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2012
tbrouill

Collaborative ROI 

Posted by tbrouill Nov 29, 2012

In a recent discussion I suggested that you should not focus on a return on investment to justify an initiative to implement a collaborative framework for your extended supply chain.  While I still believe this and suggest you position this type of initiative as a ‘cost of doing business’, I think that you must also understand that the total cost for this initiative can be very low.  Considering the fact that much of the collaboration tool sets are very low cost, or free in the case of Google+, the total cost of this initiative can be extremely enticing.  This can actually provide a great return but I certainly would suggest that you focus on building a robust framework rather than on delivering a return on investment.  In other words you should focus on building a robust collaborative framework for your extended supply chain partners that will provide mutual benefits to all of your internal and external partners.  I believe that this focus will provide a greater potential for long term and a greater level of benefits than a focus on short term or immediate benefits would provide.  In fact I’m a little surprised that this has not achieved a greater level of visibility and excitement in the industry at large.


Now that I’ve waxed poetic on the need to focus on doing the ‘right thing’ in developing your extended supply chain collaborative framework and hopefully helped you to understand the underlying and also the potential financial benefits that can be achieved by implementing a robust collaborative framework that supports both your internal and external partners, I would not do this discussion justice if I glossed over the potential hard savings and benefits.  This may sound a little at odds with my most recent discussions but I believe that while you should not promise savings and hard benefits you should focus on the things that will bring you the savings and hard benefits.  You will get a chance from your leadership to experiment once or twice based on the enticement of minimal to no cost, but you will gain your leadership’s trust and future acceptance if you can generate measurable and continuous cost benefits as a result of your experiments!


In order to get your creative juices flowing I thought I would continue this discussion with a few suggestions of areas to investigate for potential benefits:

  • Reduced problem resolution time through collaborative issue notification and resolution capabilities.
  • Reduced inventory levels and increased inventory turn through more efficient inventory management and shipment management.
  • Reduced labor requirements through increased automation and reduced touch points.
  • Reduced transportation costs through improved shipment planning and reduced inventory levels.


Obviously these suggestions require additional analysis in order to validate against your individual plans, requirements and objectives.  As I mentioned these are meant only to provide suggestions and areas to look into when evaluating potential benefits.  Now the beauty of an initiative that is justified as a ‘cost of doing business’ or as a low cost research initiative is that you can be focus your efforts on potential benefits without the requirement to deliver on the benefits.  I still recommend that you take this opportunity and develop a robust collaborative framework that provides a foundation for mutual benefits for all your partners in your extended supply chain.


Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….


Have you contemplated your potential long term and short term benefits that a robust continuous improvement program would provide for both your internal and external partners in your extended supply chain?


What tools do you currently employ to monitor your key performance indicators?  In addition, what tools do you currently employ to publish and share your KPI’s?  How can you use these tools to measure the potential benefits?


What is your time-frame for starting your collaboration strategy implementation?

In my last entry i broached the subject of the collaboration tools and capabilities continuous improvement.  I think that topic is important enough to justify an expansion and further discussion because this topic crosses over both internal and external business partners.  In addition, this is also a key to developing a robust and mutually beneficial collaboration partnership across all of the key partners.  There are actually two aspects of this topic that I believe must be taken into account, and each of these aspects will have the potential of providing benefits and critical improvements to all of the partners in the collaboration community.  These two aspects are the internal business partner benefits and objectives and then the second aspect is the external business partner benefits and objectives.


A challenge that must be recognized is related to the objectives and requirements, from both internal and external partners that must be juggled in order to provide a mutually beneficial collaboration community.  You must recognize this challenge and develop the practice to manage these objectives and requirements in order to deliver a robust and growing collaboration community.  In my opinion, the most critical requirement to maintaining a robust collaboration community is the requirement for all partners in the community to derive benefits.  i think its safe to say that this is one of the most visible areas that requires a focus and practice of providing a mutually beneficial community for all partners that participate in the community. 


I must also say that I believe this is also the one area where each partner stands to gain the greatest benefits by taking into account the objectives and capabilities of all the other partners in the community.  This is an area where everyone will gain by recognizing and implementing improvements that are identified by the partner community.  This is also the area where you must be constantly investigating how you can, and whether you should, re-invent your framework and replace the tools that support your framework.  My advice is to take advantage of the capabilities of your partners in this collaboration community to identify and prove the next generation of tools and capabilities!


