Monthly Archives: May 2008

Get Smarter

Sure, you can waste the summer away and Get Smart (hey, it can’t be worse than Southland Tales – what the h*ck happened there? The Rundown was great!), or you can attempt to Get Smarter!

Wired recently ran an article on Get Smarter: 12 Hacks That Will Amp Up Your Brainpower that’s definitely worth a read. While some of the advice is out there, some of the tips are valid (and do work). The tips were:

  1. Distract Yourself
    A 2007 UCLA study found that students distracted by closely related material after being asked to perform a memorization exercise performed better on subsequent recall tests. Distraction in the form of slightly different information forces your brain to engage in information processing in an effort to permanently store the original information.
    But be careful, the information needs to be related. You can’t go from reading about ethno-biology to nano-technology and expect the trick to work.
  2. Caffeinate with Care
    Caffeine may jump-start the body and sharpen the mind, but small doses at regular tea breaks, as favored in the UK, are more effective than the 20-ouncers many North Americans like to suck down at Starbucks or Tims in lieu of a healthy breakfast.
    As the article notes, your brain fills up with adenosine, a chemical correlated with mental fatigue, throughout the day. Caffeine blocks the adenosine-receptors, and has been found to reduce mental fatigue in many individuals who take their caffeine in frequent small doses (instead of mega-doses in the morning).
    Furthermore, the kick is improved when glucose is added to the mix. So, add a small amount of sugar, eat a (chocolate chip) cookie, or a carbohydrate-rich snack for an extra jolt.
  3. Impressionistic Information
    Make sure the material contains a reasonable amount of information that is relatively easy for you to learn. Facts, figures, or other information that your brain is good at absorbing.
  4. Think Positive
    Learning new things strengthens your brain — especially when you believe you can learn new things. In other words, if you want unlimited potential, you have to believe you have it.
  5. Do the Right Drugs!
    Recent studies indicate that drugs like aniracetam and vasopressin may improve memory. At this point I wouldn’t advocate the use of any of the drugs listed, given that the potential side-effects appear to outweigh the potential benefits, but it probably won’t be long before we have drugs that can enhance learning potential without the side effects of drugs like methylphenidate (that’s found in ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Focalin).
  6. Juice Your IQ Score
    The article correctly notes (since there is no such thing as a true intelligence test, for reasons far beyond what a single post can elaborate), you can (significantly) boost your score by prepping for the verbal, numerical, and spatial problems on a typical psychometric test. Most of the questions fall into set categories, and by familiarizing yourself with a number of standard problems in those categories, and taking practice tests (found in numerous preparation books at your local bookstore), you can not only do much better on these tests than if you took them without preparation, but do them faster too (leaving you more time to focus on the harder problems).
  7. Pick Apart Your Brain
    Another tip I don’t quite get. I’m not sure how learning about the various parts of the brain (the cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, temporal lobe, pons, medulla oblongata, etc) and what they do (memory, input translation, metabolic regulation, spatial navigation, emotions, speech, dreaming, autonomic functions, etc.) is going to help the average person increase her brain power.
  8. Don’t Panic
    While a little nervousness can boost cognitive performance, periods of intense stress essentially turn us into Neanderthals. Douglas Adams understood this. Do you think he wrote The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy just for our amusement?
  9. Embrace Chaos
    According to Robert Bjork, Chair of Psychology at UCLA and a recognized leading expert in memory and learning, superior recall results when information is learned in randomly ordered chunks.
    I have to assume here that the chunks make sense on their own.
  10. Get Visual
    Break up large images or chunks of information into manageable groups. Learn the 47 nations of Africa by learning the countries in the North, East, West, South, and Central regions of Africa in related groups. That’s how most of us remember telephone numbers, in groups of 3, 3, and 4, or our credit card numbers, in 4 groups of 4 (unless you’re talking about insolent American Express with their unique 4 3-3 5 grouping).
  11. Choose Your Exercise Wisely
    Studies have found that more aerobically fit grade-schoolers also perform better on cognitive tests. Yoga and certain forms of Tai Chi, Chi Gong / Qi Gong, and Aikido are also believed to improve intelligence. (However, martial arts training that focuses on excessive exertion and / or strength training, like weight lifting, has no effect, except to tire you out).
  12. Slooooow Dooown
    According to Wired, It should take you two and a half seconds to read this sentence. Any faster and you won’t absorb its meaning. While I disagree with the timing estimate, as it varies slightly for each individual, there is a limit as to how fast you can absorb information, even if you are a speed reader.

