Monthly Archives: February 2018

Keep Your Self Driving Car. I’ll Still Choose Good Ol’ Alfred Every Day of the Week!

As the doctor pointed out back in 2014, calling #badwolf on self-driving cars is well-founded. Just last month we had more accidents involving self-driving cars (from Tesla and GM) where a Tesla “ploughed into the rear” of a fire engine in Culver City and where a GM car collided with a motorcycle in San Francisco.

And when you get injured, as in the case of the motorcycle driver, who do you sue? If the car is self-driving, then there’s no driver, just source code. Source code isn’t an entity, so all you’re left with is suing GM, as the cyclist whose motorbike was hit with the GM car is doing (as per this article in Engadget and this article in Popular Science). But is it the company? When technically it’s the software — written by who knows how many employees who used who knows what from open source to speed up development, which was again contributed to by who knows how many authors?

But you can’t sue software, it’s not an entity, at least not a legal one, and that can’t happen at least until we grant it intelligence … and the right to own assets. So, it’s GM, but are they liable under the law? And, if not, how can the individual in the vehicle, not driving, be held liable?

And what happens if the “AI” becomes artificially intelligent and decides to “improve its own code” or the code gets co-mingled with the company’s “sentiment analysis” technology and all of a sudden gains a strong “dislike” for the self driving cars of the competition and, using it’s limited action-reaction processing algorithms, determines the best course of action is to “crash into the competition cars”. What then? We’re driving cars with a “kill” switch we have no control over!

And we’ll never know if there is one! With 99M+ lines of code in an average self-driving car OS, how would you ever find the kill switch until it triggered? And if it triggered en-masse, all of a sudden we have Maximum Overdrive on a global scale! Are you ready for that? the doctor is not!

How Do We Drive Technological Advances? Part II

In Part I, we noted that this is not the first time we tackled the driving of technological advances, having preciously tackled the issue back in 2014 in our 3-part series (Part I, Part II, and Part III) where we noted that any organization that wanted to excel in Supply Management had to master the three Ts: talent, transition (not process) and technology and focussed in on technology in particular. However, not much has changed since we last tackled the subject — new technology adoption in the majority of organizations is still low, and even though 47.3% of the world’s population was online last year, we’re not sure the same statistic holds true in the business world.

And while we can’t say for sure why technological advance is slow and adoption of new technology solutions is low in an average platform, we are pretty sure that it has something to do with the fact that, especially where the older generation is concerned, especially for the older generation, they’ve heard the same old story hundreds of times before — it’ll make your work faster and better and your life easier. And, over the years, they’ve tried dozens of systems that made this claim, but few, if any, have delivered and most that delivered some still had drawbacks. At this point, any talk of trying a new solution just fills them with dread. And that’s not a great starting point for anything.

So you have to not only get past the dread and the suspicion and the outright animosity but get the key stakeholder, who, in this case, is a primary user, to an open state of mind where she is ready to try it and, hopefully, not only see how it will make her daily life easier, but like it.

And this is more than creating great tech with a great UX (which the doctor has been writing a lot about lately across the S2P cycle because just creating a system that works isn’t enough anymore), it’s creating great messaging that gets the message across. And this is as much psychology as it is marketing and definitely more psychology and marketing than technology.

Think about early adopters. Why do they adopt? Theories iclude:

  • they like the social status it brings them
  • they like to be the expert on new technology … and adopting new tech allows them to do the product research they need to be the expert
  • they want to solve their needs before their peers to stay ahead of the crowd

So, if you are targeting early adopters, you need to keep this in mind and have messaging to drive these points home. And that’s sometimes easier said than done … as run of the mill messaging will be something your target audience has probably heard a dozen times before. So, be creative.

Any other ideas to drive technological adoption?

How Do We Drive Technological Advances? Part I

SI tackled this subject back in 2014 in our 3-part series (Part I, Part II, and Part III) where we noted that any organization that wanted to excel in Supply Management had to master the three Ts: talent, transition (not process) and technology and focussed in on technology in particular. But, as we also noted, the technology element hasn’t changed much in the last decade. Consider the public defender‘s recent story about technology over on Spend Matters UK where he talked about a business dinner a few years ago (and by a few years, he means the conversation took place this decade) a company’s representative noted that none of the Executive Board in the firm had a computer in their office. Not only did they not have computers, or laptops, but they didn’t even use e-mail! Their PAs printed off all their emails for their bosses who wrote longhand or dictated responses for the PAs to type and send off. The company, not unexpectedly from the doctor‘s viewpoint, just went into receivership, and as far as the doctor is concerned, any company that doesn’t keep reasonably modern may soon face the same fate.

But driving technological advances is still hard. We still have an older generation that doesn’t like or trust technology and we still live in an age where over half of the world’s population has never used the internet — something most of us take for granted as part of modern daily life. (In 2017, the global population reached 7.558 Billion but the number of people who went online in the year was estimated at only 3.578 Billion, or 47.3% of the total population.)

So what do we do? Obviously we have to focus on adoption, but there’s multiple aspects to adoption. First of all, you need to

  1. get people to try it and then you need to
  2. make sure what you ask people to try is so easy, obvious, good, and valuable to them that they want to use it … so much so that after a few weeks they would get mad if you tried to take it away and have them do it the old way.

