Category Archives: Sourcing-Maniacs

The (Board) Gamer’s Guide to Supply Management Part II: The Settlers of Catan

I’m very excited to continue this brand new summer series that will help you whether you are just interested in finding out about this new and exciting career opportunity or ready to take your Supply Management career to the next level. Learning Supply Management doesn’t have to be as fun as watching paint dry — it can be much more fun! And when you can grasp some of the basic concepts playing a strategic board game with your friends, it’s a blast.

While Settlers of America Trails to Rails (also put out by Catan) might be a better choice to follow Ticket To Ride, that we introduced in last week’s post, The Settlers of Catan is also a great game to include in our series, and, more importantly, there is another great TableTop episode, again hosted by the one, and only, Wil Wheaton In Exile on Twitter. And since the best way to learn a new game is to see it in action until you are familiar with other board games in the same vein, we’re going to take advantage of the priceless gift that Mr. Wheaton has given us.

In TableTop Episode 2, Wil Wheaton uses Settlers of Catan, a modern day classic that has sold hundreds of millions of copies, to introduce us to the joys of trading wood for sheep. What could be better?

As with Ticket to Ride, the rules are fairly simple. As explained by Wil:

      We are settlers on the legendary island of Catan. The first person to reach 10 victory points wins the game. You get victory points by collecting and managing resources. You get resources when one of the settlements you have built is adjacent to a tile that has spawned a resource. We find out which tiles spawn resources every turn by rolling dice. No one will have enough resources on their own to build the roads, settlements, and cities they need to win the game. So we will all have to barter and trade with each other. Just like in real life, there are nasty surprises waiting for you. Whenever we roll a seven, the robber gets activated. He steals from you. We hate the robber. The robber is a dick. But if you get robbed, it’s not the end of the world. There are other ways to get victory points — having the longest road, having the largest army, or you can also trade in resources to buy [these] development cards (which may also give us victory points).

Sounds easy, right? So where is the difficulty? Some resources are more likely to be spawned than others, as each of the 18 non-desert hexes have different numbers associated with them from 2 to 12 (excluding 7), and, according to probability, hexes with sixes or eights are more likely to be rolled and spawn their resources. Plus, there are five different resource types (brick, wood, wheat, sheep, and stone), and each type of building requires multiple resource types. A road requires wood and brick; a settlement (worth one victory point) requires wood, brick, wheat, and sheep; and a city (which is built on top of a settlement and worth two victory points) requires two wheat and three stone. As such, you need to strategically position your settlements to maximize the chances of getting the resources you need, but you can’t place settlements just anywhere. They can only be at hex boundaries and there must be a road of length at least two between any pair of settlements on the board. Or, if you don’t have good placement opportunities for your settlements that would allow you to maximize your chance of getting resources (by placing the settlement on a corner between three hexes with decent roll probabilities), you can try to build on a port that gives you better than average trading opportunities. (In the game, you can always trade four resources of the same type for a resource of any other type with “the bank”*, but some ports reduce this to three for one, and some ports allow you to trade specific resources two for one. This is very useful near the end of the game when your opponents are unwilling to trade with you if they see you nearing victory.)

The only other relevant rules are that if you build the longest road (of length five or more), or amass the largest army (of three or more knights, which are mixed in with the development cards), you gain two victory points and if you are lucky enough to draw a monopoly card when you purchase a development card, you can play it down and every other player has to give you all cards of the resource type you name.** And if you roll the robber, everyone (including you) with 7 or more resource cards has to lose half, but you get to move the robber to any hex and steal a (random) resource from a player with a neighbouring settlement (or city).

