Monthly Archives: October 2007

The Sourcing Maniacs Are At It Again!

“GPO”*1
  by Dot and the ‘Riba Brothers

Dot
Little GPO, you’re really lookin’ fine
Three staplers and a printer only $389!
Loadin’ up the shoppin’ cart in the e-checkout line
C’mon and fill it up, check it out, get it now, GPO

Wakko and Yakko
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(yeah yeah, little GPO)
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(yeah yeah, little GPO)
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(ah, little G-P-O)

Dot
You oughta see it on your system on the LCD
This little modified network has got plenty for thee
She beats the punch-outs and the catalogues, its our guarantee
Just read the fine print, exemptions, legal tint, GPO

Wakko and Yakko
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(yeah yeah, little GPO)
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(yeah yeah, little GPO)
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(ah, little G-P-O)

Dot
Time to save all your money and buy a GPO
Indeminity and some IT and you’ll be ready to go
Roll it out to your buyers and let ‘em know
That it’s the only game in town
Little buddy, gonna lock you down
When you turn it on, let it loose, start to buy, GPO

Wakko and Yakko
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(yeah yeah, little GPO)
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(yeah yeah, little GPO)
Wo wo, wo wo wo wo wo
(ah, little G-P-O)

Stuck in Procurement with Ariba Lite*2
  by Ralph T. Guard*3

Doctor*4, every day I have to source some stuff
Doctor, listen to me, tell me it’s not slough
First I’m goin’ shoppin on Ariba Lite
Then all of a sudden things aren’t quite right
I search for thongs and everybody gets a fright
Undies and flip flops are displayed in plain site

Now Doctor, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing yet
Next comes the part that I won’t ever forget
Now I’m being coerced by some Chinese spies
To buy some toothpaste and a box of dies
Suddenly I’m locked out from buying office supplies
I click a wrong link and that’s when I realize

I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
Day after day and night after night

Not right!

Doctor, won’t you tell me, am I going insane
Was it something they did or something wrong with my brain
See I’m surfin’ the web when I find a great deal
Want to buy, but my hands have been tied to the wheel
Stuck in fourth gear in a runaway automobile
Drivin in circles forever on a roulette wheel

I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
Day after day and night after night

And I can’t bust out and I can’t break free
And its getting just a little too stuffy here for me
And I can’t go home and I can’t get loose
And I try to escape but it’s just no use

And I can’t ever leave and I can’t ever win
And I’m runnin’ out of air and the walls are closin’ in
And I can’t go back and I can’t get through
But Ariba since you’re here, why don’t you let me buy a six-shot from you

Come on Ariba, come on!

Ow, ’cause

Doctor, every day I think I’m losing my mind
That’s right, I even think that I’m being maligned
See, I’m coming here from work but I just can’t forget
I’m half an hour late and covered in sweat
Tried to buy a rope but Ariba wouldn’t let
me fill up the shopping cart unless I agreed to debt

I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
Day after day and night after night

I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
Stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
D-d-d-day after day and night after night

Then I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
  (ya-ya ya-ya, ya-ya, ya, ya-ya)
I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
Day after day and night after night

Then I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite
  (ya-ya ya-ya, ya-ya, ya, ya-ya)
I’m stuck in procurement with Ariba Lite

*1 To the tune of “GTO” by Ronny and the Daytonas
*2 To the tune of “Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White” by Weird Al Yankovic
*3Ralph has the miserable job of trying to keep the sourcing maniacs in check. Given his limited intelligence, and the multiple concussions he has received from anvils and other heavy objects being dropped on his head, he tends to be rather unsuccessful. As a result, he has become rather reclusive, as his outlook on life has become quite dark, and that’s why we don’t hear from him very much.
*4Dr. Otto Scratchansniff

Risk is Everywhere!