We’re finally at the point where #2 is becoming a reality where many of the best S2C/P2P/S2P platforms are really focussing on the user experience, taking cues from the best B2C and C2C sites and applications and giving users an experience that is fun and natural to them. But sometimes getting them to try it is hard. Remember, especially for the older generation, they’ve heard this story hundreds of times before — it’ll make your work faster and better and your life easier. And, over the years, they’ve tried dozens of systems that made this claim, but few, if any, have delivered and most that delivered some still had drawbacks.

If they’ve been burned over and over, and are fearful of any new technology, how do you get them to try it with an open mind and find something that will work … great? Because if they don’t even try it, they won’t adopt it, and there’s no point trying to convince their boss to buy it.


There is No Free Lunch, and There is No Free Shipping Either!

Even though shipping is not, or should not, be that complicated anymore, it’s still relatively human intensive (as even technology-driven shipping requires someone to scan the labels, read the response, and load the products into the right boxes and then into the right truck for delivery to the right recipient) and will always costly. Why?

  • Every form of transportation requires a vehicle

    and all vehicles have acquisition and maintenance costs

  • Every form of vehicle requires some form of power

    and all forms of power have a cost, even if they are based on some form of renewable resource (as windmills have to be maintained and biomass has to be grown) — so energy costs will never go to zero

  • Every vehicle requires an operator

    even if the operator is the programmer maintaining the system that controls the drone or the self-driving truck

And not all goods are simple consumer goods that can be put in a box on a truck and handed to you by an average FedEx delivery driver. Some are fragile and require extra packaging. Some need to stay cold or frozen. Some are hazardous materials. Sometimes shipping a single small item can cost thousands, especially when you add in the extra costs in packaging, handling, pick-up, and delivery.

In other words, shipping is expensive. And anyone giving you free shipping is including it in the price, probably at a padded mark-up. So don’t fret the shipping, fret the total cost of the purchase relative to the value received. Sometimes if you shop around you can get a better product at a lower overall price, shipping included.

This is especially true if you’re buying from online marketplaces, Amazon NOT excluded. (Going back to Amazon, as the doctor has noted before, by now consumers should have caught on to the fact that many of the less-reputable third party merchants that use Amazon Prime Shipping mark up their merchandise to cover the shipping costs. the doctor has seen $40 to $60 mark-up on small items that probably only cost $10 to ship with Amazon’s massive shipping discounts.)

There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch In the Platform World

So before you rely on a network or free platform, ask yourself, who’s paying? And what is it costing you?

We’ll start with the obvious — the supplier network. Platforms, especially secure ones, cost money. It’s not just the hardware and the connectivity, but the manpower to keep the software up to date and monitor for potential breaches, fixing them before they are exploited. It’s the manpower to make sure the network is in compliance with global regulations in each country its users do business in. And if you’re not paying to find and transact with suppliers, who is? Not a third party. So that means the supplier is paying. And that cost is hidden in your cost. Now, that might be okay if the cost is low, but is the cost low? Especially for the supplier who might need to conduct all its business on the platform? If the cost is a 3% transaction fee taking from the supplier, that’s pretty high when a large network that enables 100M in business a year can be run for less than 1 Million! After all, chances are your business doesn’t have 66% profit! (Although it would like to.)

We’ll move to the not so obvious — the certified supplier discovery portal. A big database of certified suppliers for your diversity, sustainability, or regulatory compliance project. Now, we all know databases are cheap, relatively speaking, in the enterprise software world. Maybe a six figure license and a platform with an annual six figure cost to keep it up. But keeping diversity status, certification status, and regulatory compliance status up to date where such status is human verified at some point ain’t cheap. Even though a minimum page worker can read a certificate and check it against a third party authorization source, that’s still a few minutes of time and if it has to be done for thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of entities … that time adds up, and it costs. If you’re not paying for that, chances are the supplier is for the listing and the verification. That’s fine if it’s a one-time (annual) cost, but if they also have to give up a network introduction fee, transaction fee, etc. every time a buyer wants to reach out to them through a network, that adds up.

But it’s not just supply platforms that cost you. It’s the other free platforms you use every day to find people and suppliers and communicate with them. Consider LinkedIn. It might be free, but do you have any idea how much corporate intelligence you’re giving up when your employees put deep profile information on it. When you advertise jobs on it. When you put company profile information on it. When you put detailed product spec sheets on it. And so on. If someone links and mines all that intelligence, they can figure out not only what you’re trying to sell now, but what you’re most likely working on, who’s doing it, and even how you are going to try to differentiate the offering in the market. That makes free pretty damn expensive in my book.

But LinkedIn isn’t your only worry. Chances are a number of your employees are using Google Office to collaborate. Free Google Office. First of all, that can go away at any time and take all the data stored on the drives with it. Secondly, if you read the fine print, anything you put on the drives can be used by Google as they see fit (for advertising, data mining, etc.). With so much data, chances are that yours will have, or make, any material impact or ever pass before unwanted eyes, but there’s no guarantees. Plus, with everything link shared, your sensitive data is one link away — easily obtained from one email hack.

There’s no free lunch, and the more free platforms you use, the more it is costing you. Remember that.