Monthly Archives: October 2014

Twenty Five Years Ago Berners-Lee Proposed the WorldWideWeb Project and Web Software Still Sucks. Why?

Because too many software designers and project managers think “Look and Feel” stands for make it look awesome because then you’ll feel good when you look at it. They don’t realize that “look and feel” refers to the “feeling” you get from using it, not just from looking at it.

And that’s why software still sucks. When it comes to software, looking good is important, but not more important than being usable. If, as Thomas points out in this post over on Spend Matters on why you should Understand Your Use Case First — Develop Later!, it’s impossible to find the button or menu item you need, or determine if it even exists in the first place, as good as the software looks, it still sucks, at best.

Software has to support whatever process it was designed for, and it has to make it easy for the user to accomplish that process — if it doesn’t do that, then it fails — spectacularly! It might look damn good when it fails, but it still fails.

And as long as developers continue on this ridiculous hidden-menu, infinite scroll, more features than you need but none you actually use kick, software will continue to suck and keep us in the technological dark ages.

So what can you do? Shun software that puts look first and functionality second. Developers will get the message, and eventually so will their managers. Then software can continue to progress forward.

Procurement Trend #24: Better Governance Model

Twenty-one dreary, and weary, trends still need to be discussed, so let’s keep the fire burning. The sooner we get through these, the sooner we can expose these charlatans once and for all.

So why do so many historians keep pegging this as a future trend, and keep poor LOLCat regressed in his past life? There are a number of reasons, but among the top three today are:

  • models may be few but most organizations don’t use the right one

    and even those organizations that have selected the right model don’t always apply it properly

  • compliance regulations make governance critical

    since SOX can put you in the Box with Fox!

  • investors want a return
    and they know a lack of governance won’t give them one

So What Does This Mean to You?

Governance Model

De-Centralized, Center-Led, Centralized, or Control Tower — which is right for your organization? The answer is all of them, depending on the situation.  For example, snow-clearing services should probably be de-centralized as it makes no sense to run them out of Houston, Texas or San Jose, California. IT Support should be center-led, as regional providers will probably give you the best price. Global contracts for your core product production should be centralized, as you need the volume for leverage and you need good supplier management. And it’s likely that a Control Tower model will be needed to manage the proper application of each model to each category it is suited to.

Fox in the Box

SOX can put your CEO and CFO in the box with fox if your company doesn’t make an acceptable effort to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. But this isn’t the only regulation that can get your company in hot-water. Labour regulations, environment regulations, etc. can all put your company at risk with unlimited (legal) liability in some cases. So companies have to make sure that the governance model takes into account compliance and supports the collection of all necessary data to insure that the organization doesn’t go foul of SOX or other regulations that could get it in hot, hot water.

Greedy Investors

They want a return and won’t be satisfied until they get one. And unless you can convince them that you have things well in hand, you’ll have a group of very clingy monkeys on your back, weighing you down. So you want to make sure that you have good, documented, governance procedures that will keep them happy and keep hundreds of pounds of monkeys off of your back.

Procurement Trend #25: More Stakeholder Collaboration

Twenty-two dull, swampy, trends from the days of yore still remain, so let’s go full steam ahead. The sooner we get through these, the sooner you stop getting fooled by snake-oil salesmen.

So why do so many historians keep pegging more stakeholder collaboration as a future trend, while helps poor LOLCats everywhere regress to past lives? There are a number of reasons, but among the top three today are:

  • knowledge-based outsourcing requires knowledge

    and one cannot outsource even a tactical function and expect results without an understanding of what is required for success

  • process based outsourcing requires process managers

    and one cannot outsource even basic processes, such as the regular purchase of on-contract indirect items, group purchasing of items not strategic enough for sourcing, or even building management without regular oversight of those processes

  • transitioning to better ways requires team input

    it’s hard enough for Procurement to outsource tactical Procurement processes without a solid understanding of those processes, so imagine the difficulty in helping the company outsource other back-office or front-office functions without a good understanding of those functions, which will require input and cross-departmental collaboration from other organizational team members

So what do you do about this?

Knowledge-Based Outsourcing

As per our prior discussion, you need to institute knowledge management and web-based collaboration tools ASAP to insure that all appropriate knowledge is captured, organized, reviewed, delivered, improved, and learnt from. You need knowledge to initiate the process, to manage the process, and to capture the results of the process so that it can be effectively repeated — inside or outside the organization, as circumstances desire.

Process-Based Outsourcing

As more back-office and front-office functions get outsourced, more and better change management is going to be required. When functions get outsourced, everything changes, and that change has to be managed. Not only does the transition has to be managed, but so does the process oversight, because at some point the provider might have to change or circumstances may change and the function needs to be brought back in house. The Procurement team will have to be become well-versed in change models such as Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model or ADKAR and also learn how to integrate them with team management.