So what are the parallels with Supply Management? In Supply Management:

      We are Supply Chain Professionals doing business in the global marketplace. The first of us to secure and deliver all of the products and services we need to meet all of the customer demands wins the game. We secure the products and services we need by managing suppliers and reserving limited production and distribution capacity. We find out which resources are limited by watching the market and taking note of tumultuous events. In today’s marketplace, no supplier will be able to meet all of our component or service needs on their own, so we will not only have to barter and trade with multiple suppliers, but also with our competitors and their suppliers in tight markets. And there will be nasty surprises waiting for us. A natural disaster may wipe out part of the raw material supply or Somali pirates may seize a precious shipment. We hate the pirates. They are dicks. But if our shipments get robbed, it’s not the end of the world. There are other ways to serve our customers. We can use the insurance money to buy from someone else, we can redesign our products to use alternate materials, or we can focus on a new or different substitute product or service to get us, and our customers, through the worst of times.

And just like in Catan, some resources will be more readily available than others. We will need different resources (from different suppliers) to assemble our complex product and service offerings, strategic reservation of production capacity and distribution capacity will give us a major competitive edge over our competition, and the more international trading capability we have at our disposal, the better trades we are going to be able to make (as some countries value wheat, lumber, or brick more than others, depending on whether they are short on building materials or food). The more trade lanes we have access to, the more markets the organization can serve; acquiring a monopoly on a certain product or service in a region, even for a limited time, gives us a significant edge in negotiations (as long as it’s not in violation of local laws), and keeping individual shipment value down can limit losses in the event of a robbery.

So what does The Settlers of Catan teach us?

  • if we are gamers new to the subject matter, it teaches us that successful Supply Management requires a lot of skill as we have to balance investments in (new) product development (settlements and cities) and logistics capacity (roads); we have to optimize local distribution (inner placement) hand-in-hand with global distribution (port placement); and we have to try and keep our competitors from locking up too much of available capacity in critical trade lanes (longest road) or production (largest army) and, most importantly, that we will have to do a lot of negotiating to succeed.
  • if we are new Supply Management professionals looking to improve our Supply Management game, it allows us to practice our negotiation skills and see how the negotiations change depending on the supply/demand imbalance for the raw materials and our relative strength in the marketplace (as your opponents will typically be very open to trading with you to mutual advantage if they are in the lead but very reserved if you are in the lead and the trade is perceived as advancing you [closer] to victory).
  • if we are seasoned Supply Management veterans, it helps us understand the strength and weaknesses of different Supply Management strategies. For example, if we focus on inland building to maximize the chances of resource spawning every turn, we are giving up any chance to guarantee low-cost trades later in the game (as we will not be building on ports). And if we focus on the ports, while we may be able to trade many resources cheap, we may never acquire enough resources to trade. If we focus on pure settlement and city building, an opponent may be able to sneak in and win the game with only two settlements (2 points) and one city (2 points) if they took a development strategy and secured the longest road (2 points), largest army (2 points), and two victory point development cards (2 points). It allows us to work on our strategic planning skills and notice that for every strength we achieve with a strategy, there is always a weakness that can be exploited by our competition with the right counter-strategy. And the better we understand the strengths and weaknesses of our strategies, the better we can adapt them and monitor them over time.

It’s a great game, and if you can’t wait to get started, I have great news if you own an iOS device. Catan for iOS is available in the App Store — although I must admit its a bit hard to play on the iPhone/iPod touch as you constantly have to zoom in and out. Now go forth and settle!

* which is a term you Monopoly (which we will not be including in this series) players are familiar with
** which has the opposite effect of the Mod card in Uno Mod for you Uno players

Where Have The Maniacs Gone?

Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time has passed
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time ago
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
We have missed them every one
When will they return?
When will they return?

Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time has passed
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time ago
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
On a voyage every one
When will they return?
When will they return?

Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time has passed
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time ago
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Gone overseas every one
When will they return?
When will they return?

Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time passing
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time ago
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Gone with the wind every one
When will they return?
When will they return?

Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time passing
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Long time ago
Where Have The Maniacs Gone?
Yes we will miss them every one
And will they return?
And will they return?

Dedicated to Wacko, Yacko, & Dot who have not been heard from since they set sail for Europe last January (shortly after wishing us a Happy New Year and promising to return to these venerated pages). Let’s hope they made it safely!