What I Learned From Conference Season III

In my last post I shared with you the top three lessons I learned from Conference Season. Today I have one more to add:

  • Apparently, Conference Season Was a Bust!

It seems that only a few of us bloggers learned anything from conference season this year. With the exception of Jason Busch of Spend Matters, Vinnie Mirchandani of Deal Architect, Brian Sommer of Services Safari, who offered up more of his learnings in Ready to Drink the Kool-Aid?, David Bush of e-Sourcing Forum and Justin Fogarty of Supply Execellence who offered us some tidbits from reSource 2008 and Ariba LIVE, respectively, all the bloggers and guest bloggers have been eerily quiet on this one. That’s not good news.

Considering that these events seem to require more time, money, and effort every year, I find this unacceptable – especially in a time when we’re facing skyrocketing commodity prices across the board, recessions, and stagflation. Now is the time we all need to be taking more away from conferences than ever, and if only a few of us are managing to take away a few tidbits of useful information, that says something – and what it says ain’t good. I know the number one benefit of most events is networking, but when you consider you’re paying thousands of dollars for the benefit (when you add up airfare, hotel, and steadily rising registration fees), there are more cost effective ways to get the same result. For example, most professional societies put on regular member networking events that are much cheaper than your average conference. Now, it’s true that most of these are only going to attract locals, but if you’re a member of a national (or international organization), there’s nothing to stop you from keeping track of what other sections are doing and going to their events when you’re in town on business trips (or vacations, if you should be so lucky). It might take four (or five) of these to connect up with the same number of individuals as you would at one national (or international) conference, but, as you’re not dashing around like a recent escapee from a mental health institution, you actually have time to sit down and talk to them. You could call that a net win!

Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe most people learned so much from this year’s conference season that they just don’t know where to begin (and that’s why they haven’t posted yet), but after talking with a few regular guest-bloggers who, up until now, have always had something to add to the discussion, I’m starting to think I’m right. And it’s unfortunate. Maybe us bloggers are going to have to get together and reshape the conference world as well. What do you think?

Hackett Hacks Away at Recession Declines

Hackett recently published a research piece on how G&A Spending Cuts Can Offset 21% to 45% of the Anticipated Decline in Pre-Tax Profit During Recession as part of their Enterprise Strategy Series which noted that their 2008 benchmark data reveals a savings of 184 – 400 Million for a typical global 1000 company that’s worth a re-read. Unlike most of their pieces, this was available to the public (registration required), and, if it’s still available, you should definitely download it – as it is jam-packed with more information than a single blog post can cover.

The piece starts off that by noting that while mandated G&A cuts are the norm in times of recession, arbitrarily cutting costs across the board can lead to serious deterioration in service-delivery capacity. It’s critical that cuts are made in ways that minimize impact on business value delivery, but this requires an understanding of the strategic alternatives, current cost structures (as compared to those of world-class organizations), and clear-eyed risk assessments. Furthermore, Hackett found that average companies can reduce G&A cost between 15% and 41% simply by optimizing process cost. Furthermore, reduced technology spend can take out another 6% to 7%.

The research brief also points out that you should not determine a savings target before understanding what a “normal” spend level is in a world class organization. For example, a typical Global 1000 company (with 23.4B in revenue and 56,100 employees) spends 3.6% of its revenues on four core principle G&A functions (Finance, HR, IT, & Procurement), but world-class companies execute significantly better by combining process excellence with technology leverage. They perform at lower cost levels (22%+) and enable the business to succeed by producing improved financial results and cash-flow; by recruiting, training, and retaining talent; by driving costs out of the supply chain; and by making superior use of technology.

The research brief also identified 10 targets for G&A reduction across the four core functions that, when combined, should allow for a cost reduction of at least $158M in a typical Fortune 1000 company in process costs alone (labor and outsourcing) that can be achieved by way of best practices, simplification, and standardization. Specifically, the 10 functions, and potential cost savings were:

  • Infrastructure Management : 25.1
  • Revenue Cycle : 22.7
  • Application Maintenance : 21.6
  • General Accounting : 17.9
  • Application Development & Implementation : 15.8
  • Compliance Management : 13.4
  • End-User Support : 12.7
  • Transactional HR : 11.7
  • General Disbursement : 10.6
  • Purchase Order Processing : 6.4

The research brief identified a cost difference of 55.6 Million in technology spend between average and world-class organizations.

