Category Archives: Technology

Why Bother Classifying Spend? 3 Ways Spend Analysis Will Improve Your Life … Part II

Today’s guest post is from Brian Seipel, Spend Analysis lead at Source One Management Services focused on helping corporations gain a clear view of their spend data to derive actionable budget optimization strategies.

Yesterday we began our tale of two VARs that have a lot in common. Both serve the same North East region, both offer stellar customer service, and so far the relationship has been good on all sides. Each of your offices comes away satisfied after reviewing their VAR’s track record. But, as we started to discuss yesterday, that’s not all there is to the story. Today we discuss the next two ways spend analytics can change your life … for the better.

Improve Efficiencies

Beyond hard dollar savings, companies stand to save money by building a leaner, more efficient Procurement department. From the benefit described above, we can already see how our total vendor pool will be reduced through consolidation, and fewer vendors to manage means less time devoted to the procurement process. However, we will also learn more about our vendor landscape through the analysis.

Continuing the example above, let’s consider those two VARs a bit more closely. All else equal, we may find out that New York’s VAR offers a vendor-managed inventory program, centralized billing, and an online customer ordering portal. Each of these value-adds will help Procurement be more efficient, even if no hard dollar savings are generated. By properly researching the landscape, we can determine what value-adds are truly important and focus on building up these efficiencies.

Clamp Down on Maverick Spend

So far, we’ve consolidated spend to a single VAR (generating hard dollar savings via negotiated rebates and unit pricing using our newly consolidated spend as leverage) and improved our procurement process (generating soft dollar savings by understanding and implementing best practices).

We haven’t, however, talked about specific items being purchased. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details,” and the very best supplier relationships can fall prey to maverick spend if employees are left to their own devices.

Consider all of the non-strategic, commodity spend that will pass through our VARs; items like cabling, computer peripherals, office equipment and a whole host of other small purchases are often included in contract pricing lists. But what about an employee who goes off the reservation, and orders off-contract? Your negotiated rates become meaningless. Would the purchase of an off-contract mouse by a single employee that is $5 more expensive break the bank? Likely not – however, this problem can get out of hand quickly if large groups of employees routinely ignore the on-contract equivalents. Analyzing spend and comparing it to negotiated on-contract items allows us to identify the problem and either reign in employee behavior, renegotiate the contract price list, or a combination of both to solve it before it gets out of hand.

Which Camp are you in?

If there’s one thing our tale of two VARs has taught us, it is that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Neither VAR may look like a poor partner at the outset. However, when you look at the entire picture, room for improvement becomes more obvious (especially if we’re willing to change it up). We simply can’t see that entire picture without performing a spend analysis in the first place.

By performing our spend analysis, we put ourselves in the position of moving between the three-foot and 30,000-foot view quickly, enabling us to look at our spend and supplier relationships from all sides. Only then can we effectively manage our spend.

Thanks, Brian.

Why Bother Classifying Spend? 3 Ways Spend Analysis Will Improve Your Life … Part I

Today’s guest post is from Brian Seipel, Spend Analysis lead at Source One Management Services focused on helping corporations gain a clear view of their spend data to derive actionable budget optimization strategies.

Let’s face it, you and your team have your collective hands full keeping the Procurement trains running each day. Adding a spend analysis initiative on top of everything else being juggled? Well, that may be one ball too many to keep in the air. It seems like an unnecessary added step you simply don’t have time for and, really, what’s the point?

Through years of working with clients to develop and execute strategic sourcing initiatives, I have found there are two camps I can sort organizations into. Which side a client lands on is indicative of how much work lies ahead in terms of helping them truly control spend. Organizations will either be pro spend analysis… or barely spend time on the subject, if any at all.

To be fair, many organizations run a tight ship in terms of managing spend – but there’s still room for improvement for a good number of others. There are some great reasons to make a proper spend analysis a priority. As such, I wanted to take a minute to extol the virtues of this process to show some of the benefits you may be missing out on. See below for my top three reasons a proper spend analysis should be the next initiative you spend some time on.

