Monthly Archives: July 2009

Service Misrepresentation is Fraud

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Editor’s Note: This post is from regular contributor Norman Katz, Sourcing Innovation’s resident expert on supply chain fraud and supply chain risk. Catch up on his column in the archive.

As a consultant, and given my areas of specialty, I never always & fully know what to expect when I am engaged by a client, as there is always something new to discover. But before I accept any assignment, I perform due diligence to ensure I’m the right person for the job. My due diligence involves a detailed discussion as to the problems the organization is having, technology environment, geographic location, etc. Sometimes I can steer the organization towards a different – and better – solution path, removing me from consideration. It doesn’t pay the bills but it’s the ethical thing to do.

I’m often left with the decision about whether I’m the right person for the job because I know better than the perspective client what my skills and talents are. If I’m not familiar with certain software or hardware, or the problem lies in a situation or industry I’ve not experienced, I’ll tell the perspective client this. It won’t necessarily negate my chances of selected as the solution provider, because experience has told me that as long as I can quickly acclimate myself to something and have (closely) related experience, I’ve got a good chance of getting the project.

I believe it’s absolutely necessary, in all fairness, to set the expectations as realistic as possible from before the beginning (during the “interview” stage). In no way do I want to surprise a client with what I don’t know during an engagement, after being paid monies leading up to that point.

Some former colleagues of mine asked me into a company they were trying to help; the discussion would center on implementing several unused modules of their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and that some data migration and creation would be required. Now, I’ve helped clients with everything from QuickBooks® to SAP®, and with hardware platforms such as Unix®, Linux®, Windows®, AS/400®, and IBM Mainframe. I’m able to do this because I work with my clients’ technology staff or technology provider service companies in concert with my own technical skills. However, despite expertise in some areas, it would likely be more correct to label me an ERP generalist.

I went in and met with the company, and it wasn’t too far into the discussion that I realized they had been told I was something of a “knowledge expert” on their particular ERP system, and the conversation went down from there, as I informed the meeting attendees that while yes, I could perform the work needed (and had done so before in other ERP systems), certain criteria had to be met on their end, such as did they have administrative access to their database and the import/export module. (I had done my homework on their ERP system before I went in.) For each question I asked, the company operating officer and lead technology person had no idea, and neither did my colleague.

Well, I had two choices: hang my colleague for the misrepresentation in front of everyone, or take the bullet myself, and I opted for the latter rather than the former, because that’s the kind of person I am. Later at lunch with my (now former) colleague, I was criticized for my sales pitch: I should just shut up and take the work and then explain the nuances and details later. (Never mind that it’s those nuances and details that are important to understand up front to ensure I was right in accepting the assignment in the first place!)

One definition of fraud describes it as a breach of confidence, and misrepresenting ones’ skill set is, in my opinion, fraud.

Regardless of what line of work you are in, (purposeful) misrepresentation is fraud, pure and simple.

I’ve probably turned down more assignments than I’ve accepted in my consulting career, but when you compromise your integrity and dignity, you lose your credibility because eventually your fraud will be revealed, and by that time it’s too late.

Norman Katz, Katzscan

Recession-Resistant Demand Management Strategies and Tactics

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A recent article in i2’s Supply Chain Leader on how resilient companies can manage demand when the past is not a reliable indicator of the future had a great table that compared and contrasted demand tactics and strategies in stable vs. volatile economies that did a great job of summarizing the demand management strategies you need to weather the storm.

The following points from Recession-Resistant Demand Management Strategies and Tactics in particular are key:

  • level and seasonality in volatile economy are best determined from the last 2-3 months, not 2-3 years
  • constantly look for patterns that are different from expectations and make adjustments quickly
  • it’s not just about consensus forecasting — triangulate multiple scenarios across functions against leading and trailing indicators to come up with near real-time forecasts
  • combine and push-and-pull strategies to get the best results
  • monitor continuously … today’s patterns will not be tomorrow’s

Six Steps to Better Sales Forecasting and Demand Planning in an Intelligent Enterprise

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A good article from last year’s Intelligent Enterprise covered six steps to better sales forecasting and demand planning. The process, which should revolve around the four critical components of people, process, information, and technology at its core, is straight-forward and a good guide for any organization that needs to improve its demand planning (since good demand projections are critical to getting good sourcing results).