One of the presentations I hoped to make, but wasn’t able to (due to a prior commitment), at the 5th Annual International Symposium on Supply Chain Management was the presentation by Philipp Hohrath from the Hamburg University of Technology on A Supply Chain Risk Management Process. Fortunately, the paper on which the presentation was based was one of the papers included in the conference materials.

The process the authors presented in the paper for supply chain risk management, defined as part of Supply Chain Management which contains all strategies and measures, all knowledge, all institutions, all processes, and all technologies, which can be used on the technical, personal, and organizational level to reduce supply chain risk, was pretty straight-forward and obvious – Identify Risk, Analyze risk, Assess Risk, Handle Risk, and Control Risk – without any new insights beyond what was already out their in the traditional and web 2.0 literature, but the paper contained a great table on the different risks that logistics service providers and manufacturing companies have to worry about, categorized by source. This table is as follows:

  Company Supply Demand Environment
Manufacturing
  • Loss of Production
  • Quality Failure
  • Logistics Service Provider Failure
  • Employee Shortage
  • Supplier Failure
  • Decreasing Supply Quality
  • Decreasing Supply Reliability
  • Increasing Supply Lead Times
  • Price Increase
  • Stock Outage
  • Logistics Service Provider Failure
  • Single Supplier Dependence
  • Demand Variation Increase
  • Customer Insolvency
  • Margin
  • Unpredictable Product Substitution
  • Single Customer Dependence
  • Logistics Service Provider Failure
  • Legal Risk
  • Liability Risk
  • Political Risk
  • War / Conflict Risk
  • Natural Disaster
Logistics Services Providers
  • Insufficient Capacity
  • Quality Failure
  • Employee Shortage
  • Subcontractor Failure
  • Decreasing Service Quality
  • Decreasing Supply Reliability
  • Price Increase
  • Subcontractor Dependency
  • Customer Insolvency
  • Margin
  • Service Substitution
  • Single Customer Dependence
  • Legal Risk
  • Liability Risk
  • Political Risk
  • War / Conflict Risk
  • Natural Disaster

The paper also addressed the rising importance of supply chain risk management, from the 3-8% range in 2000, to the 27-38% range in 2005, to a project range of 70-82% in 2010, as well as some of the barriers to the implementation of supply chain risk management, including competitive thinking, lack of transparency, lack of understanding, and lack of sufficiently qualified employees. What’s important to note about the barriers is that the first three are easily solved with training and organizational transformation, whereas the talent problem is going to be with us for some time.

What’s In Their Wallet? (Is it Provade?)

A few colleagues of mine were at SIG earlier this month, and they all had (some) good things to say about it. I, of course, wasn’t there as SIG events are typically members only and I’m not a member – as it’s primarily for companies and not bloggers and independent consultants. But I’m always happy to hear someone say “I used a quote from SI, and everyone in the room nodded in agreement as they know what SI is and what it stands for.” since these are rooms full of CPOs and VPs who care about taking their sourcing to the next level. But I digress.

After finding out a few people were there and had positive feedback, I decided to download the brochure agenda and see who else was there. Buried on page 15 is the following:

Finding the Right Approach to Services Spend Management
  Ross Creasy, Senior Director of Global IT, Capital One and Ian Sullivan, COO, Provade

A joint presentation by Capital One and Provade! I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but make the obvious inference – that Capital One is using Provade to manage at least some of their services spend. If true (and I’ll probably never know one way or the other for certain because Capital One is one of those high fallutin’ financial institutions that never announces who they use or makes joint press releases and Provade is not going to confirm anything I can’t print), this means that this innovative little technology-based BPO with a unique view on complex services outsourcing in areas such as HR, Legal, and Marketing that Jason Busch and I have been blogging about off-and-on for a while now has made a major score!