Team Management

As indicated above, success is going to depend on the creation and effective management of cross-disciplinary teams that can effectively document, transition, and manage the processes being outsourced and, in some cases, being taken back in house because the wrong processes were sent out. The team will have to be become intimately familiar with team performance models, such as the Drexler/Sibbet, and become good at integrating these models with the chosen change management model.

Procurement Trend #26: Increased Accuracy in Demand Planning

Twenty-three lacklustre, backwater, trends from yester-year still remain, so let’s get back to it. The sooner we get through these, the sooner we get back to modern times.

So why do so many historians keep pegging increased accuracy as a future trend, and helping poor LOLCat regress to past lives? There are a number of reasons, but among the top three today are:

    • Hyper-competitive markets make demand planning difficult
      because a one week’s difference in release date due to an unexpected delay can result in a competitor beating you to market and siphoning off a significant portion of your expected market share for the product
  • lack of long-term data in short lifecycle product categories makes trending hard
    which makes it even harder to predict not only when a product instance is going to reach end of useful (sales) life but when the next iteration is going to bomb because the product has reached end of life and needs to be retired
  • most tools are still using outdated inventory models
    because the initial versions were created twenty, thirty, and even forty years ago and it’s just not possible to force fit new, complex, innovative inventory costing and projection models into them

So what do you do?

Hyper-Competitive Markets

As per above, Procurement not only needs to identify suppliers who can add value at little or no incremental cost but needs to identify suppliers who can help it get an edge in these markets. It needs to move to JIT (Just in Time) production and distribution to the extent possible, track product and consumer trends carefully, and adapt as needed.

Lack of Long-Term Data in Short Lifecycle Product Categories

It needs to collect as much market data as it can from analyst and trade bureaus to identify global trends, and analyze all of the data it has on past and current products to predict life-cycle trends that are in-line with current market conditions.

Outdated Inventory & Forecasting Models

It needs to update its inventory management and demand planning tools ASAP to not only plan with more data, more resolution, and more options, but support forecasting under different conditions.

It’s Conference Season, and that means It’s Travel Season! Part II

And this means it’s time to get your T&E under control.

Since what gets measured gets managed, this means that the first thing your Supply Management organization should be doing is measuring the spend. In particular, it should be measuring:

  • How much spend is under management,
  • How much spend should be under management,
  • How much spend is being spent on each T&E category,
  • How much spend should be spent on each T&E category, and
  • How does the T&E spend compare to business norms?

Why? Let’s take these one by one.

How much is under management?

Supply Management success comes from spend under management. If the majority of spend is not under management, then there is a huge untapped opportunity that comes from getting the majority of spend under management. With enough centralized spend volume, leverage can be used to negotiate better airfares, hotel rates, and car rentals — which may take the form of increasing rebate levels as spend volumes increase.

How much should be under management?

While the goal for most categories is 100% Spend Under Management, T&E is one category where the goal should never be for 100% under management. Why? Taxi and limo companies are different in every city, trains are usually localized to a given country, and while McDonald’s is doing its best, there is no truly global restaurant chain with an establishment in every country. You only want to manage those categories where there is enough spend volume to get leverage and where there are vendors that can meet a significant percentage of global T&E needs. In other words, airfare, hotel rates, and car rentals. For the rest of the spend, you want to set policies that have acceptable ranges by locale. Specifically, you want a range for each country, each state where the averages are off more than 10% from the country, and each city where the averages are off by more than 10% from the state. For example, you wouldn’t use the US average for a 3 star hotel or a dinner in New York, New York, USA or in Pueblo, Colorado, USA where the average cost of living is significantly higher than the norm and significantly lower than the norm, respectively.

How much is being spent on each T&E category?

This information will be critical to negotiating agreements with vendors that will save the organization money in the long run.

How much should be spent on each T&E category?

Before the Supply Management organization begins negotiations with prospective vendors, it needs to understand how much it should be paying. For example, before negotiating with a major airline, it needs to research average fares for its most common travel itineraries, average discounts or rebates for the spend volume it has, and other factors that make it a desirable customer for the airline in question.

How does the T&E compare to business norms?

Specifically, how much is each department spending on T&E relative to the industry norm for that department (measured as a percentage of budget or other standardized measure). If Sales is spending more on T&E relative to the industry average, then either it is traveling more than its peers (and this means it should be getting better results to warrant this travel, and this is up to the VP of Sales and the C-Suite to decide) or it is traveling the same amount and spending more, and this means that its costs are too high and Supply Management either needs to help it get better rates or implement better policies. Regardless of the situation, Supply Management needs to present the T&E spending facts to the C-Suite for every department in the organization so that it gets the authority to do what it needs to do to bring more SUM and so the C-Suite can decide whether any department spending more than industry norms (for its size) has a valid reason for doing so.

And finally, as explained in detail in Part I, despite urges to the contrary, neither Finance nor Supply Management should be attempting to judge the ROI of business travel by function, as suggested in this post over on CPO Rising, or try and measure it with a quantitative metric. It’s job is to prevent over-spending, not to question the validity of the spend. That’s for the head of each department and the C-Suite to debate.