Daily Archives: January 2, 2017

How Do We Drive Technological Advances? Part I

As SI has repeatedly stated, any organization that wants to excel in Supply Management today needs to master the three base Ts*:

  • Talent
  • Transition, and
  • Technology.

Yes, SI is using talent instead of people and transition instead of process because PPT has been failing us for years. (Which is not surprising considering that death by PowerPoinT is a leading cause of corporate suicide.) Supply Management is not a function where HR can fill a room full of warm bodies and get results. Some organizations still think so (as illustrated by the fact that a few organizations have approached consultancies looking to expand their global supply management organizations by 200 overnight), but it’s not the case. The people need to be talented and that talent needs to be managed.

In addition, Supply Management is not a function where Operations can just take some random processes from a best-in-class competitor and treat them as gospel. The reality is that every organization is different, and every process will need to be customized, or transitioned, to fit the Supply Management organization before any results will be obtained. Similarly, supply chains are fluid and organizations need to adapt to unexpected changes that will continually arise. As a result, the processes will have to be fluid and capable of being transitioned to accommodate new suppliers, distributors, distribution methods, and requirements.

However, the technology element hasn’t changed. The reason — the average organization still hasn’t adopted sufficient modern technology, including most of the must-have solutions SI has identified over the years. (When a recent study by Zycus on The Pulse of Procurement — which would consist largely of companies with e-Sourcing and e-Procurement technology — found that even one quarter didn’t have critical technologies like spend analysis or contract management and 40% didn’t have e-Sourcing or SIM, this is quite telling with regards to the state of modern technology in Procurement.) This is not a good sign when you consider all these technologies have been out there for at least fifteen years and second generation solutions have been available for close to ten years in some categories! It’s true that a few of these technologies were not consumer-level user friendly until a few years ago, but that still shows the burning need for modern technology in an average Supply Management organization today! Not tomorrow! (Because, as The King may have proclaimed in 1971 [when he sang the words of Ernest Tubb], tomorrow never comes, and that’s because you can’t make it through today.)

So what can we do? Certainly a focus on adoption, which includes usability, training, and incentive will help. (SI has authored a great paper on the importance of adoption and how it it is the key to true value. [registration required]) But is that all? Needless to say this conundrum, when first discussed, drew my attention to a now classic article over on Chief Executive on Seven Strategies for Driving Technological Advances because any piece of advice that can help spur technology adoption is useful.

Chief Executive had the following pieces of advice:

  • Be a student of technology best practices.
  • Connect weekly with the CIO.
  • Encourage constant learning in the IT Department.
  • Communicate and share best practices through technology.
  • Think benefits, not features.
  • Prepare to invest.
  • Establish meaningful metrics for your CIO and yourself.

So how good is this advice for Supply Management? That will be the subject of SIs next post.

* There are more Ts, but these are the starting three.

This is a revised version of a post that originally ran five years ago, because not much has changed in the average Procurement organization.