ground up and benefiting the diverse community. I’m so proud that we’ve actually achieved that vision.”

Meanwhile, both companies are thinking about supplier-diversity internationally. Last year, Comcast expanded its supplier-diversity efforts to the United Kingdom.

“We’re bringing this same vision into Europe, where supplier diversity is not yet as established as it is within the U.S.,” Abeln said. “We have our colleagues at Sky on this journey to look for opportunities to work with diverse suppliers and build those relationships.”

Vaca said, “To pioneer a program from nothing to a global program, that’s very meaningful to me. Comcast — Jeur’s team, Jason’s team, all of them — they have been amazing partners. With their support, Pinnacle’s MSP practice has grown exponentially,” Vaca said. “When we started this partnership, neither of us had global programs, and now we both have global operating models. Pinnacle now works in 13 different countries, and we are continuing to expand. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.”

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Comcast Comcast Corp. Comcast Enterprise Procurement Jeur Abeln telecommunications Pinnacle Group. Nina Vaca information technology professional talent acquisition Pinnacle procurement supplier diversity diversity and inclusion Ajamu Johnson Jason Beattie DE&I Michael Keiper Data and Analytics (DnA) Platform Deepak Bharathan Jim Humrichouse Jessica Narvaez

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