Category Archives: Public Sector

Geopolitical Damnation 32: Political Unrest / Riots

It’s not just unexpected labour strikes that can throw a wrench into your best laid plans, but political unrest as well, both on the public side and the government side.

Political unrest on the public side can lead to widespread walkouts across the public and private sectors, including unauthorized strikes where unions are involved and unauthorized on-the-job walkouts in the private sector where unions are not present, and shut down the better portion of a city, state, or even a country. It’s like a port strike coupled with a driver strike coupled with a warehouse worker strike coupled with a retail sales outlet strike as your entire supply chain inbound and outbound in that city, state, or country is brought to a screeching halt. And this might be the best outcome as a result of widespread unrest.

If the people really get upset, they might not settle for walk-outs and instead decide that they are going to full-scale riot, which will, of course, result in looting, destruction of property, and possibly even terrorist-like actions that result in burning and destruction of entire facilities. So, not only might your supply chain come to a screeching halt literally overnight, but your inventory might be stolen, your production line destroyed, and your building burnt to the ground.

While political unrest on the public side can get quite bad, especially if your facility gets destroyed, political unrest on the government side can be even worse. If, all of a sudden, a government agent takes a strong dislike to your country of origin or your company, every one of your shipments can be held up at the border, any items that appear to be in violation of a directive (such as REACH, WEEE, or a country equivalent) seized until appropriate tests are conducted, each drum or container of a perishable food item at risk of contamination opened for inspection or confirmation (forcing an entire shipment to be destroyed), and each item deemed to be misclassified under the countries HS code held until you pay the maximum fine. And this is again the better outcome.

Your company can be put on a denied parties list and all imports blocked. Your country can be put under embargo for one or more categories of goods that your company produces, also blocking all imports. Your company can be suspected of engaging in, or doing business with companies that engage in, illegal activities and all of your operations in the country effectively shut down when your bank accounts are frozen, all of your files and servers confiscated, and your inventory seized. A government (agent) that has it out for you — possibly even because of the country your HQ is in, the country you are importing from, or the country you are exporting to — can effectively shut your entire operation down seemingly overnight with almost no notice whatsoever.

Political unrest is a very bad thing, and a very deadly damnation when it rises up to consume your supply chain operation whole.

Consumer Damnation #71: Government

In today’s post we’re taking on the first of the consumer damnations — the government. Everyone wants them as a customer because, as the saying goes, once you’re in, you’re in and it’s impossible to get thrown out unless you do something really, really egregious because the process to replace you is so long, arduous, and painstaking that no one wants to do it, especially since management will likely change half-way through the process anyway and put all projects on hold until a new assessment is done. Salesmen love government contracts because they can sell once and then sit back and rake in their commission year-after-year as the evergreen renewals keep coming in.

But, as a Procurement professional, you don’t have it so rosy. Not only can government customers be very demanding, and require you to work extensively with Engineering, Manufacturing, IT, and the Supply Chain to design custom solutions to meet their needs, but they can be quick to pass on the blame to your company even if it’s not your fault. (You didn’t specifically say that we couldn’t put low-grade transparencies with a low melting point through this high-output, high-temperature laser printer that specifically said only 50 lb or better paper stock in the trays.) And if they get caught knowingly outsourcing to China, when they preach “Buy American”, they’re going to blame you and redirect the public outcry your way even though they told you “lowest cost, American or not”. And if it comes to pass that there was child labour or unsafe working conditions two tiers down in your supply chain that you didn’t know about because your supplier used unapproved raw material suppliers, they’ll be the first to throw you under the bus, the plane, and the cargo ship they threaten to use to ship what’s left of your corpse back to China when they are done with you.

Plus, now many government agencies mandate that you provide bill of material data, shipping manifests, country of origin determinations, quality inspections, and other information with every product that you provide the government so they can meet their accountability mandates. It used to be you just shipped the product. Now you have to ship the product and, in some cases, a literal CD’s worth of information — even though they don’t need 90% of it to fulfill their mandates and answer the questions they need to answer. (Your organization needs all of it to maintain import / export / product / regulatory / security compliance across the supply chain, but most parties you sell to only need a small subset of that data.)

