Daily Archives: August 13, 2009

Supply Management is NOT a Joke

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Over the past couple of weeks, two attempts at humor have emerged in this space that, quite frankly, scare me. One is Ariba’s Spendman, covered recently on Spend Matters, and the other is Kinaxis’ Entertainment Center with Married to the Job, Sensei Bob, and the Late Late Supply Chain Show.

Whether you call it Purchasing, Procurement, Spend Management, or Supply Chain Management; Supply Management, the one area that is guaranteed to help any business in these troubled times, has been struggling to be taken seriously for over a decade. And, by and large, it’s still not at the table in most companies. And, as far as I am concerned, this is not a laughing matter … but yet we have a late late show I couldn’t watch more than 59 seconds of, a set of Second City skits that left me scratching my head wondering just what I was watching, and a comic book character?

You know what this says to me? And more importantly, what I think it’s going to say to the executives that still don’t get supply management? It says supply management is nothing but entertainment for low-level tactical purchasers (the late late supply chain show), that we’re nothing but back tactical office desk jockeys (married to the job), and that we’re not grounded in the real world (Spendman). After all, talk shows talk about irrelevant fodder, comedy skits make fun of that which is silly to begin with, and comics are fiction read only by losers who live in their parents’ basements while dressing up in costumes and speaking made-up languages. And while these generalized statements may not be entirely true, you have to admit they are the stereotypes … and I can’t see how supply management can benefit in any way from these stereotypes, with nothing but negative connotations, that will be applied by anyone who doesn’t get Supply Management and stumbles on the Kinaxis entertainment center or Spendman.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but what if I’m not the only one?

Five Risks for @Risk

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Yet another vendor, namely Aravo, launched another blog recently, namely @Risk, and, just like the many vendors before who launched blogs, they got some press out of it. But are you going to get anything out of it?

I think it’s a fair question. Over the past three years, dozens and dozens of blogs have come and gone in this space, or lingered on in such a tragic state of decay that you have to wonder why they weren’t put out of their misery months and, in some cases, years ago. Just check the blog directory on the Sourcing Innovation Resource Site. There are 92 blogs listed in the Sourcing category as I write this post … and 30 of them are dead (with no posts in the last 3 months), 17 are taking their last breaths (less than 1 post a month), 26 are fading away (with less than 1 post a week), leaving a mere 19 in stable condition, with 9 of these only managing an average of a post or two a week. That leaves a mere 10 blogs posting regularly, with 5 posting less than 5 posts a week, and only 5 posting more than 5 posts a week.

Needless to say, unlike some of my colleagues, I don’t get very excited when I see yet another vendor launching yet another blog, because there’s well over an 80% chance it won’t be around long, especially if it hasn’t been alive for three months. (When it comes to blogs, the 3/3/3 rule, as comically depicted in the third pane of this xkcd strip, applies.)  Many blogs don’t survive beyond 3 days / 3 posts, many more don’t survive beyond 3 weeks / 3^2 posts, and many more still don’t survive beyond 3 months / 3^3 posts. And in this space, looking at the stats I laid out above, even if it is still pumping out content beyond 3 months, there’s almost a 75% chance it won’t be here in 3 years. Why not?

Well, that’s where the Five Risks, which apply to any vendor blog, come in.

  1. Lack of Time / Resources
    Maintaining a blog that posts regularly enough to attract, and maintain, readership takes a lot of time and effort. Many companies don’t understand this and pile the responsibility on a communications or marketing person who already has a full time job without lightening his or her load. Eventually, especially in recessions where everyone collects more work as time goes on, the person just doesn’t have time to do everything and the “least critical” activity w.r.t. revenue, i.e. the blog, gets dropped.
  2. Lack of Internal Support
    Sometimes the communication, marketing, or services/support person starts it on his or her own as part of a new initiative to build better relationships with the company’s potential customers through regular communication, agreeing to take on the extra workload and overtime until it proves out. But since blogs aren’t overnight successes, and generally take years to get to the level of following and support that is required for the company to label it as a success, the support doesn’t come before the blogger gets disillusioned and either abandons it or …
  3. Burnout
    Sometimes the blogger continues on despite lack of support, working overtime until he or she just burns out. At this point, he or she totally turns against blogging and the blog stops cold.
  4. Repetition
    This is a big risk for blogs narrowly focussed on one topic. After a while the blogger finds that he or she has nothing new to say and starts recycling content. At this point, the readers go away and the blogger, now disillusioned with the power of the blog as he or she watched his or her stats plummet into the toilet, just gives up.
  5. Writer’s Block
    Sometimes, when the blogger has reached a point where he or she realizes she said everything he or she has to say for now, writer’s block kicks in. So the blog gets abandoned for a few days while he or she takes a “vacation”. But that vacation turns into weeks … then months … and then, well, the blog is history.

I’m not saying that @Risk isn’t going to make it. After all, 2Sustain, written by Aravo’s CEO, has survived for almost two years, but that there is a big risk that it won’t, and since it is focussed on Risk Management, I’m going to pick on it … especially since risk #1 is a big risk for @Risk. Aravo isn’t a big company … can they support two blogs when most vendors can’t manage one?