Centering the Pack: Ron Southard, Randy Littleson, Justin Fogarty

Slowly but surely, the Seven Grand Challenges of Supply and Spend Management cross-blog series is lumbering along. Since my last post, Ron Southard of Safe Sourcing, Randy Littleson of The 21st Century Supply Chain, and Justin Fogarty of Supply Excellence have offered us their (introductory) posts on the subject.

Ron starts off with a tale of technology, noting that to some extent, too much thought leadership in these technologies is being invested in games, consumer gadgets and the like instead of less sexy tools focused on reducing the cost of goods which will instantly improve profitability and foster economic growth creating new jobs. Especially when the technology exists today to attack the problem of escalating costs of raw materials, shipping, retail price increases and other associated supply chain costs, as it has for years. And it’s only getting better. As I am attempting to illuminate in my B2B 3.0 series, innovative companies have been, and still are, introducing technologies that put buyers on even footing with consumers — and the only thing standing in the way of a better business model is adoption. (I urge you to check out the inaugural Sourcing Innovation Illumination Introducing B2B 3.0 and Simplicity For All as well as the upcoming Illumination on why Simplifying B2B for Suppliers Enables Buyers, to be released next Tuesday.) You can be sure, based on his initial post, that his contribution is going to be a good one.

Randy decided that five challenges alone were enough to fill your plate, and gave us his list, which contain a couple of doozies:

  • Connecting Outsourcing and Lean
    Lean requires synchronization, and outsourcing, at least today, makes synchronization a challenge.
  • Controlling That Beyond Your Control
    A huge challenge for brand owners will continue to be balancing the issues of being in control when they are not directly in control of all aspects and to continually adjust to changing conditions “on the ground” that impact costs.
  • Sustainability
    This is a real and serious issue that will only increase in priority on a global basis. Since it fits in with one of my seven grand challenges, I have to agree!
  • Identifying Supply Chain’s Role
    Too many companies are taking far too tactical a view on their supply chains. I agree, and so does Bob. So what are we going to do about it?
  • Volatility
    … things are moving at a faster pace and customer expectations continue to climb while their loyalty is less. Volatility is on the rise …

Justin decided to skip the challenges get all prophetical, but at least he took a page out of my B2B 3.0 handbook. Noting that it’s obviously difficult to envision exactly how the medium will look from a UI or feature/function standpoint on the 30 year time frame … I think it’s safe to say that finding potential suppliers will be easier via powerful discovery tools and networks. And that’s just the start. Starting with communities like and CustomPart.Net, and moving on-to custom mash-up search engines like the Supplier Search Engine, the movement is already starting. As for suppliers … they’ll have a greater ability to evaluate their buyers and potential customers. Tomorrow’s B2B 3.0 will be interactive, and will allow for true collaboration, not just data-push. Companies like Co-exprise and Apriori are starting to make that happen in new and innovative ways for direct and custom-part manufacturers. And the new world provides tremendous opportunity for buyers and suppliers who embrace discovery and discussion, as Vinimaya is demonstrating with its new enterprise search technology. The opportunity is there, but, more importantly, as Justin astutely points out, those companies that fail to adapt to increasingly connected world, the challenge may be staying afloat.

Also, in addition to Bernard Gunther’s commentary on Opportunity Analysis that went up Monday, Bob Ferrari has posted parts two and three of his series as well!