And if that’s not enough, if the government runs out of budget and can’t get agreement to run a deficit, there can be an indefinite spending freeze while the situation is resolved. And, unlike the private sector where you have the right to suspend delivery of goods and services until payment resumes, if your organization is providing goods considered necessary for essential services, your organization can be (legally) ordered to continue providing those goods and services during the spending freeze (as your organization will be paid when the freeze is over as a provider of essential goods and services). If the spending freeze drags on for months, this can put your organization in dire financial straits, and additional stress to reduce costs below the baseline established during the sourcing phase will be put on Procurement.

Governments can be your organization’s best and worst customer and Supply Management’s biggest point of leverage and largest risk (as the volumes required can often allow the organization to negotiate great deals but the reputational and legal liability as a result of a single mis-step in the supply chain can be exceedingly costly).

However, in this rather stagnant economy, for many companies, it’s a damned if you do (get Government as a customer) and damned if you don’t (have Government as a customer). Have fun!

Enterprise Software Companies Do Need Media Relations

In yesterday’s post, we insisted that Enterprise Software Companies DO NOT need Public Relations, because they do not. Why? Simple. They DO NOT sell to the public. They sell to big corporations. Big corporations are not the public.

Also, the messaging that you need to sell to a CFO is nothing like the message that you need to sell to an impulsive consumer. Good business is all about productivity, progress, and Return On Investment. Good public relations is all about feeling, connection, sexy, environmental responsibility, or anything else that happens to be the buzz of the day. Good enterprise relations is all about results. Public relations, like consumer advertising, is in constant flux. But the basics of good business never change.

However, the advertising channels through which business advertising have exploded, not only as a result of the rapid expansion of the ubiquity of the world wide web, but of social media as well. As a result, the complexity of media management has increased dramatically. The fundamentals haven’t changed, but the amount of work required to coordinate and manage the effort has. Not to mention the knowledge required to strategically place your advertising and messaging to stand out amidst the noise, which consists not only of a constant stream of advertising and messaging from your competitors but analysis, third party reviews, and random comments. It’s a media jungle, and unless you have a team of full time pros to manage it 24/7, you need help. Even if you do have a team, you probably need guidance.

A good Media Relations Team will help you:

  • Identify the Right Channels
    Which traditional print and online web publications are right for you?
    What are the right channels to advertise your coverage?
    Who are the right people at these outlets to reach out to?
  • Tailor the Message
    While you need to craft and own your message, you also need to recognize that different individuals at different publications who control different channels are interested in different parts of the message you have to deliver. To get your message heard, sometimes you have to focus in on the part that will get a crier’s attention.
  • Spread the Message
    Parts of your message have to spread through others, but thanks to the social media revolution, other parts have to be spread by your organization through social media channels. Managing these can be a full time job, and not the best use of your limited resources. This is best left to an expert.

In other words, you need help, but the help you need is not Public Relations. It’s Media Relations.

And if you really need someone to talk to in order to help you elicit your messaging in a collaborative fashion, hire a subject matter expert (SME) whom can also offer you project management, product development, or thought leadership consulting services. This will jump start those efforts as the subject matter expert will not only be fully familiar with your messaging, but with your modus operandi as well. As a result, there will be little to no learning curve for the SME when it’s time to start the project management, product development, or thought leadership creation. This will pay off in spades as you’ll get your project, product, and/or thought leadership done faster, hit the market faster, and see a significant return faster.

So when it comes to getting help, get the right help. Even if you don’t thank me for it.

