Category Archives: Best Practices

Now More Than Ever, Kill the Left-Suckers!

Ten years ago, by far the best presentation at the 41st Annual Supply Chain & Logistics Canada Conference on Creating a Resilient Supply Chain was Jim Tompkins’ (CEO of Tompkins’ Associates) presentation on Bold Leadership for Organizational Acceleration. (He also gave the keynote, which was a great presentation as well, but this was one of the best presentations the doctor‘s ever been too in his years and years of sitting through supply chain and logistics presentations.)

Not only is Jim a great speaker, and if you haven’t heard him, I encourage you to attend his session the next time you’re at a conference where he is speaking, but he’s also really good at telling it like it is. Really, really good. And in this presentation, where he gave his top three tips to bold leadership success, he didn’t pull any punches. In reverse order, his tips were:

  • Don’t Do Anything Stupid,
  • Focus, and
  • Kill the Left-Suckers.

And I couldn’t agree more! What’s a left-sucker you ask? It’s someone who can’t do his job, and pulls his manager away from doing what the manager is supposed to be doing to help the individual who can’t do his job. Why is this so bad? Isn’t that what managers are for? Well, managers are there to help, to teach, and to guide — but they’re not there to do their subordinates’ jobs. When managers are consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then their directors have to step in to pick up the slack. When the directors get consistently pulled away from their jobs, they don’t get their work done and then the (rest of the) C-Suite (in a smaller organization, where left-suckers can suck the life out of a company before you know it) has to pick up the slack. When the C-Suite has to pick up the slack, they aren’t getting their work done, and then the CEO gets pulled into fire-fighting on a daily basis — and instead of the CEO leading the C-Suite in setting strategic direction, and the firm in building the business, she’s bogged down in tactical execution while the company starts burning down around her.

As Jim says, a CEO should have three hours a day to do nothing but focus on the strategic. She needs to think about what the company is doing, what they should be doing in the short and long term, and how they are going to get there over the required time period to either reach the top or maintain their place on the top. If she’s consistently being pulled in half-a-dozen directions, that’s not going to happen. So you need to make sure that it does — by identifying, and eliminating, the source of the problem — the left-suckers!

If you can train them — great! If you can find them another role that they can do — that’s good too. But if you can’t train them, or find a role that they can do without constant supervision and hand-holding, or you just can’t make them happy, then you have no choice … you have to terminate them. Or they’ll terminate your company. (You can slowly phase them out, but they have to go. And the phasing starts the minute you identify there is no converting them.)

Bravo, Jim. Bravo!

The 10 Worst Innovation Mistakes In A Recession (Update and Repost)

Are we in a recession? No.

Could we be in one real soon? Yes.

Regardless of what “the experts” tell you, two things are true.

  1. Trade Wars are BAD for the economy.
  2. Economic Alliance Breakdown (like Brexit) is BAD for the economy.

Both of these events can spark recessions, and are very statistically likely to at least spark localized recessions in some industries in some geographies. And while it’s hard to say which geographies and industries and to what extent due to the proliferance of alternative facts on even the major media outlets (which is what happens when you let party oriented moguls conglomerate holdings and reduce journalist headcount), it’s still not hard to say the risks are rapidly increasing.

It’s also not hard to say that, based on past behaviour, most organizations are bound to do the wrong thing when it starts. So, to this end, SI is reposting this classic piece from 2008 to remind you of what not to do if things get tight (which is based on a great piece on the 10 Worst Innovation Mistakes in a Recession that appeared in Business Week in January, 2008.

Moreover, making these mistakes creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that spirals you towards hardship.

