Monthly Archives: March 2010

Old MacDonald Was Right — It Is About E-I-E-I-O!

Today’s guest post is from Dalip Raheja, President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG) and a contributor to the News U Can use TMG blog.

Most of us missed it. They were trying to tell us about it when we werevery young. We were not even in nursery school yet! It’s all aboutthe vowels. It’s not about Old MacDonald’s farm, his pigs or hens or any of that … it’s about E-I-E-I-O! Now what do vowels have to dowith Sourcing and Supply Chain Management you might be wondering? Well, as it turns out … everything! The vowels are the most critical link between our alphabet and our language. Without vowels we don’t have words … we just have letters! Without words, we have no sentences, no language, no meaning, no intelligence — in short, we have nothing! And so it is in our organizations. We focus on the tools, templates, processes, systems (the farm, the pigs, the hens) and we forget about the most critical elements in achieving superior business results — the vowels. And without the vowels, all we have are letters. There is no meaning … and we add no value!

The vowels I am referring to are Adoption, Execution, Implementation, Optimization and Utilization. Without these, all we we have is an organization that has the best practices, the best processes, the best tools, the best templates, etc. In other words, what we have is a Toyota. We might have an organization that may be succeeding at a large scale, but we don’t have a sustainable model in the long run. For that, we need the vowels … the ever powerful vowels! If you were strategically sourcing a surgeon for yourself, I am sure you would look at more than just the tools that the surgeon has at her disposal and the training that she has been through. You would want to know what she could do with the tools and the training … n’est-ce pas?

And yet, sadly, it is still very hard to convince most organizations where they need to invest their focus and their energy. They all think that all they need is todevelop the right infrastructure in terms of the processes, tools andtemplates and then train their people on the infrastructure and — voila — just wait forthe results. We keep trying to tell them that they should budget at leastan equal amount of effort in the vowels, including the help of an expert talent management consultancy, and they continue to insist that all they need is what Old MacDonald talked about … and that the vowels will take care of themselves. Alas, they don’t. The superior business results never materialize. The organization gets frustrated and decides that it needs to adopt new processes, tools and templates because the current processes, tools, and templates must be broken. The cycle starts all over again. And the lessons of childhood are forgotten … that’s it’s not in the verse … it’s in the chorus … it’s all about E-I-E-I-O!

And the focus on the vowels needs to start very early. After all, thealphabet does begin with an A! Furthermore, the focus cannot end with just the creation and training around the process, tools and templates. It has to extend all the way to the point where superior business results are achieved. And while we will need the best tools, templates and processes (for the infrastructure), the mere presence of, and training on, the infrastructure is clearly not enough. In order to truly achieve superior business results, we have to make sure that we pay attention to the vowels.

The focus has to be on what happens beyond the training, how people will actually achieve superior business results, and how they will successfully adopt, implement, and execute the processes. It is the same with supplier relationship management processes. It’s not how you design them, it’s how you implement them. You need to focus on how these relationships will beestablished and managed to extract maximum value. It’s not just about getting to the contract. At my company we believe in this so much that we even approached a couple of the major law firms to encourage them to include the vowels in their deliverables to clients when they work on executing large transactions between providers and suppliers to help set up these relationships. We did not avail, but we know we’re right. (By the way, it is the same with organizational structures. To optimize them, we have to focus on the lines [vowels] between the boxes, not only the boxes.)

Here is how the doctor described the goal of a transformational journey:

We mostly agree with this except we think the potential is even greater than that. A truly transformational Sourcing / Supply Chain department actually should be transforming other departments. They should be totally focused on value across the entire supply chain. The department should function as if it was a consulting group. The best strategy for such a department is actually a “Sunset” strategy. This concept, and others, will be discussed in later posts.

We will examine this issue in detail in a series of posts. We will begin the transformation journey togeter. We will discuss the use of maturity models, both current and emerging ones (which look almost identical to the current models) and talk about the gaps and the roadmaps. You can rest assured that we will notignore the consonants (the maturity models, roadmaps, infrastructure and talent management) … but, we will also focus on the vowels (Adoption, Implementation, Execution, Optimization and Utilization). Because there’s gold in them thar vowels. We will take you back to your childhood, to the days of Old MacDonald, to E-I-E-I-O and then we will build a solution framework and challenge your thinking. We encourage you to join the conversation. Add a cluck, cluck here and acluck, cluck there … and pretty soon we’ll have everywhere a cluck, cluck!

Thanks, Dalip.

