Monthly Archives: February 2009

The Content Art

Upstart Blog
Upstart Blog
Blog Upstart
      That Blog Upstart!
That Blog Upstart!
I do not like
that Blog Upstart!

Do you like
the content art?
      I do not like it,
Blog Upstart.
I do not like
the content art.

Would you like it
here or there?
      I would not like it
here or there.
I would not like it
I do not like
the content art.
I do not like it,
Blog Upstart.

Would you like it
on the page?
Would you like it
from a sage?
      I do not like it
on the page.
I do not like it
from a sage.
I do not like it
here or there.
I do not like it

I do not like the content art.
I do not like it, Blog Upstart.

Would you read it
in a box?
Would you read it
in your socks?
      Not in a box.
Not in my socks.
Not on the page
Not from a sage.
I would not read it here or there.
I would not read it anywhere.
I do not like the content art.
I do not like it, Blog Upstart.

Would you? Could you?
In a car?
Read it! Read it!
Here they are.
      I would not,
could not,
in a car.

You may like it.
You will see.
You may like it
in a tree!
      I would not, could not, in a tree.
Not in a car! You let me be.

I do not like it in a box.
I do not like it in my socks.
I do not like it on the page.
I do not like it from a sage.
I do not like it here or there.
I do not like it anywhere.
I do not like the content art.
I do not like it, Blog Upstart.

A train! A train!
Could you, would you,
on a train?
      Not on a train! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! Blog, let me be!

I would not, could not, in a box.
I would not, could not, in my socks.
I will not read it on the page.
I will not read it from a sage.
I will not read it here or there
I will not read it anywhere.
I do not like the content art.
I do not like it, Blog Upstart.

In the dark?
Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?
      I would not, could not,
in the dark.

Would you, could you, in the rain?
      I would not, could not, in the rain.
Not in the dark. Not on a train.
Not in a car. Not in a tree.
I do not like it, Blog, you see.
Not on the page. Not in a box.
Not from a sage. Not in my socks.
I will not read it here or there.
I will not read it anywhere.

You do not like
the content art?
      I do not like it,
Blog Upstart.

Could you, would you, in your coat?
      I would not, could not, in my coat.

Would you, could you, on a boat?
      I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, in my coat.
I will not read it in the rain.
I will not read it on a train.
Not in the dark. Not in a tree.
Not in a car. You let me be.
I do not like it in a box.
I do not like it in my socks.
I will not read it on the page.
I will not read it from a sage.
I do not like it here or there.
I do not like it ANYWHERE.

I do not like the content art.
I do not like it, Blog Upstart.

You do not like it.
So you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may, I say.
If you will let me be.
I will try it.
You will see.

I like the content art.
I do! I like it, Blog Upstart.
And I would read it in a boat.
And I would read it in my coat.

And I will read it in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
It is so good, so good, you see!

So I will read it in a box.
And I will read it in my socks.
And I will read it on the page.
And I will read it from a sage.
And I will read it here and there.
And I will read it anywhere.

I do so like
the content art.
Thank you!
Thank you!
Blog Upstart.

QuickDraw Procurement with Coupa QuickStart

Earlier this week, Coupa announced the availability of Coupa Quickstart, the second in a string of big announcements they have planned for the first half of this year. (The first was, of course, the acquisition of a new CEO, Rob Bernshteyn, earlier this month.)

As noted in the Press Release, Coupa Quickstart is a setup wizard that visually guides purchasing mangers through the setup process for users, approval rules, payment and shipping terms, billing information, chart of accounts, suppliers, and other basic information that is required to get a purchasing system up and running in less than an hour. Noticing that one of the biggest barriers to adoption of e-Procurement software in small and smaller mid-size organizations was the lack of (technical) personnel to support the acquisition, setup, and implementation of en e-Procurement system, Coupa wanted to build an on-demand e-Procurement system that any buyer, with limited technical capability, and only a browser at his or her disposal, could set-up by themselves quickly and easily. The Quickstart wizard, built on top of a basic, default configuration and e-Procurement process, enables a buyer to get going as soon as they define basic company information and configure the system on an as-needed basis. As a result, most users will be able to be up, running, and cutting their first purchase order in under an hour. (Small organizations with only a few users and simple approval hierarchies will be up and running in under half and hour, and one customer managed to get a basic system configuration defined in only ten minutes!)