Happy New Year from the Sourcing Maniacs

[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] It’s time for Sourcing-Maniacs

And we’re zany to the max

So just sit back and relax

You’ll laugh ’til you collapse

We’re sourcing-maniacs!

[Wakko & Yakko] Come join the ‘Riba Brothers
[Dot] And the ‘Riba Sister, Dot
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] Just for fun we like to give out sourcing booster shots

You’d lock us in the boardroom if ever we got caught

But we’d break loose and then vamoose

And now you know the plot!

[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] We’re sourcing-maniacs!
[Wakko] Dot is cute and Yakko yaks
[Yakko] Wakko packs away the snacks
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] We’re sourcing-maniacs!
[Yakko] There’s Pinky and the Brain who want to rule the sourcing-verse
[Dot] But our goals are more mundane
[Wakko]   we just want to be immersed
[Yakko] Part of the game,
[Dot]   for that we will traverse
[Wakko] the sourcing space
[Dot]     with style and grace
[Yakko, Wakko, & Dot] Why bother to rehearse?
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] We’re sourcing-maniacs!

Free of pay-to-play contracts

We’re zany to the max

[Wakko] There’s baloney in our slacks
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] We’re sourcing-manie,

Totally insaney,



[Dot] These are the facts!
[Yakko] That’s right folks! We’re sorry we’ve been slack since our 2008 vendor tour, but after all that rejection in our job search, we just had to get away for a while and take a vacation
[Dot] and do some shopping
[Wakko] and some digging in the Congo!
[Yakko] But we’re ready to get back in the game!
[Dot] And ensure that the entire Sourcing-Verse never forgets our name!
[Wakko] Even when they hear the irresistible beat of the Bongo!
[Yakko] So we’re back …
[Dot] in shiny black …
[Wakko] and dancing to the beat!
[Yakko] We’re ready for action …
[Dot] so stay tuned for the coming attraction …
[Wakko] because we’re going to help the doctor turn up the heat!
[Yakko, Wakko, & Dot] Happy New Year! We hope you survive it intact!

Happy New Year from the Sourcing Maniacs!

[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] We are the sourcing-maniacs
And we’re zany to the max
So just sit back and relax
You’ll laugh ’til you collapse
We’re sourcing-maniacs!
[Wakko & Yakko] Come join the ‘Riba Brothers
[Dot] And the ‘Riba Sister, Dot
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] Just for fun we ran around the corp’rate parking lot
They locked us in the boardroom whenever we got caught
But let us loose from the caboose
And now you know the plot!
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] Yes we’re sourcing-maniacs
We had pay to play contracts
But Chicken Boo got control
Put us out in the cold
Now there’s no turning back!
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] ‘Cause we’re sourcing-maniacs
Who are zany to the max
[Wakko] There’s baloney in our slacks
[Yakko] Our good friend Bill plays the sax
[Wakko, Yakko, & Dot] We’re sourcing-manie,
Totally insaney,
[Dot] These are the facts!

It’s been exactly a year since Chicken Boo let the Maniacs go, causing them to wander the country in their search for a new job, and maybe just a little bit of enlightenment. We join them somewhere in the valley, where they are resting up from their recent Vendor Tour that took them to twenty innovative vendors across the North American landscape.

Yakko So …
Dot       … what …
Wakko                    … now?
Dot I really thought we’d have no problem finding work. After all, we have almost a decade of experience behind us!
Yakko True … but it was with one company, and, as we found out, our view of the sourcing world was quite narrow as a result.
Wakko We didn’t even know what spend analysis was, and we were associated with the team that invented it!
Dot But we know so much now! SaaS. Senior Professional in Supply Management. Service Management. Sourcing Lifecycle Management. Supplier Information Management. Supplier Performance Management. Energized e-Procurement. Enterprise Cost Management. Enterprise Search. Response Management. Trade Data Management. Workforce Management. Most of these terms weren’t even in our vocabularly a year ago!
Yakko Well, we certainly know a lot more than we did a year ago, but do we really know that much? Or did we just scratch the service of what modern spend and supply management platforms have to offer. We might have ten years behind us …
Wakko … but they were ten years with blinders on!
Yakko So …
Dot       … what …
Wakko                    … now?
Yakko I guess there’s nothing to do but to …
Dot Keep Going!
Wakko Yeah, I think the exercise did us good. And I could certainly go for another trip back to the Boston area when the weather warms up!
Dot You just want more Boston Cream Pies!
Wakko So? Can I help it if they’re as good as baloney?
Dot So who will we visit this year?
Yakko Whoever will see us! But I think we should consider more of a services bent this year … round out our knowledge base.
Dot I think that’s a good plan!
Wakko A’ight! More Pie!