And if this wasn’t enough to get you wondering, a quick look at their website on the events page has them at Oracle OpenWorld 2007 next month. Now, this could be just because they have developed their unique platform on the PeopleTools stack, and, thus, are able to uniquely leverage Oracle applications in their managed services. Or it could be because Provade is a Tier 1 Oracle BPO Partner. However, I’m betting it’s because there’s more here than meets the eye here as well or because they plan on making a major announcement in the next month or so. (Let’s face it, massive events like this are not cheap.)

We’ll have to wait and see, but regardless, for the progress they’ve made in tackling services categories that most solution providers won’t touch with a ten foot pole, they’re my vendor of the week (a SI exclusive through year-end – the 12 Vendors of XMas if you will).

For more information on Provade, I refer you back to the following posts:

Vendor Sourcing Innovation Spend Matters Solution(s)
Provade Outsourcing, Part I
Outsourcing, Part II
There’s Room For New BPO Entrants * Outsourced Procurement
* Workforce Management

For more information on just how hard it is to source marketing and legal spend, I refer you back to the following posts:

Magic & Logic I
Magic & Logic II
The Creative Challenge I
The Creative Challenge II

Legal Cooperation
Key Concepts for Major Procurements
Procurement Contract Risk Management

What Does the doctor Do?

Note: This is written as a narrative and contains a lot of background on the doctor. Although the doctor believes that this information will help you put what he does into perspective, he understands that you might be time constrained and / or be more interested in a straight-forward listing of the services he offers. If that is the case, please refer to What Does the doctor Do? … For Executives instead. Thank you.

Pre-script: This post deals with the sustainability issue most important to me – me!

As time goes on, not only do I continue to spend a significant amount of time having what seems to be the same one-sided conversation explaining what I do, what I don’t do, and why I do, and do not, do what I do, or do not, I also find myself answering “uh, me” on a regular basis in calls with solution providers and other professionals in response to “Do you know anyone who does X?“. I know the one-sided broken-record is the curse of the consultant, but, even though I generally try to keep this blog not about me, or my company, I have come to the conclusion that a post might be a good idea as it could not only save a prospective client, or non-client, some time, as they can scan this post and determine whether or not I may be a good (first) contact, but it could also save the “Oh …” that often follows. And, if you don’t care about what I do, or do not do, then you can simply skip this post (which is a wee bit lengthy) and come back tomorrow where we will return to your regularly scheduled programming at the same-bat-time on the same-bat-channel.

In order for me to explain what I do, I need to give you a bit of background on what I’ve done, what has led me to where I am today, and why. Some of it you’ll find in the “about” posts, some of it you’ll piece together from comments on this and other blogs, and some of it you may infer from my writings herein. But nowhere have I made a concerted effort to try and explain what I do. My resume is long, and my formal academic CV longer, but I’ll try to keep it to the important points.

I started out by pursuing my graduate degrees in Theoretical Computer Science – Multi-Dimensional and Spatial Data Structures and Computational Geometry in particular – and teaching in Academia, but soon ventured off into industrial training, then consulting, and then IT R&D – first in e-Commerce, then in sourcing and optimization, and then into the broader supply chain from a process and modeling (especially for optimization and analysis) perspective. My academic background gave me a solid background in the fundamentals of computing, algorithms, and sophisticated mathematics – the keys to efficient software and complex modeling and problem solving. Five years of course development and delivery in academia (including internet and web technologies before they hit mainstream and object oriented technologies before they were the buzz word of the day) gave me a lot of teaching and training experience. My industry background forced me to become an expert in e-Commerce and Supply Chain processes and data requirements as well as the technologies that enabled them. I’m also an experienced software architect in both the (traditional) client-server and internet/web realms (who, given sufficient time and resources, can also code the back-end of just about anything).

This sounds diverse, but there are some common threads between everything I’ve done and what I now do – and these are a triumvirate focus on knowledge transfer, enablement, and innovation. And now you’re probably asking “What?“. However, before I can answer that, I need to get into a bit of the “Why“.