The Coupa QuickStart process is a streamlined process that walks a user through:

  • Company Info Definition
    In this stage the user defines the company name and address, uploads the logo, and defines the currencies (default USD), units of measure (default Each), departments (if required), and standard commodities (pre-populated with a basic default list Coupa has found to be common to many small and mid-size business) they buy on a regular basis.
  • User Definition
    In this stage, the system users and approval hierarchies are defined.
  • Financial Rules Definition
    In this stage, the user can define the company’s standard payment terms, shipping terms, billing info, and accounts (& account structure). (The system can auto-generate account numbers if the user simply defines the legal values in each segment.)
  • Supplier Definition
    The user defines the suppliers they do business with. Invitations are sent to the supplier to connect electronically, and if the supplier is already defined as a user in the Coupa system, they will see the user’s company as a customer in their instance when they accept.

Finally, the new QuickStart offering comes with a streamlined help system that contains numerous “visual” entries on how to use the invoicing, receiving, RFQ, budgeting, inventory, contracts, and punch-out capabilities as well as numerous other standard Coupa features.

The Value of Market Intelligence in a Down Economy

A recent Sourcing Interests newsletter contained an article on the value of obtaining market intelligence in a down economy that should not be overlooked, especially since many organizations might be tempted to eliminate (or at least severely reduce) the budget for market intelligence in difficult economic times.

The article makes a good argument for the retention of the effort (and associated budget):

  • the utilization of market intelligence is an integral part of the sourcing process
    (and without it, how likely are you to know what the true cost of a good or service is)
  • the intelligence gathering process is a reiterative one
    it’s not a “one and done” approach, which should be obvious since market conditions are constantly changing and the big winners are those who sense a change early
  • it enables ongoing supplier relationship management
    which is key in difficult times; look at the auto industry: the American automakers (who consistently score less than 200 on the OEM-Supplier Working Relations Index[WRI]) are all failing while the Japanese (and Korean) manufacturers, who coooperate and collaborate with their suppliers, are doing much better (and rocking the WRI charts)
  • it isn’t as expensive as you think it is
    a lot of the data and information you need to spot trends and focus in on the core issues and data points is low-cost, and often free; consider the following providers of low-cost market intelligence

    • Professional Organizations
      the professional organizations you belong to usually have large collections of quality information and data that is free to member (organization)s
    • Trade Publications
      for a subscription that literally costs a few dollars a month, you can often get unlimited access to the complete publication archive on its website
    • Your 401(K)
      Most 401(K) plan websites post analyst reports, which are free to investors. (And those that don’t post on the website usually make the reports available for the cost of postage.)
    • Conferences
      Most conferences these days include a CD with the complete presentation archive, and many conferences are starting to record the presentations and making the DVD(s) available to attendees for a few hundred dollars.
    • Industry Professionals
      If you attend a conference, seminar, or workshop where an individual or organization presents his, her, or its work, chances are they’ll be more than happy to share their research and / or data with you if you just ask.
    • Your Supply Base
      Chances are that your suppliers, who want you to succeed because they need your business, will be more than happy to share any insights and data they have with you (that pertains to your joint business) if you just take the time to talk to them.
    • Your Internal Experts
      Your people on the front lines probably have a decent sense of what’s happening before management does. Talk to them, and let them steer your analysts in the right direction.
    • The Blogs
      Bloggers delight in providing you with free information.

Market Intelligence is critical for good decision making. It identifies risks before they materialize and insures that your contracts have appropriate risk mitigation clauses built in. It leads to savings and cost avoidance that would never be identified without it. And it doesn’t require multiple high five-figure subscriptions to analyst firms … just some elbow-grease, intelligence, and smartly selected memberships and limited-access plans with the appropriate analyst firms that allow you to access the key research you need (identified from lower cost sources) and leave the research you don’t.