The maniacs break into song.

Yakko Maybe we’ll visit Achilles
Who make sustainability real
Wakko After all, I’m tired of feeling
Like just another heel
Dot Or maybe we’ll visit Basware
And improve our financial sense
Wakko Because it’s been a long time since
A slice of pie cost five cents
Yakko Maybe we’ll check out the Carbon Hub
And find out what we can do
Dot To take our carbon emissions
and cleave them right in two
Wakko Or visit the Oracle of Delphus
And see what we can learn
Yakko I’d like to have a forecast
Without forty days of churn
Dot Or peak in the Energy Window
In search of a flash of insight
Wakko That’ll light up our neurons
In a dark and stormy night
Wakko Or take a swim in the Fishbowl
that holds our inventory
Dot and see if we can find out more
about the vendor managed story
Yakko Or have a chat with the Greybeards
who have procured through the ages
Wakko When it comes to cutting costs
it helps to heed the wise old sages
Dot Or finally check out Hubwoo
Wakko Shine a light on the hullaballo
Yakko It’s time that someone found out
Just what it is CC likes to do
Yakko Or take a trip to the I. q. West
Wakko I. q. West …
Forty seven live beats coming from the Valley Street
Nort East West South all in the same house
Sifting in the back room, gonna make a big boom
I’m in a boardroom waiting for my savings …
Yakko & Dot Wakko!
Dot Or maybe I’ll splurge and get some Jada
Emeralds and rubies dug up with spadas
And all the boys will say I’m buena
Wakko Because my name’s Macarena
Dot glaring at Wakko
Yakko Or take a trip down to Kanbay
To see what they have to say
Dot about value management plays
Wakko Because that’s the maniac way!
Yakko Or maybe get some Logility
‘Cause we’ve just got to be free to
Dot Collaborate. Collaborate.
Wakko Online platforms — they make it great
Dot Maybe walk through the Mercury Gate
Managed transportation won’t be late
Yakko Customers won’t be irate
Wakko It’s time for us to make a date!
Yakko We won’t forget the Next Level
Wakko Or their upcoming revel
Dot So we’ll swing by the Pitts
And flash them our wits
Wakko For we know how to use a bevel!
Yakko Pay our respects to Osiris
You ne’er know when our time will come
Dot Should we get lost in desert lands
Wakko To P2P we may succumb.
Yakko Maybe we’ll get some Provade
Wakko I sure am tired of lemonade
Dot Shed some light on the managed game
Wakko And the outsourcing crusade
Yakko But then we’re in a Quadrem
For there’s little that starts with Q
Dot So why not go see Quadrem
and see what they can do?
Wakko Maybe we will burn some Rubber
A GPO, we’ll run for cover
Above the ground our feet will hover
We won’t tire like a lubber
Yakko And then maybe we’ll get Savi
Mobile assets are all the rage
Dot We’ll get a handle on inventory
VMI gets center stage
Yakko Maybe talk to Trade Extensions
And their command of dimensions
Optimization gets a mention
Wakko And maybe I will pay attention!
Yakko We could check out UGS
But now they’re Siemens … and in a mess
One Point Four Billion … that’s a lot
Wakko It sure would fill my baloney pot!
Yakko And make a date with VendorMate
Visibility would be great
Get those watchlists off our plate
Wakko And keep those vendors at the gate
Dot Maybe we should go ask Waer
replenishment gets managed
Yakko and how modern software suites
can give buyers an advantage
Yakko Maybe we will see the Xign
Wakko it’s disappeared from the scenery and from my mind
do this, don’t do that … I don’t know …
’cause I missed the Xign
Dot Then we’ll take a little rest
Almost through the alphabet
Wakko A through Z is lots of work
But our duties we will not shirk
Yakko And in our quest for logic
We might take a peak at Zogix
Wakko because T&E is our life
it gets us through our days of strife
Yakko From A to Z, we’ll try them all
Wakko Whether they are big and small
Dot And if again we reach the end
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot We will just start over again
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot Happy New Year!