This is where it becomes critical to identify the leaders and the followers in your community.  You must also perform this evaluation mutually and brutally honestly with all of your partners in your community, start with definitions of what constitutes a leader and a follower so that you can modify the designation as your partners grow.  There will always be a group that will be pushing the limits of the tools and the capabilities and if your community is smart and serious about the long term success of the community at large you will provide encouragement to the leaders and then roll out their successes across the entire community.  These improvements can be related to any aspect including the complete rebuilding of the collaboration framework!  You must be willing to destroy and replace your framework in order to ensure the continuous growth and support for the community at large.  This also highlights the critical aspect of developing your integration layer in the collaboration framework to insulate your internal business processes from the changes to the collaboration framework.


Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….


Have you contemplated your strategic implementation along with the support that a robust continuous improvement program would provide to your implementation strategy?


What tools do you currently employ to monitor your key performance indicators?  In addition, what tools do you currently employ to publish and share your KPI’s?


What is your time-frame for starting your collaboration strategy implementation?

After all of these discussions on collaboration tools and collaboration frameworks to support developing a mutually beneficial collaborative extended supply chain I think it would be a good time to discuss the importance of a robust continuous improvement program.  Considering my recent discussions I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the methods and benefits of a robust continuous improvement program.  As this program relates to your extended supply chain collaboration framework I think you must implement a robust, two dimensional, continuous improvement program; one dimension must be a focus on the collaboration framework and program as it relates to your extended supply chain and the second dimension must be a focus on the collaboration tools capabilities and utilization.  I am suggesting this two dimensional improvement approach because I believe that both of these dimensions are dependant on each other and both also provide support to the other.


So, let’s begin the discussion with the collaboration framework and continuous improvement suggestions.  Implementing a robust continuous improvement program to support your collaboration framework and program will be a key factor to the initial and ongoing success of your extended supply chain collaboration framework and program.  It is essential to the success of your initiative to continuously monitor the tool sets that are available to support your needs.  Considering the maturity and life cycle of the collaboration practice and concepts you would be foolish if you were to implement a framework and not expect to support a robust discontinuous change pressures on your collaboration framework.  This pressure will come from at least two directions; internal  from your departmental partners and external from your extended supply chain partners.  I think that your greatest pressure will come from your external partners; you will be pressured from your partners that have currently integrated your collaborative framework into their business framework and are clamoring for improvements and moving to the next level, you will also be pressured by your extended partners to engage in your collaborative framework.  Finally, you will also be pressured to support the additional throughput that will be driven through your framework as your program gains momentum.


Next let’s move on with a discussion on the second dimension, the collaboration tools and capabilities continuous improvement suggestions.  As I mentioned above, the collaborative tool set maturity level along with the changes that are being driving by this maturity level in the tools life cycle.  The need to implement a robust continuous improvement program for the evaluation and utilization of your collaboration tool set is critical to the continuing success of both your internal collaboration framework, but also the continuing success of your collaboration with your external supply chain partners.  For your program to provide a continuing benefit along with the mutually beneficial opportunities that you can achieve with your external partners you must be continuously evaluating and reevaluating not only your practices but just as importantly your tools that you utilize to support your program and collaboration framework. 


I feel that in order to achieve the greatest success with your collaboration framework, you must be constantly investigating how you can, and whether you should, re-invent your framework and replace the tools that support your framework.  This is also a reason why I lean towards utilizing a suite of collaboration tools that have been built to work together.  This allows you to develop a robust integration layer that supports the needs of your internal systems and business collaboration along with providing a standard integration layer to simplify the integration and replacement of the collaboration tool set in your environment. This will allow you to focus on the capabilities that the tool set offers, rather than how to integrate individual tools into the framework.  In the end, I keep coming back to tried and true practices that ensure success, a continuous improvement process along with the strong partnerships of your extended supply chain.


Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….


Have you contemplated your strategic implementation along with the support that a robust continuous improvement program would provide to your implementation strategy?


What tools do you currently employ to monitor your key performance indicators?  In addition, what tools do you currently employ to publish and share your KPI’s?


What is your time-frame for starting your collaboration strategy implementation?

In this discussion I will speak to what I believe is another important topic involving the evaluation and selection of your collaboration tool set; the importance of a cohesive set of tools, or a suite of tools.  Any discussion involving the collaboration tool set must eventually get into this discussion.  This can really turn into a philosophical question that probably does not have a right or wrong answer.  I think there are a few topics that you should take into consideration in this discussion; key objectives of your initiative, the life cycle, or maturity, of the initiative in your extended supply chain ecosystem and also the life cycle, or maturity, of the collaboration tools that you have to choose from.  I think that if you focus on these guiding principles you will develop the evaluation points objectively in order to make the decision in how to move forward in your process; whether you will focus on a cohesive suite of tools, or a federation of best of breed tools.  I’m guessing that you will have already guessed my predisposition to go with a cohesive suite of tools.