  1. Fire Talent
    Talent is the single most important variable in innovation. And innovation is the single largest lever you have to increase productivity and decrease costs.
  2. Cut Back on Technology
    The rise of social networking and consumer power means that companies have to be part of a larger conversation with their customers. This requires technology. Furthermore, the best way to insure you are getting the best price is to tackle the right categories, as identified by spend analysis, with strategic sourcing decision optimization to make sure you are making the award with the lowest total cost of ownership. It’s also important to make sure that all of your invoices are submitted in an electronic format that can be automatically matched against contracted rates to make sure you are being overcharged. This requires leading-edge technology.
  3. Reduce Risk
    Innovation requires taking chances and dealing with failure. Although it’s important to control risk, trying to eliminate it entirely will just end up eliminating any chance for innovation at your company.
  4. Stop New Product Development
    This hurts companies when growth returns and they have fewer offerings in the marketplace to attract consumers. And with today’s rapid pace of technological change, you could even lose customers in a recession to a competitor who keeps innovating while you stand still.
  5. Replace a Growth-Oriented CEO with a Cost-Cutting CEO
    Most recessions only last two or three quarters and, these days, are relatively shallow. Penny-pinching CEOs don’t have the skills to grow when growth returns. Plus, a penny-pinching CEO is the most likely individual to fire your top talent.
  6. Retreat from Globalization
    Emerging markets are sources of new revenue, business models, and talent. And, like it or not, emerging economies like India and China are soon going to have more buyers for your product than the countries you’re currently selling to.
  7. Replace Innovation as Key Strategy
    … With Systems Management and Cost-Cutting. Once focus shifts away from innovation, it can be very hard to get the focus shifted back.
  8. Change Performance Metrics
    Shifting employee evaluations away from rewarding riskier new projects toward sustaining safer, older goals. This leads to risk-averse behavior and stifles innovation.
  9. Re-inforce Hierarchy over Collaboration
    A return to command-and-control management. This alienates creative-class employees, young Gen Y and X-ers, and stops the evolution of the corporation. In today’s world, companies that don’t evolve die – and they do it quickly. The average life-span of a Fortune 500 company is shrinking every year.
  10. Retreat into Moated Castles
    Cutting back on outside consultancies is seen as a quick way to save money. Yet, one of the key ways of introducing change into business culture is to bring in outside innovation and design consultants.

Remember that winners always emerge out of recessions and they always win on the basis of something new. If you don’t always have something new in your pocket, you’re not going to win. And if it is a recession, and you don’t have something brand spanking new to pull out of your pocket when the recession is over, you could literally be toast. Furthermore, even a recession provides growth opportunities. People still spend money. They still need to eat, maintain their homes, and their life-styles. The difference is that they don’t spend as much money and look considerably harder for the best deal. This means that they’re much more likely to waver on brand loyalty if you can provide them a better product on a better price – and this means that you can still grow by taking market share away from your competition.

So don’t make the innovation mistakes. If it is a recession, then whether you come out of it a winner or a loser is up to you.

Furthermore, if it is a recession, and your company supplies sourcing and procurement technology and services, then this should be a major growth period for you! After all, how else is your average blind-in-one-eye company going to save money? This means that not only do you have to make sure that you don’t make any of the top 10 innovation mistakes, but that you invest for a growth period because, if you play your cards right, it will be.

SolutionMaps – A Badge of Honour for All!

Spend Matters recently saluted the value leaders — SolutionMaps Best Performers — in the recent release of Q3 Solution Map. But as the Consulting Lead Analyst for the majority of SPT, the doctor wants to make one thing clear. SolutionMaps are a badge of honour for all those that participate.

Solution Maps are not your typical tragic quadrant or grave reports, chronicling arbitrary notions of “market leadership”, “vision”, or “revenue giants” of days gone past, with fuzzy definitions of fuzzier metrics highly dependent upon analyst interpretation of both vendor capabilities and customer feedback, and fuzzier definitions of inclusion criteria that can change from report to report.

They are highly objective technical analysis of very specific technical requirements with pre-defined scoring scales that allows analysts to objectively rank all vendors on the same scale crossed with raw, unfiltered, unbiased, customer feedback where raw scores are averaged by vendor — and then all these cross-products are mapped against each other using the center point on each of the two dimensions as the average.

And when you consider that the technical scores can be composed of anywhere from 100 to close to 1000 data points (depending upon whether a vendor is doing a single map or the entire set of S2P maps), you can see this is a monumental effort. The capabilities associated with every question must be clearly documented (and this can take a paragraph or two per question), exhaustively demoed, and the details maintained over time … because the analysts verify each and every claim of significance. Each and every claim. (In fact, some vendors claim responding to one of our RFIs can be more intensive than responding to an RFI from a fortune 500.)

And considering that three of the RFIs were written by the doctor, and a fourth co-written by the doctor and the maverick, you can rest assured that these questions are not broad high-level capability requests but detailed technical requests that must be answered with precision.

So, yes, all vendors who appear in a SolutionMap quadrant — be they solution leaders, customer leaders, or value leaders — have earned a badge of honor, and you should feel free to hail them all.

e-Procurement Benefits – What’s the ROI? Part II

In our last post we reminded you that there are valuable benefits to e-Procurement systems, as evidenced by the fact that many organizations are claiming to have saved millions of dollars thanks to their modern e-Procurement systems. This is great, but one shouldn’t just look at the savings, because if you spend enough on anything, you will likely show some savings for it. The real measure is the ROI.