For more great spend and supply management companies, don’t forget to check out the Resource Site!

The Sourcing Maniacs 2008 Vendor Tour Part 21: Vinimaya

Today’s post has been broken down into vacuity, vindication, and veil.


Wakko I never imagined a Stampede could be so much fun!
Editor’s note: the maniacs took a little detour through Calgary after finishing their visit with Upside Software in Edmonton
Yakko It sure is! But we should probably be getting back to our tour. After all, we still haven’t been offered a job!
Dot We’re not done yet?
Yakko We’re only at U!
Dot Precisely. Who uses V, W, X, Y, and Z anyway?
Yakko Well, I’ll admit that a lot of companies start with the early letters of the alphabet, presumably to come first in the listing or to take advantage of common power words, that usually start with M, N, R, S, T and other Wheel-of-Fortune favorite letters, but there are still a few companies left. I’m sure there are at least ten companies in the space that start with V.
Dot Precisely. Who uses V, W, X, Y, and Z anyway.
Yakko Verian Technologies, Vertical Net, and Viewlocity.
Dot Vertical Net is Bravo Solution now.
Yakko Okay, Vendormate.
Dot Touche! So who next. Any recommended by the doctor?
Yakko Let me check.
more flipping through the handy dandy notebook
the doctor mentioned a company called Vinimaya when we asked him who the innovative companies were.
Dot What do they do?
Yakko Catalog Management.
Dot Sounds so Web 1.0. What else?
Yakko Looks like they’re billing themselves as the B2B Search Engine now.
Dot B2B Google?
Anything else?
Yakko Looks like that’s it.
Dot Are you sure?
Yakko I think so.
Dot So what are we missing? the doctor says they’re innovative, but catalogs and search have existed for over a decade.
Yakko I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to go find out!
  the maniacs take off for Shelton, CT


