Daily Archives: April 21, 2011

How Relevant is Africa to the Purchasing Equation?

Quickly reviewing Next Level Purchasing’s 2011 Purchasing & Supply Management Career & Skills Report, one statistic jumped out at me — 37.5% of the respondents are from Africa. Considering that the GDP of Africa is only 2 Trillion, give or take a few hundred billion depending upon whether you prefer the IMF, World Bank, or CIA Factbook calculations, or about 3% of global GDP, as compared to the roughly 16 Trillion for North America, 18 Trillion for Asia, and 20 Trillion for Europe, the first question that jumped to my mind was relevancy. (And the fact that Europe only accounted for 6.7% of respondents didn’t help.)

It might be the case that Purchasing managers in developing areas are a lot more interested in surveys since they are trying to establish the importance of their profession, and it might be the case that most of Next Level Purchasing’s students and/or association members are from developing areas since they would be the least likely to have access to local training and eduction options (and Next Level Purchasing’s courses and certification is completely web based), which would account for a strong showing from these areas, but it makes one wonder how relevant the results are to Europe and North America, which are still the dominant locales for international purchasing (even though Asia is rising).

While it likely doesn’t affect the responses to skills, education, and certification related questions, as the top answers to the most important skills response are typical, the expected results from certification trend normally, and people who study for certification generally believe in its importance, it does put some suspicion on the applicability of the average annual cost savings & avoidance results. While I do agree that savings will increase by years of experience, annual hours of training, certification, and degree status, I’m not sure that I would trust the unweighted averages, especially since the average cost savings go from about 800K in Africa to 3.7M in Europe. It would be nice to see the savings and avoidance statistics broken down by continent, or at least weighted by continent, to clearly illustrate the impact of education and training.

Relevancy aside, it is nice to see interest in professional purchasing spreading through Africa and Asia.

MiniTrends: A Book Review, Part I

In a post late last fall, we asked how important are minitrends since they are, according to the author of Minitrends: How Innovators & Entrepreneurs Discover & Profit from Business & Technology Trends, often the leading indicators of emerging megatrends which can have a significant impact on business for decades. However, if the minitrend is, in actuality, a short-lived trend that is here-today and gone-tomorrow, then any attention paid to the matter might be a complete waste of time if you can’t adapt fast enough to take advantage of it.

In order to determine if a minitrend is important, we first have to detect it, and to do that, we have to better understand what a minitrend is. We start with a review of the book, which describes what a minitrend is; where to look for them; how to find them; what makes them attractive from an individual, small company and large company perspective; how to select one for exploitation, how to develop an exploitation scheme, and how to put the scheme into action.

According to the authors, John H. Vanston and Carrie Vanston, minitrends, which are emerging trends that promise to become significantly important within the next two to five years but which are not widely recognized or appreciated are important because, like precious gems, they have inherent value, require effort to uncover, entail processing to achieve their full value, and, can be very valuable to their discoverer.

In fact, a minitrend can be the basis of a billion dollar business. As an example, the authors explain how Dell and Southwest airlines took advantage of minitrends to establish new, successful, businesses that blossomed into billion dollar enterprises in a short time frame. They also explain how a number of other business, which are still growing, capitalized on minitrends to become multi-million dollar enterprises seemingly overnight.

A small to mid-sized company with low overhead and the flexibility and ability to move quickly is often in prime position to take advantage of an emerging mini-trend that relates to one of its areas of expertise. In comparison, large companies that have invested significant capital into certain markets and products are often in a poor position to take advantage of short-term trends and may feel motivated to ignore the trends in an effort to capitalize on their current investment, even though this can be a bad idea. For example, it was likely a failure to recognize emerging minitrends that brought down The Sharper Image and Circuit City and that led to recent hardships at Starbucks (which had to do significant layoffs a couple of years back) and General Motors.

So how do you find a minitrend? You apply a mix of the following strategies:

  • Follow the Money
    who will make money, who will lose money, and who will pay money — those who will pay are the customers, those who will make money are the crusaders (for the cause), and those who will lose are the defenders (of the old regime)
  • Follow the Leaders
    look for those who have non-conventional vision, who have influence, who move and shake, and who look to the future; Time’s 100 most important and Fortune’s most powerful, the Warren Buffets and T. Boone Pickens’ of the world, and the futurists like Raymond Kurzweil and Lawrence Vanston are prime candidates to identify emerging minitrends
  • Examine Limits
    there are three types of limits: physical, perceptual, and practical; the latter two are most important for minitrends (and any redefinition of the former would likely indicate the emergence of a megatrend) — when circumstances, public opinion, or driving forces alter a perceptive or practical limit, a minitrend can emerge
  • Consider Human Nature
    people want to establish meaningful long-term relationships, improve the lives of their children, and have top quality medical care — if different opportunities to satisfy these needs arise, minitrends often emerge
  • Watch the Demographics
    immigration, population shift, and birth rate all impact what may or may not emerge as a minitrend as differences in goals, expectations, and viewpoints exist between the various age groups
  • Analyze Frustrations
    anything that bothers a large group of people — like waiting in line at a bank, paying huge late fees on returns, or not getting value for their money — that can be improved offers a great opportunity for a minitrend to develop
  • Search for Convergence
    anywhere two distinct fields or technologies can meet presents an opportunity for a minitrend to emerge

Then, once you find identify a set of minitrends, you need to select one for exploitation, develop an exploitation strategy, put it into action, and capitalize on it. But before we get to that, we will discuss how to search for minitrends and present three minitrend examples to help you understand what you should look for as an individual, a small company, and a large company.