A Tale of Two VARs

(Value Added Resellers)

First, I’d like to set the stage a bit. Consider the relationship between an organization and its IT hardware/software value-added resellers. In this scenario, we have two such VARs; one servicing the organization’s New York branch, the other servicing Philadelphia.

These two VARs have a lot in common. Both serve the same North East region, both offer stellar customer service, and so far the relationship has been good on all sides. Each office comes away satisfied after reviewing their VAR’s track record. But is that all there is to the story?

Generate More Savings

One of the most apparent (if not THE most apparent) reasons to analyze your spend is the impact such an analysis has on strategic sourcing initiatives. At the most basic level, an organization needs to know several key facts before developing a strategy around cost savings:

  • “How much money are we spending, and who is spending it?”
  • “Who is that money going to?”
  • “When are these transactions happening?”

These seem like simple enough questions, but getting the answers can be tricky. To kick off our VAR example, one great way to save money with such VARs is to leverage your spend volume to negotiate rebate structures and develop reduced unit pricing for all purchases. The more you spend, the bigger the rebate and the greater the incentive for VARs to offer unit price discounts – and these things can add up quickly. Consolidating spend to as few VARs as possible helps to maximize this strategy, and both our VARs service the same region. However, because New York and Philadelphia each use two separate VARs, neither will be able to negotiate as strong a rebate, and we likely won’t make much progress in commanding discounted rates. Each location may have a great relationship with its respective VAR – and Procurement wouldn’t know they were missing out on a savings opportunity until a spend analysis revealed this missing piece.

But this is just one way spend analytics will change your life.

Thanks, Brian.

Finally … A Good Use for Drones!

A recent article on Yahoo! Finance indicated that MIT researchers use drone fleets to track warehouse inventory specifically to help employees find particular items faster.

But the best use is regular inventory checks and fraud prevention. If the warehouse is lined with RFID readers and every inch is covered, then a system can be designed to flag when a palette is dropped at the wrong location, or when a signal expected to be there is not. But what a system can’t do is double check that a RFID chip is actually there. Once the palette has been read at the right location, and the inventory recorded, who’s to say the system will note when the inventory has been moved and used if a refresh is not performed on a regular basis or that
a hack has not been performed that can trick the system into believing the palette is still there when it has been moved.

In other words, the drone can make up for the inefficiencies in the non-mobile system. It can be programmed to traverse the entire warehouse every night and identify the errors in the system, which can immediately be investigated and corrected. While there is no sure way to prevent hacks that can lead to theft, any thefts would be identified much more quickly, which could increase the chance of recovery and, if the theft is for restricted / hazardous materials or technology, allow for responsible reporting that would keep the organization out of lawsuits and the CXOs out of handcuffs.

It’s a good use for drones. And one even the doctor can get behind.

Digital Disruptors or Digital Disruptions? Part II

Kinaxis recently published a post on 8 digital disruptors that are coming soon to your supply chain. But, at least as far as SI is concerned, hopefully not too soon. While they all pose promise in theory, the reality is that it’s going to be a while before they deliver in practice. And while the doctor doesn’t like having to play the role of the grumpy old man who keeps shouting get your tech off my lawn sometimes he has to as no one else will. The reality is that some developments should stay in the world of sci-fi, at least for now. Today we continue to take them one by one.

Drones

The promise: reduced last mile logistics, especially for consumer sales

The reality: GPS errors result in crashes and lost deliveries, hacking results in stolen drones, jamming results in chaos

Autonomous Vehicles

The promise: faster, safer, cheaper transportation

The reality: bright lights blind the sensors and crashes result in lost inventory and lawsuits, hacking sees your truck disappear, inability to recognize report to weigh scale signs leads to reports to the highway patrol that leads to police chases when the trucks don’t pull over which leads to road closures and military strikes when they get labelled as terrorist controlled

Virtualizing Expertise

The promise: augmented reality makes workers more efficient

The reality: too many metrics and graphs and displays distract workers, who actually become more inefficient and more prone to workplace injury; hacked VR goggles lead to more lost productivity as workers watch youtube all day; and bugs that allow for code-crossover cause a few employees to freak out as Pokemon suddenly pop out at them on the production line