Dot Are we here?
Yakko Uhmm, I think so.
Dot I’ll knock.
tap tap-tap tap tap … tap tap
Smiling Man a smiling man opens the door
Howdy! How can I help you!
Yakko We’re a little confused. the doc said you were innovative, but we understand that you do catalogs and search.
Smiling Man That’s right!
Dot And how’s that innovative?
Smiling Man You need to understand, it’s not what we do, but how we do it.
Dot What do you mean?
Smiling Man To use the doctor‘s terminology, we’re B2B 3.0 all the way.
Yakko B2B 3.0?
Smiling Man Business-to-Business 3.0. We provide enterprise software technology that puts business users on the same footing as consumers who have had “3.0” technologies at their fingertips for years. B2B 3.0 is about connectivity that is open and free to all, content that is managed once in a non-redundant fashion by the content owner, and an open community where buyers and sellers can come together for short periods of time through virtual networks that allow them to conduct the business they need to conduct — when, and how, they need to conduct it. We provide the technology platform that, using the open connectivity of the internet, enables innovative content management that allows buyers and suppliers to engage in productive e-commerce.
Dot And how do you do that?
Smiling Man Through content unification. If you go back to the beginning, B2B 1.0 if you will, you had the catalog, which was different in every ERP, procurement, and sourcing application, and which had to be maintained by the buyer — who had to collect data from the supplier to populate their application. This led to stale data, and an inability to find new products in a timely fashion. Then the punch-out came along and helped to usher in B2B 2.0. This was a slight improvement, as the supplier was able to maintain their own catalog, which the buyer could connect to, but there were still issues. The catalog was only as fresh as the last supplier update, which could be months in the past as the supplier had to maintain a different puchout with different pricing for each buyer, and the buyer could only connect to, and search, one punchout at a time.
Dot So?
Smiling Man How do you get the best price?
Dot You review and evaluate all the options.
Smiling Man And how do you do that if you can only search one catalog at at time?
Dot You build a spreadsheet …
Smiling Man Don’t you buy a technology solution to help you with your job? Doesn’t having to build a spreadsheet hinder you? Why not just use Google and search each vendor site individually. It would be just as effective and save you money.
Dot True.
Smiling Man So buyer hosted catalogs don’t work, as they are always stale and don’t have the right prices, or products, and punch-outs don’t work as they restrict a buyer to one site at a time. Plus, both solutions often cost way more money than they’re worth. Sure you can get a catalog solution cheap, but how much is it going to cost you in salaries to keep it up to date? If you’re a large company, millions. And you might think punchouts are cheap, but a supplier has to pay someone to create a separate punchout with distinct pricing for each buyer, and then has to pay someone else to maintain that data. And who do you think pays for that overhead? That’s right, you!
Yakko So what’s the solution?
Smiling Man Our platform.
Yakko And how’s that work?
Smiling Man It’s a web-services enabled agent-based meta-search technology that can plug into any electronic product listing a supplier has at its disposal — be it punch-out, e-Catalog, a web-enabled database, or a plain old ASCII flat file — and integrate the listings into one consistent, coherent view for the buyer.
Wakko So it’s e-Bay for enterprises? A single view into all available products and services that you can search — by product name, characteristic, or price range — to find the best product to meet your need at the best price, right now?
Smiling Man That’s right Wakko! We enable buyers and suppliers to conduct commerce the way it was meant to be — simple, easy, and cost effective.
Yakko That’s it?
Smiling Man That’s it. We’re the first company to utilize the full power of the internet to let buyers and suppliers to conduct business using the technology they have available; we add the ability for both parties to define pricing and presentation rules that are applied in real-time on every search; and our powerful interconnectivity platform allows us to integrate seamlessly with all of the major platforms. What else would we need to do?
Yakko I can’t think of anything else.
Smiling Man Precisely! Sometimes you just have to keep it simple.


  we join the maniacs an hour or so later at a diner
Dot So, are we done?
Yakko We’ve done WhyAbe, and the only other W company I know of is WeSupply, but they’re on the other side of the Atlantic.
Dot And the only X company I know of is Xign, but since they’re owned by a bank, we know they’re just payments, which isn’t that exciting.
Yakko I don’t know of a single company in the space that starts with Y!
Dot I guess that brings us to …
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot Zycus!
Wakko Aren’t they based in India?
Dot They are. But don’t they have US locations?
Yakko They do, but they’re mainly sales offices, and the doctor says he hasn’t had any luck getting a response from them locally.
Dot I guess we’re done for now, then.
Yakko It’s probably for the best. I’m feeling a chill in the air, and I don’t like the cold as much as I used too.
Dot We did get awfully used to the wonderful year-round weather in the valley, didn’t we?
Yakko We did. Let’s go home for the winter. We can start a new tour next year … and maybe, armed with our superior knowledge from this tour, we’ll even find a job!
Wakko And in the mean time, I can be Califorina Dreamin’.
Yakko, Wakko, & Dot All the leaves are brown
And the sky is grey
I’ve been for a walk
On a winters day
I’d be safe and warm
If I was in L.A.
California dreamin’ …
  the maniacs fade into the distance

I don’t know about you, but I think they deserve a 21-gun salute for their efforts. Twenty-one posts and one hundred and thirty pages of amazing content that is so rich that you have to read it multiple times to thoroughly extract all of the nuances is more than some blogs give you in an entire year (or lifetime)! Rest up maniacs, you deserve it!