Project Assurance: A Methodology for Keeping Your Supply Management Project on Track Part I

Project Assurance, the specialized discipline and practice involving independent and objective oversight, specialized experience, and audit skill to assess risk, finance, accounting, compliance, safety, and performance for any major capital expenditure (Source: Wikipedia), is designed to improve performance, increase efficiency, avoid unnecessary cost, and, most importantly, minimize the risk of project overruns and failure.

Project Assurance goes beyond Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) (Source: Wikipedia), which, while independent, is simply a set of procedures used for checking that a product, service, or system meets the requirements or specifications set forth for it. Project success depends on more than just getting the technical specifications right. Projects also depend on getting the talent right — as it is the people who will have to use the new system. And projects also depend on getting the transition right — if the changeover is not smooth, significant disruptions to daily operations can occur. And they depend on a 4th “T” — tracery. Organizational success depends on selecting a superior strategy and seeing it through until the desired results are achieved (or the organization changes the strategy). Tracery, from the late Middle English, can be defined as a “delicate, interlacing, work of lines as in an embroidery” or, more modernly, as a “network”. Implementing a strategy requires effectively implementing all of the intersecting “threads” that are required to execute the strategy to success. If any one aspect is overlooked, the project can fail.

And, as pointed out by Rob Prinzo in No Wishing Required, unlike IV&V, which mainly comes into play during the design and development stages, project assurance is part of the project from initial planning through initial roll-out. And at each stage it goes beyond traditional IV&V because, unlike IV&V, project assurance is not only comprehensive, but proactive and preventative. Whereas IV&V focusses simply on tactical issues relating to the system, project assurance considers the strategic intent as well as the tactical delivery. Whereas IV&V takes a reactive approach to issues discovered during the review, project assurance takes a proactive approach and tries to identify issues, and implement mitigations, before they arise. And while IV&V focuses on problems (and their solutions), project assurance focusses on prevention. The idea is to create collaborative resolution teams instead of crisis response teams when potential issues are identified. This way the issues are mitigated before crisis response is required.

So how does Project Assurance work? When using Project Assurance, organizations periodically stop and objectively assess project failure points as they arise, typically with the help of an outside third party who can be completely objective in his or her analysis on what the project team is and isn’t doing well and what could cause failure later if not adequately addressed now. In particular, the organization conducts a project health assessment at six critical points in every project — once in each of the six initial project phases defined by the classic waterfall project methodology.

Precisely when do these health assessments take place and how are they conducted? Come back for Part II.

HICX Solutions Wants To Buy You A Shiny New Pair of Shoes! Part III

In Part II of this series we not only noted that HICX, which stands for Harmonize, Integrate, Control, and eXchange, is a relatively new SIM offering on the market (even though it has been in development since 2004), addresses the classic SIM sweet-spots, but also hits a few new ones. Not only does it include on-boarding and an integrated supplier portal like classic SIM, and more than adequately address Performance and Compliance Management — mainstays of current SIM platforms, but also goes beyond to offer a complete Master Data Management (MDM) solution for your Supply Management operation.

But that isn’t the only trick it offers. As hinted at in Part I, it not only allows a user to define, and redefine, data models as necessary but define, and redefine, workflows as necessary to allow an organization to not only accommodate new product demands but adapt to new technologies and new business requirements as they arise. These new tricks are not to be underestimated. While a number of platforms allow you to extend and augment the data model, most do not allow the data model to be extended after the fact, and those that do require all existing elements to have the new property defined, or at least defaulted (to a default or a value that represents a not-yet-defined value).

In contrast, the HICX platform allows the data model for any element to be updated at any time by any user with authority, and since the HICX platform supports versioning with all data elements of the data model, no existing elements are impacted or need to be updated since the data (element) model is loaded with each data element and each data element is validated against the (element) model it was created with. (Once the data element is loaded, the user can add any additional elements required to update the associated data model, if desired.)

But that’s not the best trick that the HICX platform has to offer. The best trick is that the platform allows the workflow to be updated at any time by any user with the authority to do so, even if the workflow is being used in an initiative currently in progress — such as an on-boarding, compliance, or performance improvement initiative. This is because the platform not only versions data models, but workflows that drive the product and initiatives. If, during an event, the event administrator notices that that the workflow is causing problems for the suppliers and can be simplified, or notices that the information being collected is not what was expected, the administrator can simplify the workflow or add additional, mandatory, data requests. Suppliers who have already started the workflow will be able to finish the current workflow, and can then be sent a request for additional information by the administrator (who can limit the request to suppliers on the older version of the workflow) but suppliers who did not begin the initiative before the update will start on the new workflow.

But the real power of the workflow management capability is the ability to change registration, data collection, and performance measurement workflows (and associated data element models) when suppliers change, products change, and evaluation methods change. Traditional SIM platforms decline in usage because they can’t keep up with changing business requirements and user needs. But with the ability to update workflows to match the business needs at any time, using an integrated visual workflow designer, the HICX platform insures that SIM is always relevant and current. It’s the new trick that most SIM platforms have been missing.