It wasn’t long into academia that I quickly lost interest in writing paper after paper (in the detrimental publish-or-perish mentality that has only compounded in recent years) that merely presented incremental improvements to a theory or a heuristic relevant to only one problem of a handful of practitioners in one or two obscure verticals. The anti-epiphany came after I had spent a few hours working through a dense 30-page paper in a well-respected journal only to realize that it was merely a simple and obvious extension of Theory T developed by Mr. X 20 years ago in the Y domain of computer science applied to the Z domain of computer science, which is almost the same, but just uses different terminology.

I also had no interest in writing papers whose sole purpose was to sit on a shelf and collect dust merely to build a publication record, which, these days, is not indicative of the relevance of the underlying work – especially since most administrators, whom I would swear do not know the difference between the front end and back end of a dog, only care about quantity, not quality. This is partially because it doesn’t take long to realize that a huge amount of great work is already sitting on the shelf ignored because most of the great academic researchers in any specialty have little or no interest in applying their work outside of the ivory tower. Great work, especially in computer science, should not be only great theory, but theory that has an application. Furthermore, although it’s rarely recognized as a worthwhile scholarly effort by the ivory tower inhabitants, I believe that working to take the best of what’s already known, to extend and modify it, and then to help someone design and build a great software application that will actually be used, and have an impact, is just as important as working on the next great theory – which the vast majority of pursuers will never even come close to. And this is why I developed a great interest in “knowledge transfer”.

Furthermore, I spent a lot of my early industry career working as a lead architect, R&D director, or chief scientist for what are now mostly unknown, and out of business, companies that produced solutions that were considerably ahead of what competitors had on the open market. Since it made no logical sense that the solutions should fail from a technology perspective, I spent more and more time asking myself why the solutions failed, since I refused to accept all potential clients were incapable of seeing the benefits, and discovered most of the time that the reason was the solution was solving the wrong problem (i.e. the business analysts, or, in most cases, the managers who assumed they knew what the problem was and skipped the analysis, did not do their homework), it wasn’t being marketed or sold properly (the salespeople were not properly educated and in a few cases just incompetent at that particular job), or the company was being poorly managed (and smart people could see it was not a wise investment from a long-term perspective).

Thus, I came to realize that not only is knowledge transfer from academia to industry (as there is a lot of knowledge there to draw from if you know where to look) and knowledge transfer within the company (everyone needs to speak the same language, understand the same problem, and work towards the same solution) important, but so is knowledge transfer and understanding throughout the supply and demand chain. This requires each participant to speak each other’s business and technical languages, but each group (marketing, engineering, finance, etc.) to be able to understand each other. Considering that each discipline has it’s own dialect these days, and that many individuals who specialize in one discipline have no idea what individuals in other disciplines do, this is a challenge for most companies. And this is where enablement comes into play – it’s not just a matter of writing code, but building a solution that enables the people who need to use it in solving their problem (and not just what someone perceives their problem to be) and, moreover, makes them want to use it.

This challenge – speaking a common language to identify, understand, and solve a common problem – can really only be solved by having one or more individuals who can work across the business – from market research through to engineering – and do so with competency and guide a core cross-functional team towards identifying a solution. This is more than just saying “we need to do X” and selecting a suite of applications that “do” X, but understanding what X is, what processes it involves, why, what fundamentally needs to be done, how those processes can be streamlined, and what new processes and technologies can be brought to bear to make it better. And thus the need to be innovative.

So where does someone like yours truly fit into the picture when he has done research, teaching, training, educational and marketing material preparation, coding, architecture, R&D & Operations management, process consulting, operations research, optimization, analytics, and business consulting in various B2B, B2C, and C2C e-commerce and supply chain spaces (and done so in the last decade alone) but yet does none of these things while focusing on knowledge transfer (as exemplified by this blog and the eSourcing Wiki), enablement, and innovation? The answer, confounding to your average recruiter, is everywhere and nowhere. Simply put, the doctor does what most others do not.