The collaboration tool set framework, features and functionality is very early in the life cycle of the these practices and frameworks.  I think they are in the ‘exuberance’ phase of the product life cycle, as Gartner would say.  This being the case, I think it is safe to assume that your practices, capabilities and yes even the tools that you use will be changing and potentially quite dramatically over the near future.  I have seen this cycle a few times, at least, in the past as the technology evolution changes, grows and in many cases passes by, or ends, product viability.  In today’s market and environment especially this cycle has expanded and the rate of change has increased.  I think its safe to say that in this market environment, and the point in the collaboration tool set capabilities life cycle, the important capability from a tools capabilities perspective is the ability and proficiency of an organization to execute and deliver a robust integration framework.


The business and tools framework landscape is changing and the rate of this discontinuous change is increasing.  I believe that this environment will continue for the foreseeable future so you must be able, and willing, to select and replace your tool sets at an increasing frequency.  The increased capabilities of cloud tools and the increased frequency of new products and suites being created, and then quickly consumed and even destroyed only highlights the need for your organization to focus on starting with a robust integration framework.

Now, getting back to your internal environment and your collaboration tool set evaluation and selection challenges; I suggest that you must move through the evaluation as quickly as possible.  I think it is a huge mistake to spend months evaluating the tools and capabilities.  The biggest risk you have to the ‘old school’ evaluation and selection process is that you quickly fall into the analysis paralysis trap and in this particular instance because of the speed of change it would be very hard to pull yourself out of spiraling down this cycle to never make a decision.  This is why i suggest quickly selecting a low cost, or free, tool suite and then experiment to validate your needs and objectives.


Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….


Have you started your evaluation and selection initiative involving a collaboration tool set?


What integration tools do you currently employ that could be utilized in developing your collaboration framework?


Who is sponsoring your internal initiative?  Is this sponsored by one of your internal business clients, and external business client, skunkworks?

In my last couple of discussions I touched on some of the collaboration tools selection activities along with some of the capabilities available within the Google+ ecosystem.  As I mentioned in my discussion regarding the Google+ tools they provide a great opportunity to experiment without a great deal of cost risk because you can develop your own collaboration framework on very low cost basis, the cost involved is simply your time and any time you’ve utilized from your partners within your extended supply chain.  I think that one of the key benefits of this type of research and analysis is that you can begin to develop your collaborative framework, in addition, another, equally as important benefit, that can be realized is providing an opportunity to perform a ‘test’ or evaluation and confirmation of your objectives with a set of key partners within your extended supply chain.


As part of this evaluation and selection process you must perform tests to confirm your needs in addition to confirming your objectives and priorities for implementing a collaboration network in your extended supply chain.  I suggest that you begin your evaluation by selecting a small subset of your extended supply chain partners that will be willing to invest their time and resources to this evaluation research and validation initiative.  Your evaluation should start with definitions and documentation of your collaborative extended supply chain network.  It is important to begin your efforts by coming together with your key partners to clearly define the shared meaning of both the social supply chain and the collaborative supply chain within your own ecosystem.  It is critical that you start the initiative with clear definitions and a shared understanding with your partners that will help you to develop and evaluate your objectives and priorities.  You will be starting an initiative to develop a social and collaborative extended supply chain network and so it is critical that you start this initiative by collaborating with your key partners in developing the objectives and priorities.


This type of initiative is very different from past initiatives, or even other types of initiatives such as ERP implementation, or hardware upgrades.  The key difference of this initiative from the others is that you have an opportunity to utilize free tools to validate objectives, hypotheses and priorities.  Remember, developing a collaborative, or social, extended supply chain is a completely new experiment that has not been ‘standardized’ as of yet.  Not only is each instance have at least slightly different objectives than other initiatives the collaborative supply chain will also be evolving as it grows and extends across your partners within your extended supply chain.  It is important to take into consideration all of the factors and objectives that are important internally in addition to the objectives that your partners bring to the table.  As an example, I have heard, and seen, many discussions related to a collaborative and social supply chain, but I really don’t know that anyone has published a definition, or that a common definition has been accepted in the industry.  It is important at this point in the evolution of the collaborative and social extended supply chain that you define what it means for your extended supply chain, and equally important that you publish and gain buy in and acceptance from your partners within your extended supply chain.  This will provide the initial roadmap and strategy for your collaborative and social extended supply chain.


Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….


Have you contemplated a definition of your collaborative and social extended supply chain?


What integration tools do you currently employ that could be utilized in developing your collaboration framework?