Hackett also identified another 74.9 Million in cost savings that may be available through globalization (and outsourcing).

So how do you start identifying these cost savings? You start by reading the research brief and focussing on the specifics in the identified areas. You also apply the expertise the doctor and his fellow bloggers have imparted to you over the years while noting that most of the savings opportunities are in technology (75.2), finance (51.2), and procurement (19.8). If you have been paying attention, this should screen one acronym to you: SaaS. If you’re currently using bloated behind-the-firewall software, switching to SaaS will simultaneously reduce your infrastructure (the largest), application maintenance (the third largest), application implementation (the fifth largest), and end-user support (the seventh largest) costs. Plus, if it’s e-Sourcing or e-Procurement, you’ll also reduce your revenue cycle (the second largest), compliance management (sixth largest), general disbursement (ninth largest), and purchase order processing (tenth largest) costs. That’s eight cost reductions with one decision! How can you go wrong?

What Does the doctor Do … For You?

In What Does the doctor Do?, I gave you a high-level overview of what the doctor does — Innovation for the Real World — and how it came to pass. Then, in What Does the doctor Do? … For Executives, I outlined what the doctor can do for sourcing & procurement technology and/or services providers and for enterprises looking to acquire sourcing and procurement technology and/or services for their day-to-day operations.

In this post, I’m going to outline some of the specific services that I offer. I’ll focus on packaged services that allow you to quickly initiate a working relationship with the doctor and Sourcing Innovation. A later post will focus on more advanced and/or more involved service offerings that are easier to discuss once a relationship is in place.

Technology & Service Companies

Assessments

Total Solution Assessment
the doctor will spend approximately three days on your site, meeting with your senior staff. Together, we’ll explore your technology offering, services offering, training and education materials, product roadmap, messaging, positioning, and current marketing strategies. I’ll then provide you with a written high-level assessment that captures where you are, how that compares to the market, and, if appropriate, what you could be doing to be more competitive. After you’ve had a chance to digest the report, I’ll conduct a one to two hour conference call to discuss it in depth.

Technology Roadmap Assessment & Recommendations
the doctor will spend approximately two days taking a deep dive into your technology offering — functionality, architecture, platform, and UI; compare it to the state of the practice; assess it with respect to customer needs; and then prepare a detailed written assessment that captures where your solution is with respect to the market, what improvements might need to be made, and what enhancements could be made to differentiate it. After you’ve had a chance to digest the report, I’ll conduct a one to two hour conference call to discuss it in depth.

Public Label Writing

Solution Whitepapers
the doctor will work with you to create a co-branded expository white paper relevant to your solution domain that explains what the problem is, why it needs to be addressed, and what the benefits of addressing it can be. The first step in selling a solution is making sure that people understand they have a problem. A sponsored white paper is a powerful way to get your salespeople over that first hurdle.

Sourcing Innovation Illuminations
Sourcing Innovation will be launching a new service called Sourcing Innovation Illuminations that, like the briefs and perspectives offered by analyst firms, will serve to elucidate a service or technology need and the state of the market with respect to that need. However, unlike the briefs and perspectives offered by many of the analyst firms, these pieces will be written by someone with a strong understanding of technology, and will clearly define how technology (or the technology-based solution offering) can help, what the current capabilities of the relevant (underlying) technologies are, and what a buyer should look for.

Private Label Writing

Marketing Brochures
the doctor will help you to prepare your marketing brochures. I have a strong understanding of technology, supply chain needs, and the space as a whole, and I can help you focus on messaging that succinctly summarizes the problem, the solution you’re offering, and the particular benefits of your solution that are most relevant to a buyer.

Published Articles
the doctor will ghost-write articles on your solution space and how your solution addresses problems in that space. These articles can be submitted to traditional and on-line publications, which will publish vendor-specific content if it is broadened appropriately for general consumption.

