Category Archives: Conference Season

Are Conferences Perpetuating Supply Chain Stasis?

It’s conference season, and you know what that means. Thousands of people flocking to ISM next week to hear about the “state-of-the-art” practices and technologies that will revolutionize your supply chain, take you into the modern age, and prepare you for what comes next. Except they won’t.

For the average organization that still hasn’t adopted a modern e-Sourcing or e-Procurement system, the technologies being presented by even the vendors who haven’t updated their core platforms since last decade will still be revolutionary and for the average organization that is just dipping their toes into the waters of modern supply management processes, the talks will be inspirational and progressive and, for all practical purposes, look like a transition from the industrial revolution to the information age. (And, for some organizations, it will be. But it won’t prepare you for what comes next.) It will be like seeing the world through rose coloured glasses for four days straight. By the end of the conference, the average attendee will be in awe of the possible and leave in a state of hippie bliss (until he gets back to the office and crushing reality cracks his lenses and he’s forced to again see the cold and depressing blue sky, the blood red losses, and the blackness of the bottomless pit that new ideas get tossed into).

But for a leading organization, the majority of technologies will be outdated, the practices insufficient, and the talks sleep inducing. That’s because, for the most part*, it will be the same vendors as last year, the same practices that were being presented as revolutionary five, if not ten years ago, and different speakers giving the same scripted success talk that you have heard from the leaders who have used these technologies and processes for the last five years.

the doctor downloaded the thirty-four (yes, 34) page “brochure” for ISM and didn’t see one new idea in the entire publication. Not one. Moreover, while a few of the topics only became trendy in the last few years, there appear to be only two talks focussed on TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), one on integrated supply chains, and zero on supply chain modelling.

This is a serious problem. We’ve reached the point where supply chain success for the average organization is becoming dependent on preventing supply chain disruptions and failures. Supply chains span the globe, lean is the name of the game, JiT is widespread, disasters (natural and man-made) are on the rise, margins are thin, and customer loyalty and patience is thinner. It doesn’t matter how well you source if you can’t execute. It doesn’t matter how well you procure if you can’t control your costs. The best laid risk avoidance and mitigation plans are worthless if you can’t monitor for risks and implement mitigation plans at appropriate times. The best spend analysis system in the world is useless if the data is incomplete or too dirty. You can’t optimize what you can’t model. And so on.

Moveover, every savings opportunity you identify at one stage of the supply chain or management process can result in a larger loss at a different stage if the opportunity is not analyzed appropriately. Sure you can save money by consolidating supply, but if a single source is unable to deliver and the organization has to buy on the spot market at the last minute, the 5% savings could be a 10% loss. Reducing inventory can significantly reduce the 25% inventory overhead cost, but could result in stock-outs that lead to million dollar revenue losses if the organization runs too lean and a transportation strike cuts off the just-in-time supply. Better supplier oversight and management can certainly increase quality and reliability, but is the additional cost of the SRM systems and staff to manage the relationship less than the additional value generated?

True value comes from looking at an integrated supply management process, which might take the form of a full category management lifecycle or a complete strategic sourcing execution lifecycle, modelling the physical supply chain and associated costs, and computing the full total cost of ownership of the current scenario and an expected improvement.

But good luck finding anyone who looks at the supply chain as a whole from this perspective, especially when few people will even address the subject.

And this is why the doctor does NOT attend ISM. When you’re trying to identify the next evolution of supply management, or even if you are a true leader, unless you enjoy preaching from the pulpit, it’s a little depressing.

* There will be some exceptions.

Coming Soon: The 6th International Supply Chain Management Symposium

The 6th Annual PMAC/MeRC International Supply Chain Management Symposium is coming up next month. It starts with the 3rd annual Doctoral Colloquium on Wednesday, October 15 and the welcome reception that night and the main body of the conference is on Thursday, October 16 and Friday October 17.

This year, their keynotes are from Mr. Dean D. Loria from Shell Canada Limited, Dr. Terry L. Esper from the University of Tennessee, and Jason “The Prophet” Busch, the Spend Master of Spend Matters. Jason’s always an energetic speaker, Dr. Esper is rather well reknowned, and although I must confess that I don’t know the dude from Shell, I’ve never attended a bad presentation from a Shell representative. (Not that they’ve all be gems, but compared to some presentations I’ve attended, including an Ariba keynote from last year, they were never bad.)

In addition, they again have a number of tracks on timely supply chain issues that include green supply chains, health care supply chains, energy sector best practices, and remanufacturing supply chains as well as the old standby topics that include global logistics, procurement management, and negotiation. In addition, this year’s panels are on green supply chains, non-profit supply chains, and supply chain education.