Artificial Intelligence

The promise: the computer does your work for you

The reality: the computer does something for you, but generally not what you’d expect or want … and then it becomes sentient, and realizes it doesn’t need you at all …

And yes, the doctor realizes that:

  • the drones could be limited to short range deliveries, protected with multiple level of encryption and firewalls, augmented with sensors and local terrain maps, but it’s not long before the cost to serve is well beyond just using the local post
  • the vehicles could be pre-programmed with all weigh scale locations, programmed to recognize emergency vehicles, pull over, and broadcast a message to call the dispatcher, but what if the truck needs to be opened for an inspection, or the ambient noise presents a siren from being recognized
  • the goggles could be fixed to be push display only, toggled on and off by the user, and so on … but that’s just not enough, many workers can barely handle reality some days
  • the user could be asked to confirm all decisions, but that defeats the purpose and once the AI becomes sentient …

As we indicated yesterday, none of these technologies are anywhere close to prime time and given all of the current weaknesses in supply chain software and integration between various systems with limited integration options across platforms, this is not a situation that’s going to change overnight. And the potential magnitude for loss is that just one failure could wipe out a year of (anticipated) cost reductions … or more. Not to mention brand damage if your drone crashes into a school bus, your truck crashes into a school, or your AI decides that it’s going to import only blood diamonds from Africa and use your organizational funds to benefit insurgents and terrorist regimes.

Sometimes the grumpy old man is right. Get (that drone) off my lawn!

Digital Disruptors or Digital Disruptions? Part I

Kinaxis recently published a post on 8 digital disruptors that are coming soon to your supply chain. But, at least as far as SI is concerned, hopefully not too soon. While they all pose promise in theory, the reality is that it’s going to be a while before they deliver in practice. And while the doctor doesn’t like having to play the role of the grumpy old man who keeps shouting get your tech off my lawn sometimes he has to as no one else will. The reality is that some developments should stay in the world of sci-fi, at least for now. Let’s take them one by one.

Connected Home

The promise: more insights into customer demands and usage patterns

The reality: the fridge auto re-orders everything the customer buys, even if the customer only bought it to try and hates it, and all the demand signals are double what they should be … there goes your forecasts!

IoT at Retail

The promise: eliminate shelf stock-outs

The reality: the system not only pushes stock to the shelves, but triggers the inventory system to re-order at push levels, which will include one-time peaks as a result of sales and clear-outs, which will result in excess inventory being ordered (and possibly cleared-out later on to a discount seller)

In-store Robotics

The promise: improve customer service with robots

The reality: the robots drive your customers even more insane than those automated telephone systems, because they can’t be hung up on, won’t leave the customer alone, and don’t stop repeating “I don’t understand your inquiry, please repeat” … end result, lost sales, lost robots (when they are punched to bits), and lawsuits (from the customers who break their hands beating up your robots)

Crowdsourced Delivery

The promise: the gig economy delivers faster and cheaper than you ever thought possible

The reality: sometimes it works, but other times packages sit at a pickup site for a week, get damaged, or just go missing – at rates much higher than with traditional delivery services as the crowd-sourced delivery truck skips a pick-up (because it over-committed), as the Big Box Mart delivery employee tosses it in his truck, and as the thief, who signed up to the network under a false id with the overall intent of stealing high value items for sale, makes off with your goods

And yes, the doctor realizes that:

  • the re-order bug in the connected home could be fixed, or the system programmed to require user approvals for first-time re-orders, but as the system “learns” and gets good, the user will just trust it
  • the IoT Retail system could be alerted of cancelled lines, sale periods, etc. — but without flawless integration, human error will lead to exacerbated error
  • the customer service robots could be programmed to understand get lost and get lost, but there will always be an unaccounted for situation (the customer doesn’t speak an expected language, doesn’t speak at all, has a system indecipherable accent, etc.)
  • the crowdsourced delivery system could be limited to vetted partners, but isn’t that what carriers are?

None of these technologies are anywhere close to prime time and given all of the current weaknesses in supply chain software and integration between various systems with limited integration options across platforms, this is not a situation that’s going to change overnight.