Daily Archives: July 10, 2007

Denali Delivers

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with one of the partners and co-founders of Denali in their new headquarters, one of the few boutique consultancies specializing in supply chain with over ten years of experience in strategic sourcing. I was impressed with what I heard. Although the Denali V4 (Volume-Velocity-Value-Vehicle) “triangle” may not go very far in conveying the value they offer, the customized category framework approach they take to sourcing assignments is one of the best approaches I’ve analyzed from a consulting firm.

Even though they have a very good sourcing cycle (essentially your five-step process), they recognized that successful strategic sourcing is about more than just e-Sourcing – sometimes its about supplier development. If you conducted a well-run strategic sourcing event in the last few years, if market prices have remained relatively stable, and if your suppliers are still delivering quality merchandise, then you might already have the right supply base. In this situation, the best way to increase savings is to develop your suppliers and split the savings. After all, there are costs associated with a sourcing event, both for you and your supplier, and any new supplier is going to factor in their amortized costs of always responding to e-Sourcing events in their price.

In addition to their five-step sourcing processes, they also have a six-step process for supplier development. Furthermore, they embed change management into all of their processes to make sure the results they achieve are implentable, manageable, and sustainable – which is key since negotiated changes don’t hit the bottom line until they become realized savings.

Furthermore, they understand that in order to be successful as a boutique, you need to be able to be profitable off of small engagements, especially with smaller companies. To this end, they only hire experienced, senior sourcing professionals and operate virtually to the greatest extent possible, with sourcing professionals scattered all over the U.S. This allows them to effectively tackle projects with teams as small as two-to-three consultants and service these projects successfully with a relatively local contact point. Furthermore, with a highly experienced staff in e-Sourcing, they can tackle very large projects with under ten professionals, whereas a Big-5 consultancy, bursting with newly minted MBAs, might need thirty professionals to do the same work. And since their virtual model means they don’t spend a lot of money on over-priced office space, their rates are still very competitive.

Furthermore, they’ve progressed beyond just a simple supply chain consultancy to a full-ranged operation that now offers their clients marketing intelligence, training, and staffing services – which means that they can leave your organization in an effective position to follow through and deliver the savings they negotiate after their engagement is over.

Just this year Denali launched their subscription-based service offering, Denali Intelligence, which consists of three levels of Total Sourcing Intelligence market research services specific to sourcing and sourcing professionals. Their category-specific marketing research consists of category market reports, updated semi-annually, monthly market updates for key market indices, and weekly updates that highlight relevant news and events – covering over 150 spend categories across nine different portfolios. They also offer supplier profiles and specialized market research services. All of this is available through their intelligence portal that users of subscribing organizations can log in to whenever they like.

Typical contents of a market report included commodity definition, supply category description & context, category overview & background, demand update, supply base characteristics, key cost drivers, price changes, trends, forecasts, insights, and best practices. More-or-less everything you need to do to augment your sourcing processing with the information you need to develop the right strategy, target the right suppliers, and negotiate the right contract. Some also contain information on industry regulation, risk outlook, and market news, where appropriate. The report I reviewed, on distribution transformers, also analyzed the supply category in the context of Porter’s Five Forces Analysis and included interest rate forecasts.

This Market Intelligence offering is in addition to their SupplyStaff staffing and recruiting services that they use to help their clients hire full time employees and short-term and mid-term contractors as well as augment their staff on a temporary basis for specific projects. Unlike other staffing services, like their consultancy, they only focus on supply chain staffing and this is a big plus for firms who need more than just someone who’s been processing purchase orders for the last twenty years.

All-in-all, they’ve got a great sourcing process and you should definitely consider inviting them to the table next time you are looking to take your sourcing to the next level. They’re just aren’t that many boutiques out there that compete on their level. If you’re in manufacturing, you’ve also got providers like Aptium Global and ThreeCore, if you’re in a services industry, you’ve got the Provade solution, but if you need help across the board, you just don’t have many choices. I hope to highlight more as the year goes on, but when you consider the relatively small number of experienced senior sourcing professionals and the very large need for these people (whether your company recognizes this need or not), you know there aren’t that many.