Category Archives: rants

One Year Ago Today …

The United States began its plunge into the new darker ages when it withdrew from UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

Today, progress is global. Supply chains are global. Relationships are global. And problems are global.

What good, and in particular, what enlightenment can possibly come from withdrawing from an organization, with 193 member countries no less, whose defined purpose, as clearly outlined in Wikipedia, is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.

Now, I’m not defending the success, or achievements of UNESCO, or saying they are the most effective at what they do, or anything along those lines.

I’m deploring the fact that any country today could feel that, regardless of their viewpoint on the effectiveness of the organization, could not stay involved just in principal — given that with the exception of this country and one — ONE — peer, pretty much every other country is a member state.

Just look at history to see what happens whenever a country, any country, turns insular. The world leaves it behind.

And while leaving UNESCO is not the same as closing all the borders, it’s not a step forward. It’s a step backwards. And citizens should be writing their senators and complaining bitterly.

And yes, SI is aware of the publicly stated reason(s) why the US is withdrawing, and this just makes it worse. UNESCO is not meant to be a political platform. ‘Nuff said.

iZombie … Why?

So, hopefully now you understand why we’re all zombies. Procurement was supposed to be dead and buried two years ago (search the archives), but instead of the Procurement Phoenix rising from the ashes and blazing a new course, nothing, and we mean nothing, has changed.

Day by day we’re going through the same old motions, using the same old processes, dealing with the same old issues, on the same old platforms.

Why?

First of all, why are we using the same old processes. While the intent of Procurement has not changed since the first Purchasing Manual was written back in 1887, the nature has. We’ve gone from vertically integrated companies with relatively local supply chains (where only raw materials were imported and only when necessary) to horizontally distributed supply chains where everything can be imported and exported through every step of the chain and where there can be three or four levels in the chain.

Secondly, why are our suppliers still okay with this? Presumably we’ve learned a few things in the past one hundred and thirty years or so? Presumably we have better processes for managing the entire source to contract to delivery to return to rinse and repeat cycle. And presumably we can use that knowledge in our dealings with them and make things better for them as well as us.

Thirdly, and most importantly, why aren’t we using platforms that enable these better processes both for us and our suppliers?

Well, unfortunately, we already know part of the answer here. As per our recent series on how 2020 is Fast Approaching (and that you better get on your tech capabilities), modern platforms are nowhere near where they were supposed to be. That does limit what you can do and the experience you can provide them.

But that’s not the whole answer. There’s also the fact that most of you aren’t on the best platforms you could be on, most of which are very limited in supplier relationship capabilities — which is key to building supplier relationships and making them want to use the platforms.

But you can’t put it all the vendors, as there’s also a third side to this story. You’re not insisting enough that your vendors get better. And you’re definitely not doing it from day one. Threatening to switch at renewal time isn’t much of a threat to the vendor when they know the sunk cost and the cost of change is high and that you’re not likely to be allowed to do it.

If you want to scare them, you have to take it up a notch. Threaten to tell the supplier the real reason their experience is so poor and all the faults of the platform you’re using — remember, your suppliers need platforms too. But that’s not the real answer (especially if you didn’t read the contract carefully and/or you agreed to a no disparagement clause).

The real answer is to make sure, at contract (renewal) time, you put a mandatory platform improvement clause in the contract with necessary features and functionality the supplier must deliver, on a schedule, or you get to either a) use the platform free until they deliver or b) leave at any time with no penalty and take ALL of your data with you, which they must output in its entirety in a well defined and documented database and/or (x)MXL schema that you can take anywhere.

Then you’ll get the platform you need to support more modern practices which may allow you to eliminate the same old — tactical based — issues, which result from poor platforms and poor processes.

Will it solve all your problems? Heck no. But maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a lot more time to focus on the real fires … instead of constantly having to deal with ventilating the smoke.

How? To be continued …

iZombie Interlude

In popular culture, a zombie is defined to be a person who has died and been reanimated in a manner that typically causes them to lose intelligence and, sometimes, even, sense of self. Sometimes its because a voodoo doctor or other evil personage re-animated them. Other times its because a virus, often created by a mad scientist, had a very adverse effect and created an infection that spread (like wildfire) and create half-living / half-dead creatures that are, for all intents and purposes, zombies.

