Daily Archives: February 16, 2010

The Elusive Right Path to Engineering Offshoring

A recent article in Strategy+Business attempted to address The Elusive Right Path to Engineering Offshoring. They proposed a five step plan to making it work, and while the advice was okay, I think the article missed the point. In my view, the right path to engineering offshoring is not to do it at all if you are developing products for the local marketplace.

While I will freely admit that there is innovative talent in the outsourcing hotspots of India and China, it’s not necessarily the right innovative talent for you. As a for-profit enterprise, an innovative product alone is not enough — you need an innovative product that will sell in your target market, and, frankly, just because something is hot in India or China does not mean it’s going to be hot in North America (and vice versa). In terms even a layman could understand, just like most of the population in India would not buy a Big Mac, most of the population of North America would not be that interested in a McVeggie or a Lamb Maharaja Mac (although the doctor would prefer if his local MacDonald’s served a cheese-free Chicken Maharaja Mac instead of a Big Mac and a McAloo Tikki Burger instead of a Junior Hamburger).

Taking a more technical focus, while sales of a low-cost affordable car like the Tata Nano will probably skyrocket in India, such a small, cheap car would never even leave the showroom for a test-drive in North America as long as fuel prices are half of what they are in Europe. And clone merchandise will never reach the mass market in North America that it has in China (and not just because of much better intellectual property laws, but because of the high status North Americans bestow upon to brand name goods).

However, on the flip-side, if you are trying to create innovative products for international markets, you should certainly, at the very least, augment your R&D organization with a local-team on the ground in the target market. An experienced engineering or development shop in China or India would be much more adept at producing killer products for the local market than you would be thousands of miles away in the midst of a different culture. In this circumstance, the advice of the article applies, and I encourage you to read the article and take its advice.

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Bravo: Analysis and Supplier Performance Management for Contract Compliance

Last month, I told you how BravoSolution Collaboratively Optimized Its Way onto the doctor‘s Short List. Today, I’m going to discuss their (Spend) Analysis, Supplier Performance Management, and Contract Compliance Solutions to give you a broader view of their solution suite.

To get straight to the point, their spend analysis (console) solution, which takes a standard reporting-based approach, and which includes over 60 standard report templates, is nothing special, but their analysis administration tool, the Transformation Designer, is one of the most powerful administration interfaces I’ve seen in a web-based analysis solution. Most providers tout their “leading auto-cleansing, auto-classification, and auto-enrichment” solutions as if they’re the be-all-and-end-all, but those who truly understand spend analysis realize that you can’t auto-cleanse, auto-classify, and auto-enrich everything, no matter how many rules are in your repository or how many billions of transactions your provider has classified. (And those who fall for that line are lucky if mapping accuracy even approaches 80%.)

Every company is different, every department is different, every employee is different, and every transaction is different. That’s why you have 19 different representations of IBM in your supplier master. Furthermore, you don’t buy the same SKUs from the same suppliers with every order. So even if you had a “perfect” set of automatic mapping rules today, they’d be broken tomorrow. You have to continually manage and maintain your data or your reports will be useless. And Bravo’s Transformation Designer allows your data administrator(s) to do all that.

Bravo’s Transformation Designer allows you to select your data sources, define the raw data tables, capture the raw data fields, profile the data, and define custom mapping and transformation rules on the data before it populates your repository. You can also define a bevy of checks (null, range, date, acceptable values, duplicate, etc) and define your rules based on transformations (that can use substrings, calculations, and lookups). The rules can be layered, with higher priority rules taking precedence and lower priority rules kicking in when there are no higher priority rules. (So you can start with the classic “secret sauce” of map the vendors, map the GL codes, map the vendors + GL codes, and map the exceptions and have the rules applied in reverse order.)

In addition to supporting your standard “knowledge base” of auto-classification rules (which includes mappings, and families, for tens of millions of suppliers and even more standard items), which you can use to start your mapping journey, it also supports automated text classification methods based on advanced statistical algorithms. A proper combination of all three rule types — knowledge base for standard vendor and GL code mappings, statistical rules for automated mapping of unrecognized transactions (that can be mapped with high statistical accuracy), and custom hand-coded direct mapping rules for the exceptions — will get you very high classification accuracy with very little work. Especially since you can use their rules engine to quickly identify exceptions and define direct mapping rules that take care of them. And any time you identify a mis-mapping, you can define a new rule to re-map it. (New rules are immediately added to an asynchronous mapping queue and the queue is processed continuously, which allows for near real-time updates. No waiting for the monthly refresh.)

The Analysis Console also works on their supplier performance data. Bravo Solution is a mature provider of SPM, having been offering a solution since 2001. While it might not be broader or deeper than any of the newer pure SPM solution plays (SupplierSoft, Aravo, Hiperos, etc.), they have a history of successful implementations. (And more importantly, how deep is a SPM solution anyway? As long as it captures data, calculates metrics, allows you to create month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter, year-over-year, and trend reports on the metrics, allows you to share that data with your supplier(s), and allows you to collaborate on action plans in a virtual collaboration environment, what else is critical to your average organization just starting on an SPM journey?) With regards to SPM, Bravo has your bases covered. It’s nothing fancy, but it will more than get the job done.

This brings us to Contract Compliance. Their solution can automatically load cleansed GPO contract data, normalize the data based on supplier families and parent-child company organization relationships, and extract line-items and SKUs. If you integrate with your purchasing system, the solution will automatically match purchases to contracts and flag exceptions. It also supports deep embedding with your e-Procurement system and can be used to identify contracts, price levels, and exceptions before a PO is issued. But the best part is the deep integration that is currently being developed between the Analytics Console, SPM Module and Contract Compliance Modules. You’ll be able to analyze contract compliance against supplier performance at any time, over any time period, and see if you’re getting the value you expected from the contract — and then use this information at contract renewal / resourcing time.

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