Other tricks include:

  • Dynamic Dashboards

    like any good SIM product, the HICX platform supports user dashboards, but doesn’t stop at one dashboard per user — the user can create as many dashboards as he or she wants and customize them to specific purposes — compliance, performance improvement, on-boarding, insurance, etc.; the tool includes a sophisticated dashboard designer that allows a knowledgeable user to design a dashboard that is actually relevant to the initiative at hand (which can be focussed on non-compliance, non-performance etc. — since we all know that dashboards that report success are dangerous and dysfunctional)

  • Advanced Search

    that allows the user to search for any data element using any fields, and filter using any set of fixed values (lists) and related elements; these searches can be used to define supplier sets for initiatives, using as many dimensions as necessary to get it right

  • User Defined Escalations

    that allow the user to define multiple levels of automated escalation during initiatives, where each escalation can occur at a different interval and be targeted to a different group or individual

These aren’t all the tricks the platform has to offer, but they are most of the tricks of note that serve to distinguish the HICX platform from the other SIM products on the market. If you’re on the market for a SIM solution, you should definitely take a look. The name and website might be a bit non-descriptive, but the tool certainly isn’t.

HICX Solutions Wants To Buy You A Shiny New Pair of Shoes! Part II

In Part I we noted that, despite the fact that SIM (Supplier Information Management) was old news and a mature Supply Management solution offering (as the early leaders in this space were formed as early as 2000), it may still have a few tricks up its sleeves and the acquisition of the right technology platform might just get the acquirer a shiny new pair of shoes that are as coveted as Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. (Of course, the acquisition of the wrong technology might get the acquirer a pink slip.)

We also noted in Part I that HICX, which stands for Harmonize, Integrate, Control, and eXchange, a relatively new SIM offering on the market (even though it has been in development since 2004), not only addresses the classic SIM sweet-spots, but also hits a few new ones that can bring significant value to your organization if properly implemented and utilized as it brings with it a new bag of tricks. How does it do this?

Let’s start with the five major areas of SIM covered in Part I:

  • Onboarding

    The HICX platform not only allows the entire process to be automated, but allows the workflow to be customized to each supplier according to the supplier type (sub-contractor, one-off vendor, product, service, importer, government agency, etc.), the region the supplier is in, the business unit(s) the supplier deals with, the products or services the supplier offers, the languages the supplier uses, and the data that is required for performance, compliance, or other initiatives that involve the supplier. The customized process insures that the supplier is only asked for data that is needed, and that the supplier can designate the appropriate personnel to provide that data. The portal can be configured to include a significant number of data checks to not only make sure that the data is of the right type (numeric, alpha-numeric, attachment, etc.) but that the data provided makes sense (is in range, is from a pre-defined set of answers, etc.) — which prevents a lot of typos (which can result in bad scorecards and unnecessary alerts in an exception management setup, which the platform also supports). In addition, known supplier data can be pre-populated for review, and can even come from supplier directories (including the D&B directory). It’s very easy for the user doing the onboarding to customize this process as that user can customize the process by simply selecting the supplier type, region, business unit, products, services, languages, etc. of relevance to each supplier and the system does the rest. The user then has the option to add or remove additional requirements for individual suppliers, and override any and all defaults (that they have the authority to override as per the fine-grained permissions and securities models).

  • Master Data Management

    Not only does the MDM solution provide you with numerous “out-of-the-box” data models, standards, and validations that you can customize as needed, but it recognizes that MDM systems have to integrate with downstream ERP/MRP systems, upstream sourcing and procurement systems, and even overarching BI, Spend Analysis, and Reporting systems that cross and connect the streams. (Supply Management streams are not dematerializers — sometimes it is beneficial if the streams cross.) As a result, it has out-of-the-box integrations with a number of upstream, downstream, and mid-stream systems and can push, pull, and sync data as required according to any number of user-defined rules. Plus, it allows certain aspects of master data, including bank master data, to be handled separately (and stored in separate, heavily encrypted, and highly secure data sources).

  • Performance Management

    The performance management component, as expected, allows the user to build scorecards around business goals and use whatever information is required, whether it is supplier provided, internal or third-party and whether it comes from the SIM solution, upstream solutions, downstream solutions, or cross-stream solutions. It also supports a very dynamic and flexible scoring mechanism that can support whatever formulae the user feels is necessary to construct an adequate scorecard.

  • Compliance Management

    The compliance module allows the user to create and manage compliance initiatives across one or more suppliers for one or more projects. This can be as simple as collecting raw material data to insure that the products your suppliers are manufacturing do not contain any restricted substances under RoHS or other directives, or as complex as collecting all data relating to sustainability initiatives to directly and indirectly support your organization-wide Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.

  • Integrated Supplier Portal

    As per our coverage of the on-boarding solution, the portal is streamlined so that the supplier is only asked for data that is needed, all aspects of the portal provide the supplier with a consistent experience, and the supplier can designate the appropriate personnel to provide and maintain the data that is needed on a data type, product, or initiative basis.

