Daily Archives: October 23, 2007

Keynotes: The Good, The Bad, and the Horrific

As those who have been paying attention will know, I was at the 5th International Symposium on Supply Chain Management last week in Toronto. This conference simultaneously had one of the better keynotes I’ve heard in a long time and what is definitely the worst keynote I’ve ever attended. Before I cover the content of the good keynote, I’d like to take a stab at differentiating what makes a good – or great – keynote from what makes a bad – or awful – keynote.

In a good keynote, the speaker is, simply put, energetic, engaging, and engaged. She is passionate about what she’s speaking about, allows her energy to flow from her to the audience, makes eye contact, moves around, and speaks from her head and her heart. Her notes and slides are merely centering points, not the focus. You want her to stay on the stage.

In contrast, in a bad keynote, the speaker is as lifeless as a lump of clay, as unappealing as a puddle of mud, and as uncommitted as today’s pop star is to sobriety. He is passionless about the subject matter, cold as a lump as ice, and as monotone as a metronome. His eyes are glued to his prepared speech, his stance as a rigid as a statue, and his words as disembodied as whispers in the breeze. His paper is also his paperweight, and all you can hope for is that someone has the energy to lift up the vaudeville cane and yank him from the stage.

IBM’s David Swiggum, who had the first keynote, did a great job of demonstrating what a good keynote is all about. It wasn’t the best keynote I’ve ever heard, but it was unarguably pretty damn good and compared to the other keynotes, it was a blinding ray of light in an otherwise dark, dank, and gloomy cave deep in the earth. (The only other speaker that matched David in energy and heart was Jon Hansen. This isn’t to say that there weren’t other great speakers at the conference this year, but that just about every presentation I decided to attend this year was at least a bit of a letdown, at best.  There were three parallel tracks, and I think I picked the wrong one just about every time since I was more impressed with the speakers last year.)

In his keynote, David discussed IBM’s supply chain transformation over the last decade where IBM has transformed itself from a laggard to leader, bringing a company that was barely surviving in 1993 (profit at about 4.5% and dropping) to a company that is thriving, largely in part to the 6.2B in cost savings the integrated supply chain practice saved IBM last year.

David’s presentation was jam packed with great facts, great statistics, and great advice – too much to cover in a single blog post – so instead I’m going to share three key takeaways: IBM’s shared measurements for success, IBM’s rules of change sustainability, and IBM’s list of “Cost Takeouts” that you should be focussing on daily.

IBM’s shared measurements for success fall into three categories: financial, operational results, and client-facing results. They are summarized as follows:

Financial Operational Client-Facing
Cost Reduction Demand/Supply Synchronization Client Satisfaction
Cash Generation Cycle-Time Ease of Doing Business
  Quality of Installation Unleashing Sales Force Productivity

With respect to driving change and sustaining results, David offered up the following tips:

  • transform and strengthen the supply chain function while building end-to-end capability
  • reduce fixed costs and drive flexibility in infrastructure
  • implement truly global processes and technologies
  • apply governance, performance goals, and reporting disciplines
  • tend to the culture, emphasize talent, and improve skill-sets

With regards to the cost “take-outs” you should be focussing on each and every day, David offers up the following:

  • Parts & Services
    • year over year price mark downs
    • cost avoidance
  • Design Efficiencies
    • utilization of standard parts
    • common systems platforms
  • Manufacturing Effectiveness
    • outsource for flexibility
    • low cost / tax jurisdictions
    • process improvements
    • leverage fixed capacity
  • Services & Central Procurement
    • leverage software
    • supply base rationalization
    • focus on core suppliers
    • global leverage
  • Customer Fulfillment
    • common processes and tools
    • “touch-less” processes
    • free up sales reps for customer service
  • Integration of Acquisitions

In comparison, Ariba’s representative delivered the absolute worst keynote I’ve ever heard – with the utmost emphasis on the delivery. I have no idea what his keynote was about beyond the abstract that was given. I know he was speaking English … I know I understood all the words … but … it was just … so … so … stupifyingly comatose and exanimate, that all I wanted to do was drop into a coma and end my suffering. I tried to take a few notes … but … all I managed to jot down was a few meaningless phrases that aren’t even as meaningful as what the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator spits out. His delivery was every bit as lackluster as the textbook definition of a bad keynote and then some.

All I have to say is that next time anyone wants Ariba’s help in putting together a keynote is that they should go to the guy Ariba goes to when they want a good keynote at their conferences – Jason Busch of Spend Matters. You could sleep deprive this guy for a week, OD him on valium, and give him a set of cement shoes and I guarantee he’ll still have more energy and passion than anyone else in the room – and that’s what a great keynote is all about.

And if you’re curious about the other keynotes, they weren’t that great either. (Nowhere near as bad as the Ariba representative’s, but not great.) Mr. Mikell is a really smart guy and a great researcher, but ( a ) you can’t cram more concepts onto a slide than the average genius can understand and get away with it unless you’re Pierre Mitchell and ( b ) I kept wondering if he was really an accountant or tax lawyer when he was up there. As for Mr. Johnson’s, it was also half decent, but it was missing a hook – I just didn’t understand why it deserved keynote status and why it wasn’t relegated to a regular presentation.