And when you break it down as to where the ROI comes from, you see that it’s possible to get almost the same benefit from pretty basic systems that enable the proper processes and provide the right insight, often at a fraction of the price tag that comes with the big P2P/S2P systems. This means that the organization is not getting the ROI it could be — and isn’t the smartest business move to always chase the biggest ROI? (Since that leaves more money on the table for other high-performing initiatives?)

Yes, it is. So does this mean you go with the cheaper systems? That depends. On what? On what else the integrated system brings, your ability to use it, and your ability to define more sophisticated — and more appropriate — ROI models. If the benefits you expect to take advantage of in the beginning are few, and there are lower-end systems that give you 80% or more of those benefits for a fraction of the price, maybe you should acquire a low-cost SaaS subscription to a lower-end system for a few years. Reap the reward, improve your Procurement proficiency, and when you are ready to take advantage of more benefits, then you can upgrade to a bigger better system.

For example, a bigger, better, more integrated system can also bring the following benefits:

  • negotiation management and contract creation support — integrated redlining, audit trails, e-Signing
  • centralized supplier data and scorecards — make better informed, more risk averse decisions and identify opportunities for non-risky supply base consolidation and volume leverage
  • wider adoption throughout the enterprise — this is important especially when department managers are authorized to do their own purchasing up to 10K or 25K …
  • … and a slew of others …

But only if the organization is ready for them. In other words, in order to determine if an e-Procurement system is the best buy, the organization needs to evaluate the solution against an ROI model that accurately models the benefits its able to capture, not the benefits that are theoretically there.

In other words, just like there is still no one-size-fits-all P2P/S2P solution (and that’s why the doctor works with Spend Matters to make sure Solution Maps accurately capture and convey the differences), there’s no one size fits all ROI model either. Just because a competitor saved 9M on a 1.5M investment and saw a 6X return, that doesn’t mean you will. You have to take your time, do the proper evaluation, and run the proper analyses. That’s the only way to truly benefit from e-Procurement.

e-Procurement Benefits – What’s the ROI? Part I …

In our last post we provided an overview of the big benefits of e-Procurement systems, namely:

  • on-contract spend
  • market costs
  • one-off spend approvals

These are valuable benefits, and the reasons that many organizations claim big, multi-million dollar savings from their e-Procurement system. But are these the system? Or the process? And, the most important question, what’s the ROI? Remember, big P2P installations can run your organization a million dollars — or more — up front and millions more over the years.

At a high level, the ROI calculation is easy. The system costs 1M, but saves you 5M, so it’s a 5X ROI. Right? Well, if all 1M is the result of the system. But chances are, only a small fraction of that is the system.  But even if we attribute all 100% to the system, is it really the system.   Or is it just because you have a system.

Let’s start with on-contract spend. If before the system was installed the organization had a 65% on-contract spend rate and after the system was installed the organization has a 90% on-contract spend rate, then the system boosted on-contract spend by 25%. If this resulted in a 2M savings, 40% of the 5M savings is due to this boost. This also means that 40% of the cost can be attributed to the on-contract spend potential.

Let’s move to market costs. If the system reduces off-contract spend by 1M on average over what was 20M of market spot-buys, then the organization improves spot buy spend by 5%. And since this is 20% of the 5M savings, 20% of the cost can be attributed to this savings.

Finally, let’s end with one-off spend approvals. Let’s say the organization does a lot of big asset rentals and purchases and they are typically done whatever way the individual wants. But lets say the standardized approach supported by the system allows the organization to reduce costs by 20% on the 10 M+ they spend annually, then another 40% of the big savings is due to this ability and 40% of the cost is attributable to this capability.

In other words, the organization is paying 400K to increase on contract spend 25% and save 2M, 400K to save on one-off spend approvals and processes to save 2M, and 200K to take advantage of market cost data to save another 1M. At this point, you’re probably saying, so what? It’s still a 5X return any way that it’s broken down. And you’re right.

But what if an organization can acquire all the market cost data it needs from a subscription to a commodity price consolidation service that costs 50K a year? Is the 1M system worth it then? Especially since the amortized cost for what the organization is using is effectively 200K? Is it worth sacrificing a 20X return for a bit of convenience?

And if the organization just needs a better RFP process with embedded collaboration to reduce those one-off spend approvals by 1,600K, and that better process can be obtained from a simple e-Negotiation platform for a mere 50K a year, instead of 400K, the organization is sacrificing a 32X return for a bit of convenience. Is that worth it?

And if the on-contract spend can be increased by 20% with a simple best-of-breed catalog solution which can also be acquired for about 50K a year from a leading provider, then the organization could save another 1.6M for 50K, another 32X return.

In other words, the organization could acquire 3 basic systems for 30% of the cost and see 80% of the return for a 28X ROI. So why spend 1M on a complete S2P suite?