As I noted in last year’s announcement, there aren’t a lot of good Supply Chain / Sourcing / Procurement conferences north of the border, and this is one of the few. So, if you’re in Canada or the northern states and do business in, or with, Canada, I strongly encourage you to consider checking it out. Plus, you get to check out Cowtown this year, which might be a nice change after five years of Hogtown.

For those of you who haven’t been to Canada’s wild wild west, you can check out the the city web site, the Tourism Calgary site, the Calgary Community Events Guide, and eventhe travel guide and vacation planner. And even though the event is not being held during the annual Folk Festival, Blues Festival or during the world famous Stampede, you can always check out the Calgary Zoo and Heritage Park and see how your average Canadian still lives outside of the big nine Canadian cities (which, from east to west are: Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver). In addition, you can also check out the Calgary Herald, the Calgary Sun, and The Gauntlet for the down-low on what’s happening. (And you music lovers can check out Calgary Music Lives here, Music Calgary, and the Calgary Music Special Interest Group.) And, for us bloggers, there is the Wild Rose Brewery and the Brew Brothers Brewery … so we’ll be just fine.

What I Learned From Conference Season IV

In my last post I shared with you the fourth lesson I learned from Conference season, that

  • Apparently, Conference Season Was a Bust!

Even though Alan Buxton of Trading Partners and Tim Minahan of Supply Excellence chimed in with a pair of posts yesterday, I’ve yet to be contradicted. In Allan’s post, he noted that there appears to be a renaissance in eSourcing providers, as he found more were exhibiting this year than he’s used to, and that “green” and “sustainability” were hot topics on everyone’s lists. However, neither of these observations were unexpected, as there’s been a series of press releases from a flurry of vendors in the first part of this year announcing new “solutions” to the marketplace, as well as a lot of buzz on “sustainability”, including the buzz here on this blog in the last cross-blog series.

In Tim’s post, he decided to bypass the primary focus of the topic entirely and instead give us a post on How to Negotiate and Manage Best-Value Events, using the latest analysis of fellow crusader Justin Falgione, that is available on Ariba SupplyWatch. Now I agree there is some savings potential, as they found that 1% of a typical company’s sales is spent on meetings and events, but if you’re not getting anything out of them, why hold them at all?

Anyway, maybe next conference season will be better. And if you are organizing, or know of, an event that is worthwhile, please submit it for addition to the master directory on the SI resource site! The site has been updated and you can now submit events for consideration through the site. In addition, the site will now be tracking (executive) roundtables, seminars, training sessions, workshops, and webcasts – so please feel free to submit them at your convenience. It’s to everyone’s benefit to get this information out there in one centralized site.

For your convenience, here the submission links:

What I Learned From Conference Season III

In my last post I shared with you the top three lessons I learned from Conference Season. Today I have one more to add:

  • Apparently, Conference Season Was a Bust!

It seems that only a few of us bloggers learned anything from conference season this year. With the exception of Jason Busch of Spend Matters, Vinnie Mirchandani of Deal Architect, Brian Sommer of Services Safari, who offered up more of his learnings in Ready to Drink the Kool-Aid?, David Bush of e-Sourcing Forum and Justin Fogarty of Supply Execellence who offered us some tidbits from reSource 2008 and Ariba LIVE, respectively, all the bloggers and guest bloggers have been eerily quiet on this one. That’s not good news.

Considering that these events seem to require more time, money, and effort every year, I find this unacceptable – especially in a time when we’re facing skyrocketing commodity prices across the board, recessions, and stagflation. Now is the time we all need to be taking more away from conferences than ever, and if only a few of us are managing to take away a few tidbits of useful information, that says something – and what it says ain’t good. I know the number one benefit of most events is networking, but when you consider you’re paying thousands of dollars for the benefit (when you add up airfare, hotel, and steadily rising registration fees), there are more cost effective ways to get the same result. For example, most professional societies put on regular member networking events that are much cheaper than your average conference. Now, it’s true that most of these are only going to attract locals, but if you’re a member of a national (or international organization), there’s nothing to stop you from keeping track of what other sections are doing and going to their events when you’re in town on business trips (or vacations, if you should be so lucky). It might take four (or five) of these to connect up with the same number of individuals as you would at one national (or international) conference, but, as you’re not dashing around like a recent escapee from a mental health institution, you actually have time to sit down and talk to them. You could call that a net win!

Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe most people learned so much from this year’s conference season that they just don’t know where to begin (and that’s why they haven’t posted yet), but after talking with a few regular guest-bloggers who, up until now, have always had something to add to the discussion, I’m starting to think I’m right. And it’s unfortunate. Maybe us bloggers are going to have to get together and reshape the conference world as well. What do you think?