But that’s not the only definition of a zombie. Another definition of zombie is a person held to resemble the so-called walking dead, included, but not limited to, an automaton. An automaton that is indistinguishable from a person that repeats the same well-defined tactical tasks over and over again, day after day after day.

A person that, with the right sustenance (brains in popular culture, or coffee and painkillers in others), can actually maintain semblance of self and intelligence, even if such semblance of self and intelligence is rarely seen during the day to day performance of their tasks.

A person that, in all likelihood, works in an organizational back-office job in an enterprise using outdated technology and inefficient processes, like your average Procurement organization.

So, when SI is saying that iZombie is a good name for our profession that was supposed to be dead and buried two years ago, but is still going … on auto-pilot. Automatons we are.

iZombie.

Why?

iZombie: A Prelude Part II

12:59 pm – You settle into your seat in the meeting room, in preparation for an hour of arguing, finger pointing, and general non-performance between the marketing rep, engineering rep, finance rep, and the customer success rep (that represents the account management team).

First off, the customer success rep is p!ss3d that the incumbent supplier, that is supplying four of their five top customers is being invited back as all of the customers are complaining about product quality. The supplier did send out a few bad shipments, but has since re-instituted the mandated quality assurance processes and allowed you to place a quality rep at their site that reports to your organization. Quality has increased to minimally acceptable levels on the last two shipments and things are on the up and up. (But since each customer only gets a shipment every three months, those four customers didn’t get their yet, scheduled for the next two batches.) And the customer success rep would know if engineering had a way to update them.

Next up, the finance rep wants to know why the two lowest bidders have been disqualified because the organization needs to lower costs by 10% and those are the only two suppliers likely guaranteed to do so on the project. It’s pretty obvious why based on the product ratings from engineering and customers and the historical quality ratings across projects, but apparently finance couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to run the reports.

Then the engineering rep wants to know why they can’t just keep using the incumbent, who has already agreed to a 5% price reduction to make up for their quality failure. Especially since Engineering put all this time into qualifying them and building the relationship. (Unaware that this supplier has also performed poorly across sister companies, which you are aware because the PE firm that bankrolls you collects cross-organizational data and builds it into the risk reporting feeds you get monthly — outside the platform.)

Finally, marketing is up in arms that you are not looking for suppliers that can deliver products with new and exciting features they can sell.

Thirty minutes of complaining, ranting, and basic Q&A pass before you can even get down to business.

The RFP was scheduled to go out today, on final review, but the supplier list has yet to be approved, hence the reason for this after-the-last-minute meeting. The incumbent supplier, three previous bidders, and six potential new bidders were invited to the RFI, two new bidders didn’t respond, and two didn’t meet the quality cut. You were ready to send it out to six, but customer success still feels their grievances haven’t been heard on the incumbent, engineering says they will disqualify the previously invited bidders for the same reason, and finance feels the two new suppliers, based on their bids in other projects, won’t be competitive.

Finance wants more suppliers, you need suppliers engineering will consider, and without at least one supplier that tickles marketing, you’ll hear nothing but moaning for months.

So you need to do another discovery project. There’s another 20 hours and 2 more weeks down the drain. And an addendum to the report you just gave your boss less than two hours ago – damn!

Anyway, that’s tomorrow’s project. The meeting has ended, and you have 30 supplier e-mails that you need to review today, or you know they will be repeated tomorrow — plus, one ranting and raving phone call a day is enough.

2:10 pm – Into your tenth supplier e-mail, most inquiring about invoices, event status, etc. — and other inane questions that could be answered through their supplier portal, as awkward as it may be, if they’d just learn to use it, you hit an e-mail from your key widget supplier informing you that the shipment that was supposed to go out yesterday is not complete as they have been waiting on a steel shipment for two weeks. Yikes! If you don’t get widgets in 21 days, your production line grinds to a halt! That will cost the company millions.

3:45 pm – After an hour and a half of frantic calls, you find another — off-contract — supplier that can supply a substitute shipment of widgets that, while not preferred, will work with a few minor production line tweaks and keep you going for six more weeks. If you can’t get regular shipments out of your supplier within that timeframe, you’ll be in trouble. But that’s tomorrow’s problem. For today, you still have 20 supplier e-mail and almost two dozen stakeholder e-mails to get through.