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The Probability of Supply Chain ROI Must Be Considered

As per this recent editorial by Dan Gilmore over on Supply Chain Digest, you can’t overlook the probability of success when considering the ROI of a supply chain project. A 10X ROI isn’t a 10X ROI until the returns and identified and realized. If the new system doesn’t work, or the assessment doesn’t turn up the expected savings, then there is no ROI. And the chances of this happening are dependent upon the probability of success.

Therefore, before you give a project a green light, you need to understand the probability of success. Because a 10X ROI probably isn’t worth pursuing if there’s only a 20% chance of success, especially when you’re sitting on a 5X ROI project that has a 90% chance of success. If you have a lot of options, a good rule of thumb for zeroing in the ones that should be given the most consideration is to multiply the probability of success by the expected ROI and focus on those with the modified ROI. For example, given the above two scenarios, the first one has a modified ROI of 2X (since only one in five similar efforts would succeed) and the second has a modified ROI of 4.5X ROI (since nine in ten similar efforts are expected to succeed).

The reality is that there are probably a dozen high-probability ROI projects you can do right now, no use expending your resources on the wrong one.

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Demand Management, CPO Agenda Style

I found a recent article in CPO Agenda on how to engineer fresh opportunities to control spending quite timely given the extended recession and the limited revenue growth opportunities due to the reduced amounts of disposable income end customers have in their pockets to buy products and services. According to the article, effective demand management is the next logical step to controlling costs and driving down inefficiency and waste, and along with improved inventory management and distribution network design, they’re right.

With a better understanding of the factors at the root of demand for products, services or internal resources, a company can put in place innovative ways to eliminate, reduce or meet demand more efficiently and the result can be considerable savings. And while demand management may be traditionally associated with indirect spend, the greatest savings to be had are usually in direct categories. The key to realizing that is to stop focussing on “savings” and instead focus on “cost avoidance” because, as I said before, “savings” is just money you should not have spent in the first place!

So how do you get started? According to the article, you follow these five steps:

  1. Create a Demand Tree
    This a flowchart that starts with demand origin and documents key drivers. It breaks down the product or service into its constituent parts to aid in a full understanding of the product or service provided.
  2. Calculate Demand
    Based on this flowchart, calculate annual demand for each component.
  3. Calculate Capacity
    Figure out how much you can produce at each production level and the associated costs.
  4. Compare Capacity and Demand
    What capacity level are you at with current and projected demands. Does it make sense?
  5. Create Action Plans
    Once you’ve figured out what level you should be at, you can create a plan to alter demand accordingly. You can ramp up sales and marketing efforts if the product or service has the potential for great profitability at a higher demand level, or shift focus to another product or service if it’s not profitable, or would be more profitable at a lower demand level (because you’ve exceeded optimal capacity and additional units require costly overtime to produce).

In other words, you simply understand where you’re at and figure out where you should be, and then create a plan to get there. Of course, the plan could require a lot of work, but at least you’re taking a step in the right direction.

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If Twitter’s CEO Really Wants You To Get Stuff Done …

He’d shut down Twitter. Period.

At the very least, he’d make permanent account termination a single click for people who are tired of contentless tweets that make them dumber than a pothead and cause them to fail basic English competency tests. After all, it’s not like anyone hears when a twit speaks in the twittersphere. And 10 Billion Tweets is just too much.

Twitter is NOT an information network. Information, by definition, must convey meaning. Billions of random thoughts, tiny URLS that disappear almost as fast as they are generated, and content-free marketing messages do not contain meaning. And you can’t increase the signal-to-noise ratio without a signal! Zero is zero is zero. It doesn’t matter how you look at it: upside down, right-side up, inverted … it’s still zero! Sounds to me like the CEO has been spending a little too much time on his own “network”! And if you don’t believe me, check out this article on techradar, where he’s quoted.

Yet Another Reason Why the doctor is Spaceless, Faceless, and Twitter-Free

Check out this recent article by PCWorld on how your MySpace User Data [is] For Sale. This includes any activity or information that is attached to an account, specifically blog posts, location, photos, reviews, and status updates-among others. And I don’t care what wording they use. They can claim it’s just free access to publicly available real-time data, but if they’re making it possible for anyone to get access to data you thought would only be seen by your closest friends [because you didn’t read to the end of the usage agreement which says they own your data], then they’re selling your data, plain and simple.

So don’t be surprised if that blog post extolling the virtues of the new laptop you bought winds up on the manufacturer’s site; if your name, age, and entertainment preferences put you on top of the local satellite provider’s “call until they buy” list; or if that hot beach picture ends up in an ad promoting the services of, say, a site like Adult Friend Finder.