But this is not all that the HICX solution has to offer. Come back for Part III.

HICX Solutions Wants To Buy You A Shiny New Pair of Shoes! Part I

Last week we asked if SIM was old news or a shiny new pair of shoes. We noted that SIM (Supplier Information Management) was a mature and stable technology with a large number of solution providers not only providing the tools and best practices to manage supplier life-cycles, but to manage risk, compliance, receivables and even spend repositories for spend management. It’s almost a commodity in the Supply Management space, and, thus, an acquisition thereof is not likely to get baby that new pair of shoes anytime soon. Unless, of course, the solution has some new tricks not found in most current solutions.

What tricks? Tricks that provide added value to your organization. What might these tricks look like? As per our last post on the issue, if the SIM product not only allowed a user to define, and redefine, data models as necessary but define, and redefine, workflows as necessary to allow an organization to not only accommodate new product demands but adapt to new technologies and new business requirements as they arise, then this would qualify as new tricks as many classic SIM products have rather fixed data models and inflexible workflows. It’s not the only new trick that would have value, but it is a new trick. And it’s a new trick that HICX Solutions brings to the table with their SIM solution. More on this later.

HICX, which stands for Harmonize, Integrate, Control, and eXchange, is a relatively new SIM offering (even though it has been in development since 2004) that not only addresses the classic SIM sweet-spots, but also hits a few new ones that can bring significant value to your organization if properly implemented and utilized. But let’s back up a bit.

In addition to classic SIM, the HICX SIM platform addresses each of the following areas, which, with the exception of MDM, are all addressed by most current SIM platforms:

  • OnboardingHICX is not the first SIM provider to have a comprehensive on-boarding solution, and won’t be the last, but they are one of the few that recognizes the absolute criticality of a good on-boarding process as effective SIM is 100% dependent on good, complete supplier data — which is dependent on the supplier providing that data to you on a timely basis. This is, of course, dependent on getting the supplier on-board not only with your efforts but the systems you use to collect the data. As a result, effective on-boarding is key.
  • Master Data ManagementWhile many SIM solutions manage data, most can’t serve as your MDM (Master Data Management) repository. However, the HICX solution can. This is important since most Supply Management solutions outside of the ERP space do not have MDM capabilities. But MDM is the key to good supplier and supply management initiatives as every initiative — analysis, modelling, payments, reporting — requires good data. And since the ERP is usually so tightly locked down, and such a mess, you rarely get the good data you need out of it.
  • Performance ManagementThe whole point of collecting good information is to help the organization effectively manage the supply base and improve both organization and supplier performance. As such, this was the first major piece of functionality offered by SIM providers and one of the staples that should be offered by every SIM provider.
  • Compliance ManagementA critical part of performance management is compliance management. It doesn’t matter if your supplier can produce the product 10% cheaper if they do so using a chemical that is banned under RoHS and your product would be confiscated if you tried to import it. Compliance is critical. Compliance with regulations and directives. Compliance with agreed to processes. Compliance with ethics. So you definitely need good compliance management capabilities.
  • Integrated Supplier PortalThe best way to get the data is directly from the supplier, and the supplier is only going to buy-in if the portal is easy to use and integrated. If the supplier has to go to a separate page for each request, with a different login, workflow and UI, the supplier is going to start boycotting your tools and your initiatives faster than the hammer drops.

Moreover, in a few of these areas, and MDM in particular, the HICX solution adds a few tricks of its own. What tricks? Come back for Part II.

Will the Gates of Hades Open Today?

For those of you with an iPhone who have asked about today, or who have followed the rumours on the iOS forums, you know that if you ask Siri about today (What day is July 27?) and/or ask when the Gates of Hades Open (What day is Opening Gates of Hades?), Siri will tell you that they open today. (When I ask Siri the second question, it says the gates of Hades will open today.)

Some users are speculating as to why. Today is the first day of the Chinese Ghost Month and the Ghost Festival (and the Chinese say that the gates of hell, which is under the sea and has 10 palace halls, are opened on the first day of the 7th Chinese Lunar month at midnight, which starts with the new moon that occurs today). Today is also the new — hidden — moon, which is associated with the Greek God Persephone who is Queen of the Underworld and the wife of Hades (but if this [alone] were the reason, would not the gates of Hades open with every new moon). It’s also the last day of Ramadan. When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of hell are locked up and Shaytan (devil) are put in chains (Source: Wikipedia). Thus, the implication is when Ramadan ends, the gates of hell again open and the devils are set free.

Is it the rare convergence of Islam, Taoism/Daoism, and Greek mythology that is causing Siri to reason that today is the day the Gates of Hell/Hades open and release  the souls trapped within upon their earth? Or is it something deeper and darker that only Siri in her infinite AI wisdom knows. What do you think?

Don’t bother asking LOLCat. I don’t mean to alarm you, but I already asked, and here is what LOLCat had to say:

I Have Seen The End!