Going back to one of my previous statements that the supply chain professional of tomorrow must be a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-one (as opposed to a jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none) – I broke the mold I endeavored to fit. But the trade I focus my mastery on is not one that can be defined in any traditional business terms. My focus is purely on innovation – where innovation is relative to where you are today – and helping an interested company take their capabilities and solutions to the next level. Although the Big5 would plug what I do into a business process consulting, change consulting, management consulting, and maybe even a scenario consulting practice where the end goal is to help you make your business more efficient, more profitable, or both by identifying efficiencies, new processes, or technologies that you can bring to bear based upon the best (or most in vogue) business practices of the day, and then bring in their six sigma black belts, lean experts, or kaizen kamikazes to help you accomplish your goal, what I try to do for my clients, although very similar, is a bit different.

Unlike your average consultant who comes with his or her firm’s “best practice proven methodology” with a specific goal of “streamlining your processes” to improve your operations and bottom line, I don’t subscribe to any particular best practice methodology, don’t assume that any (overly) specific endeavor will guarantee results, and, most importantly, I don’t just work out the business part of “X” and ignore the ramifications of the suggested change or the technology that will be required to achieve “X”.

Specifically, like some of your newer boutiques in the space, my goal is to understand what your problem is or what you want to do, what underlying restrictions you have in developing a solution (based upon budgetary restrictions, manpower knowledge, and technical restrictions of existing solutions and infrastructure), and then choose, modify, or develop an appropriate methodology for the project. I try to balance the process with technology in helping a client design or build a solution, versus selling one or the other as the magic bullet. I work across the chasm that often exists between the marketing, sales, and business development and the engineering team – to make sure that both parties converge on and understand what’s required, why, and how it needs to be done. But most importantly, I try to identify a path of innovation appropriate to you and help you walk down it. This could be as significant and complex as a R&D project to develop brand new technology with features and functions no one else in the world has, as mediocre as slightly altering one step in a seven-step business process that allows you to improve efficiency 50% with almost no effort, or as important as helping you nail down your positioning, strategy, and marketplace communications. It’s all relative, it’s all specific to you, and it requires someone who doesn’t fit in any of the roles on your organizational chart. It has to be someone external, someone capable of looking at the business from a different viewpoint, and someone capable of looking across the business, which today means understanding technology, processes, and business requirements on an equal footing and how they interconnect, someone with the ability to put that puzzle together in a (slightly) new way that is beneficial to you and your customers, and, most importantly, someone who can actually help you, or your team, as appropriate, do it. That’s my view, but maybe I’m paying too much.

In short, the doctor does Innovation for the Real World, whatever that happens to be. And if you still don’t understand what the doctor does, then maybe someone like the doctor is just what you need.

Don’t they have anything better to blog about?

Not that long ago, I happened to notice the title of a SupplyManagement.com blog entry … that asked a really pointless question … specifically What is the most common name in procurement? Then it started with: while reporting on the profession we have been struck by the number of procurement professionals with the same first names and asked if anyone else noticed any trends, like they were the first to think of it.

Its a well known that name popularity rises and falls with the times – and even an American 5th grader can tell you that this means some names are going to be more common than others! Furthermore, even my cat has read Freakonomics (or at the very least snuggled up to all of the pages, chewed on the ears, and slept on it a few dozen times) and knows that some names are going to be more common than others and that if she lets loose a mrow-mrow-ra instead of a mrow-mrow-mi-ous she’s more likely to get attention in a room of drunks mistaking slurs for actual names.

Now I know I should also be asking Don’t I have anything better to blog about?, and trust me when I say that I did, but after hearing Distinguishing the Indistinguishable: Exploring Differences in Supply Chain Software Packages Using Centering Resonance Text Analysis all I can think about are Stirling engines and the obvious jokes. I’m panning, but all I’m coming up with is fool’s gold. Maybe next weekend.