  1. Conduct an SF/DP process and system assessment
    Start with an independent and unbiased evaluation of your financial and operational performance planning processes and systems that establishes benchmarks for current effectiveness and identifies areas for improvement.
  2. Identify user requirements and project scope
    Define the business requirements, develop clear definitions of information needs (for proper planning), and what product / service lines you will be addressing.
  3. Build a business case that improves value and results
    Decide whether you need better systems, better processes, or both … then, once you’ve quantified the costs, outline the expected improvements in the results and build a business case that will define the expected value and ROI.
  4. Assemble the program and plan
    Once you have approval, it’s time to define the implementation and change management program that will realize the expected benefits. Then determine the communication plan that will insure that each affected individual knows what she has to do, when, to insure project success as well as the value the program will deliver to them (to give them incentive to contribute to the overall success).
  5. Evaluate new technology against the program plan
    As you are implementing the technology, you’ll need to evaluate its effectiveness. This will require specific product evaluation criteria that should be defined in advanced.
  6. Deploy the integrated SF/DP program and set of processes
    Be sure to implement the new processes in a way that minimizes disruptions to the business, culture, and technology infrastructure.

The article also discusses a Maturity Model, the potential impact of failure, and the role that people, process, information, and technology impacts.

Can we Sustain the Global Food Supply Chain?

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The threat of contamination can be disastrous for both public health and businesses, thus prompting companies of all sizes to focus on sustainability initiatives designed to ensure the health of the entire food and beverage ecosystem.
    Aberdeen Group, Sustaining the Global Food Supply Chain, January 2009

In their research preview, which noted that global food production, processing, distribution, and retailing have never been under greater scrutiny by both regulators and consumers than they are today and that their upcoming study will explore pressure points, planned actions, and best practices in supply chain management, Aberdeen points out that thought leading food and beverage companies have taken on aggressive goals to ensure end-to-end visibility and quality, reduce negative impacts on the environment, and enhance positive change on society through frameworks of shared value.

But sustainability requires organizations to change and innovate in fundamental ways and represents, in and of itself, a sea change in the way society views the role of business and the centrality of business ethics. And in this economy, despite the need, not many companies are changing. This is a disturbing thought when you take into account that last year, global food reserves reached fifty, if not one hundred, year lows and that global shipping is currently responsible for 4.0% of all global climate change emissions due to an utter lack of regulatory requirements compared to the automative and trucking industries.

So can we sustain the global food supply chain?

Logistics Management’s Ten Steps to a Safer Supply Chain

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Today’s organizations must proactively enhance their supply chain resiliency against multiple threats, because if they don’t:

  • widespread disruption to customer deliveries can occur,
  • brand equity could be damaged,
  • loss of revenue could lead to investor discontent,
  • regulatory scrutiny could increase, and
  • significant legal liabilities can materialize.

That’s why I appreciated an article that Logistics Management ran last year that covered a framework for protecting your supply chain because, as the downturn hangs on, the risks of many types of threats increase.

The framework described in the article revolves around 10 security competencies that are required within and across each firm in the supply chain to keep it safe. Specifically, the following competencies are required:

  1. Process Strategy
    An effective security environment requires strong executive commitment and a culture that puts a premium on security.
  2. Process Management
    This requires in-depth understanding of firm and supply chain processes in order to identify vulnerabilities that may cause disruptions.
  3. Infrastructure Management
    This involves the most basic and common methods used to increase security as they serve to form a “perimeter” guarding against unauthorized entry.
  4. Communication Management
    This involves strategies to share potential threat and security information internally with employees and provide communication channels for employees to use when a potential threat exists or incident occurs.
  5. Management Technology
    Information systems provide a first-defense mechanism to understand trends in product contamination and missing shipments, as well as to identify the root causes of these occurrences.
  6. Process Technology
    This is used to track product movement and monitor processes internally and across the supply chain.
  7. Metrics
    Metrics should be developed and captured by the firm to assure adherence to security guidelines.
  8. Relationship Management
    Collaboration with external entities is necessary to ensure that security procedures are communicated and followed.
  9. Service Provider Collaboration Management
    A company cannot create a supply chain protection program alone.
  10. Public Interface Management
    Forging relationships with government agencies is a critical corporate capability to protect against many threats.