Free Trade Pact: Challenge or Opportunity?

As pointed out in an article in Global Logistics & Supply Chain Strategies last summer, a proliferation of bilateral and regional trade agreements in recent years has made it more difficult than ever for companies to understand the many duty-avoidance options they might leverage to lower the total landed cost of imported goods, which is important given the current downturn and the fact, as pointed out in Sourcing Innovation’s recent Illumination on Why You Need Trade Visibility, that global trade losses can be significant if your cost-avoidance options are not maximized.

While bilateral (and regional) trade agreements go against the WTO‘s support of broad, multi-lateral trade pacts, the (agonizingly) slow pace of the Doha multilateral negotiations (which broke down last July after failing to reach a compromise on agricultural import rules and which were suspended until sometime this year) has made the (relatively) rapid time-to-benefit of bilateral agreements an attractive option (and many WTO members are already party to 10 or more such agreements). These agreements are so attractive that the WTO estimates that there will be around 400 such agreements by 2010.

These preferential agreements offer significant savings opportunities to companies that are able to manage them effectively. For example, Black & Decker increased it’s NAFTA savings by 240 percent, from 3M to 7M, simply by insuring that over 95% of eligible products are taking advantage of NAFTA benefits. An importer who took advantage of Free Trade Zones to accumulate multiple shipments imported during a 7-day period and combine them into a single shipment and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in broker’s fees and merchandise processing fees (as detailed in Creating a Competitive Advantage in Global Trade by GDM). But these benefits are available only to those who know how to find them … and for that, you need an appropriate trade visibility system.

Infor’s Top 10 Demand Planning Strategies

The bullwhip effect is as true today as it ever was in modern, elongated global supply chains where small errors at the front are magnified throughout the process.
  Andrew Kinder, Director of Product Marketing, Infor

Forecasting is tough. Really tough. Especially in today’s market where consumers are fickle, credit is an unpredictable tide, and a single competitor innovation can completely change the market landscape. You have to forecast with foresight, balance judgmental and statistical methodologies, and focus on aggregate demands while continually sensing demand. And you have to be on your toes.

So how do you get it right? Although each situation has it’s own unique qualities, and any solution you acquire will have to have its model tweaked for your reality, there are some general steps that you can take that, if performed properly, will greatly increase your chances of success. These steps were captured quite nicely in a recent Infor top 10 checklist that was published last fall in this Industry Week article.

  1. Get the Process Right
    Demand planning is a sub-process within integrated business planning, not a stand-alone activity.
  2. Select the Right Level of Aggregation
    Do you aggregate demand by product family or geographic region? Why?
  3. Collaborate
    Statistics provides a foundation to build on, but the real value comes from over-laying expert knowledge that a system cannot know and cannot infer, such as a new marketing effort or an announcement by your competitor that was taken negatively by the market.
  4. Influence Demand
    Use coordinated marketing events and promotions to swing the forecast into favorable territory.
  5. Measure
    Select the right set of linked key performance indicators and measure against them regularly. This will tip you off to demand swings and allow you to tweak the forecast before it becomes a problem.
  6. Educate
    Before allowing someone to provide input into the forecast, it is critical that they understand how their contribution will impact the forecast and the performance against the demand plan. Otherwise, they may just guess and provide bad input that instantly ruins your best efforts.
  7. Cleanse
    Good, clean, data is an absolute.
  8. Manage By Exception
    Remember that 80% of your return can be achieved by actively managing only 20% of the forecast.
  9. The Error Term is Your Safety Stock
    A good statistical forecast will have an appropriate error which drives an appropriate safety stock target.
  10. Deploy a Proven Best-of-Breed Technology Solution
    According to Aberdeen, companies that excel in demand management are two-and-a-half times as likely to have implemented a best-in-class demand planning system.

All-in-all, it’s a great demand-planning checklist.