Top 12 Challenges Facing India in the Decades Ahead – Epilogue

As we have chronicled in the past 12 posts, India has a large number of significant and imposing challenges ahead of it — challenges it has to face, and conquer, to rise to the glory it aspires to. Moreover, the identified challenges of:

are just the biggest challenges that SI has identified as being the most important to solve; they are by no means the only challenges that lie ahead of India. Pick a topic. Any topic, somewhere, somehow, India is facing a challenge. Maybe it’s just minor and restricted to a small percentage of the population or a few states, but it’s there. And until the major challenges are addressed and reasonably solved, progress is going to be slow and India is not going to surpass the US to become the number two producer of GDP as some economists and futurists are predicting. In fact, if it doesn’t make progress on a number of these challenges, India, which was ranked 10th in GDP production at the end of 2012 (Source Wikipedia), is not even likely to surpass Japan, which currently holds the number 3 slot according to the UN (United Nations), IMF (International Monetary Fund), and WB (World Bank). (However, it is quite likely to pass Italy, Russia, Brazil, the UK, France, and, a few years after France, Germany to take the number 4 slot even if it doesn’t make much progress on the challenges, simply by virtue of the growth that its middle and upper classes, which constitute about 30% of its 1.2 Billion people, can produce on their own.)

But it’s not all doom and gloom! As SI will discuss in a future series, it has as many opportunities as it has challenges and if it conquers its challenges, it will have opportunities that are only equalled by the opportunities before China (and, with China, control approximately 1/3rd of the global economy in the latter half of this century)! What future lies in wait? That’s up to India to decide, but a future blog series will discuss aspects of one possible future. Stay tuned.

Top 12 Challenges Facing India in the Decades Ahead – 01 – Politics & Democratic Complacency

A democracy on its own is not the solution to any of the aforementioned problems. China had many of these problems and solved most of them as a single-party socialist state and Russia as a Federal semi-presidential constitutional republic. Even monarchies, under a benevolent ruler, can solve most of the aforementioned problems. Egypt flourished for centuries as an absolute monarchy, and recent evidence suggests that many of its citizens were much better off than Hollywood would lead us to believe (and that the pyramids were not built by slaves but by farmers who were employed as workers during the off-season).

Like every form of government, democracy has advantages and disadvantages — with a major disadvantage being that a majority of the representatives have to agree before a law can be made or an action can be taken. And when you have a country with six recognized national parties and forty-seven recognized state parties (and approximately twenty more unrecognized state parties), this can be an enormous challenge. After all, the United States couldn’t even keep its government running last fall and it is effectively a two-party system!

Then there is the apparent unwillingness to challenge the status quo, focus on controversial or taboo issues that a country as progressive, modern, and rich as India shouldn’t still be dealing with (such as dalit, a lack of access to modern sanitation for the 55% of households that still practice open defecation, extreme poverty for the 33% of the population below the official poverty line and the 36% of the population that are not much better off, wide-spread under-nourishment and low life expectancies, and so on), or even take on industry (as noted by Dreze and Sen in An Uncertain Glory when they noted that the Finance Minister of India backed off from his proposal to introduce a small excise duty on gold and precious metals used for jewelry when jewellers and other influential people whose interests were effected responded with massive protests). If India wants to become a real first-world country, then it has to be willing to tackle the tough issues, make the tough decisions, and move forward. Populism does not progress make.

Not only does India have the challenge of having to deal with six recognized national parties and forty-seven recognized state parties (and approximately twenty more unrecognized state parties) across thirty-five states and territories, but it also has to deal with the fact that its constitution promotes local control. In some respects, the federal government faces the same challenges as the EU when it tries to standardize trade laws, for example, as India’s constitution (which is the longest constitution in the world at over 117,000 words) allows complete local autonomy in key arenas, with “schedules” (or lists) for the central government, states, and both to share.

And, as noted in William Antholis’ book on Inside Out India and China, India’s centralization effort led to the creation of a dark-side in the central government’s efforts to appease the different states and territories that threatened secession in the early days of the union. In particular, the end result was an elaborate system of license requirements and regulations, as well as carefully crafted spoils and quotas to placate different communities. This “License Raj” has helped to stifle the economy and led to massive local mismanagement and corruption at all levels — mismanagement and corruption that has to be addressed for India to prosper.

Again, a democracy on its own is not the solution to any of the aforementioned problems. There needs to be a willingness to accept the problem, address the problem, and work together towards a solution for the common good, regardless of the consequences, for any progress to be made. Until India politicians accept, and embrace this, en masse, progress will (continue to) be slow — and may not even materialize at all in some of the backwater states and territories (which would be happy just to obtain the quality of life promised by an Amish Paradise).