4:25 pm – The remaining supplier e-mails are not critical, a few require clearing up with AP and engineering, but that can be taken care of later in the week.

4:35 pm – Most of the stakeholder e-mails are answers to your inquiries, inquiries as to why Sourcing takes so damn long, or indicates of delay. The usual affair. Time to do a quick check on existing project status.

4:50 pm – Three projects need addressing in addition to the cog project. The axle project has questions from suppliers that need to be answered so they’ll bid. The cylinder project still needs RFI scoring from stakeholders so it can go to auction. The support team project needs more bids for key contingent workforce roles and you don’t understand why your chosen providers aren’t bidding. Fire-fighting for the next few hours.

7:15 pm – You finally get all the questions answered in the axle projects — and hopefully the suppliers will bid in the next few days; you send reminders to all the stakeholders and leave the ones who don’t read e-mails voice mails; and you call all of the contingent workforce providers in the earlier timezones where they are still in the office and discuss how important it is that they bid on the current project if they want to continue to bill you, and most agree to provide more bids tomorrow.

No real progress on anything, but you made it through today.

7:20 pm – You exit the building.

7:21 pm – You realize the headache you obtained during the stakeholder meeting this afternoon is now, as usual, unbearable so you pop a few extra strength Aleve so you can make make it home, have dinner, and rest up for another day … which likely won’t be that much different from today.

iZombie: A Prelude Part I

8:00 am – You arrive in the office and head straight for the coffee station.

8:02 am – You pour a coffee and head for your deck

8:06 am – You scan your e-mail … 30+ from suppliers, probably all complaints … 20+ from project stakeholders, probably all demanding results without providing any additional information … half a dozen or more from executives asking for update … at least one from your boss and …

8:11 am – Your boss charges in demanding the historical spend report for the sourcing event that’s about to start

It’s in the system, but the system didn’t automatically e-mail it on schedule due to a failed update to of the SSL certificate, but it’s three levels down and requires the application of custom filters which, apparently, only you can find

8:21 am – You’ve finished re-running the report and exporting it in PDF and Excel formats with all the raw data and e-mailing (yes, e-mailing) it to your boss

8:22 am – Back to the e-mail queue … you’re about to open the first one from your boss, just to make sure the report will satisfy her for now and …

8:23 am – Your strategic supplier for a key widget calls … you recognize the number … you have to pick up … they are screaming that their invoice, due 30 days ago, still hasn’t been paid and AP won’t give them any answers … you promise to look into it and get back to them within an hour just so you can put the phone down

9:21 am – You call the supplier back and explain you spent the last hour tracking down the issue. AP refused to talk to you because the head of Finance marked the invoice “Do Not Pay” because Engineering refused part of the shipment and said not to pay until the shipment was replaced. The replacement shipment came with a separate invoice, and although it had the same invoice ID, that was miskeyed to a separate invoice — so AP had no clue the shipment was replaced and Engineering never cleared the issue. But the invoice has been deleted, an accepted shipment been rekeyed to the original, and it’s now in the payment stream to be paid on the next processing date in 5 business days with your boss’s approval. (And she is not happy that you interrupted twice in an hour with the management meetings coming up and her not prepared.)

9:22 am – Back to e-mail. The first e-mail you check was from your boss indicating she needed the spend report first thing this a.m. and the second email indicates she needs a progress report on all of your active sourcing projects by noon. Sh!t!

12:15 pm – You finish that progress report, which first required constructing an updated historical spend summary of the historical spend summary across half a dozen key projects to verify the savings projections against the most up to date spend and current market projections; then required running the metric reports to show that 7 of the 11 projects are on time; then it required that you dig into the final 4 projects and call half a dozen stake holders to find out what the delays were; and then summarize the status, and reasons for, of the final four by hand, compile all the information, and hand craft the one page executive summary that is the only thing all of the C-Suite, will read. (However, the CFO’s underling will spot check 25% of your work, and you don’t know what. So all you can be confident of is that two of the last three hours were wasted.)

You have a team meeting on the new cog project at one, so you decide to duck out to the Taco Truck for a quick bite and some fresh air before the usual screaming match between marketing and manufacturing erupts …