Buying Organizations

Needs Assessment

the doctor will spend up to three days meeting with your team to identify what your problems are, where you are on the process and technology curves, and what solutions would be best for your organization. I will then prepare a written report that summarizes your challenges, your current processes, your current technology, what you need to look for in a technology and/or service solution, and what benefits you can expect to receive.

RFX Preparation

If you need a new technology(-based) solution, the doctor will help you create the RFx that you need to be sending out to make sure you get the information that is relevant to your needs, which is essential to selecting the right solution. It’s hard to write an RFx for a solution you don’t yet fully understand, and every day dozens (if not hundreds) of companies are sending out RFxs for sourcing and procurement technology solutions that don’t effectively communicate the solution the company actually needs. There’s no need for you to be one of these. the doctor can help.

Solution Assessment
the doctor will spend up to three days helping you assess proposals from potential vendors, and prepare a formal recommendation on the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Train the Trainer
the doctor has a background in both academic education and industrial training, and can assist you in training your power users and star performers on new processes and new technologies. The goal will be for these key resources to achieve the level of understanding and proficiency necessary to be able to disseminate their knowledge to the rest of the organization, thus making your organization independent of vendor and other third-party services personnel and consultants.

E-mail thedoctor <at> sourcinginnovation <dot> com for details!

What I Learned From Conference Season II

In my last post, I covered the lessons proffered up to you by Jason “The Prophet” Busch of Spend Matters, Vinnie “The Deal-Maker” Mirchandani of Deal Architect, and Brian “Service Master” Sommer of Services Safari. Today, I’m going to share with you the top three lessons I learned from Conference Season. They are:

  • Big Names Definitely Don’t Mean Big Ideas
  • You Don’t Have to Go to that Many Conferences to Tap Into the Buzz
  • Kill the Left-Suckers!

The two worst presentations, and two I walked out on in disgust, that I attended this year were put on by … wait for it … representatives of SAP (at SCL Canada) and Infosys (at reSource). Just because you have ready-made decks, that doesn’t mean that you have a ready made presentation. First of all, the decks have to be good (they weren’t). Secondly, the presenters have to understand the material (and in at least one case, the presenter did not appear to), and, thirdly, the presenters have to be good (they really, really weren’t). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, only Pierre Mitchell can get away with cramming two-dozen concepts on a slide and still have it make sense. And Pierre Mitchell is also one of the few who can get away with, when he chooses, ignoring the slide completely, or saying the exact opposite of what’s on the slide. If you’re a (p*ss) poor presenter, you can’t. So please, please, please – DON’T TRY!

Any more than three conferences per season, and you’re wasting your time (unless you’re just going to meet up with colleagues and sit in the lobby and network). I’ve only been to two so far, and even before I got through the first, I was thinking “didn’t I just hear this”? Multiply that by three, and you get tired – fast. The buzz, which has a life of its own, travels fast, and you don’t have to go to that many events to be sure of getting it. The key, as Jason and Vinnie pointed out, is to make the most of them when you’re there.

Finally, the best piece of advice offered up this conference season was by Jim Tompkins of Tompkins’ Associates in his presentation on Bold Leadership for Organizational Acceleration where he came right out and handed out the best piece of advice for organizational success that I’ve heard a management guru utter – Kill The Left-Suckers. (Yes, contrary to popular opinion, the best piece of advice one can get is not to kill all the lawyers, because, even though the majority of lawyers are left-suckers, not all lawyers are left-suckers and, more importantly, not just lawyers are left-suckers.) For those of you who happened to miss the original post, a left-sucker is a person who can’t do his (or her) job, and pulls his (or her) manager away from doing what the manager is supposed to be doing to help the individual who can’t do his (or her) job. A left-sucker is bad because when managers are consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then their directors have to step in to pick up the slack. When the directors get consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then the C-Suite has to pick up the slack. When the C-Suite has to pick up the slack, they aren’t getting their work done, and then the CEO gets pulled into fire-fighting on a daily basis – and instead of the CEO leading the C-Suite in setting strategic direction, he’s bogged down in tactical execution while the company starts burning down around him.

So there you have it. As Jason said, the innovation is there for those who look for it, but as Vinnie would attest, it’s not always where you would expect it; the buzz has a life of its own and you don’t have to go to a dozen conferences to tap into it; and you shouldn’t be afraid of using the axe. (Alternatively, there are hired guns you can bring in if you’re too timid to do it yourself.)