Have you experimented with google+ either personally or professionally?  I know that this has probably not been very high on your list of things to try but I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you experiment with the capabilities. 

In my previous discussion I started to cover collaboration tools and how you should evaluate and investigate tools that are free along with the tools that your extended supply chain partners utilize in their practices.  You should really undertake this evaluation as you would any other selection and evaluation process; you should perform an investigation into the tools that are available and then investigate recommendations from your trusted partners.  The tools can be sub-divided into additional categories such as documentation, standard operating procedures manuals, communications and event management.  As part of this evaluation and selection process you must understand your needs based on your objectives and priorities for implementing a collaboration network in your extended supply chain.

 

I will cover my suggestions for your evaluation and definitions of your needs based on your objectives and priorities in another discussion.  This is a critical activity in your program to implement a collaboration network and must be clearly understood with measurable priorities in order to make the most productive tool selection.  In this entry I want to get your ideas flowing by discussing the capabilities inherent in the Google+ tool set.  The evaluation and selection process should be an iterative process in order to gain the greatest value and while i don’t believe that you should select tools prior to understanding your needs and priorities, in this case i think it would be helpful to encourage your investigation and experimentation with the Google+ tool set to help to clarify your needs and priorities.

 

As I mentioned in my last entry, I believe that Google+ will have the potential to provide a great deal of value to your collaboration framework for two reasons; because of the tool’s capabilities in providing groups for you to communicate with your partners, and because it is free so you can experiment with the tools and developing capabilities without concern for incurring cost for these experiments giving you a great framework to experiment without fear of failure.  I must admit that my initial reaction to the Google+ tool set was a yawn; after all these tools are just an also ran to facebook.  Then I started to play with the tools and eventually I committed to the Google cloud eco-structure after I realized the inherent value and stability that is currently available through Google+ or Apple.  I have decided to go down the Google+ path because of the cost and more importantly, I believe that Google+ provides a more business friendly structure to their offering.  Their structure supports and encourages and safe and secure environment for collaborating with your business partners.  This structure  allows you to as much or as little access security to support the various collaboration needs and practices that you will especially initially require.  In addition it also provides the greatest enticement for early research, its free so you can experiment as much as your imagination will support without incurring a costly overhead.  This structure encourages an iterative approach and you won’t be afraid to simply drop things that don’t work in your extended supply chain collaboration framework.

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

 

What integration tools do you currently employ that could be utilized in developing your collaboration framework?

 

Have you experimented with google+ either personally or professionally?  I know that this has probably not been very high on your list of things to try but I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you experiment with the capabilities.  As I mentioned above, this tool was not initially very high on my list of tools with potential high value, but since I have recently begun experimenting and have found a great deal of potential value.

tbrouill

Collaboration Tools 

Posted by tbrouill Nov 15, 2012

My discussions have focused on the strategic value and development of the extended supply chain collaborative network and the key efforts to deliver on that strategy.  I’ve stayed away from the tools conversation because I feel that tools selection should be analyzed and performed based on the specific requirements, objectives and capabilities of your extended supply chain and partners.  In addition, your tools will follow a life cycle of your collaborative network capabilities and you must be prepared for discontinuous change driving your tool box selection and capabilities.

 

While the tools within your tool box will be a varied mix that will be based on your needs and objectives and capabilities along with your partners, I think its safe to assume that one of the tools will not be facebook.  In fact I think its safe to say that your extended supply chain collaboration tool box will not include any of your most common entertainment collaboration tools.  Based on my experiences in conversations and professional discussion groups over the last two or three years I can also advise that one of your biggest hurdles will be moving past the ‘facebook collaboration’ preconceived assumptions to a ‘business strength collaboration’ framework and tool set.  You must be very careful in how you discuss collaboration with both your internal and external partners so that you don’t fall into the trap of the ‘facebook collaboration’ pitfall.

 

I think you will find that many of your current integration tools can initially at least be utilized as a base to start your collaboration tool set.  In fact I would recommend that you initially focus on understanding your needs and focus on extending your current tool set while you work out your requirements and the collaboration framework that works best for you.  You should also take into account the tools that your extended supply chain partners employ in your tool set evaluation.  This is where your work in defining your key partners and leaders in the collaborative capabilities and technology set will help in your analysis and collaborative framework implementation.  In fact, you may be able to leverage your partners’ tool sets in your own environment with very little investment.  Remember, one of your objectives in developing a collaboration framework to support your extended supply chain is to develop a stronger and mutually beneficial relationship with these partners.  So, one step in developing a mutually beneficial relationship with your partners is to identify how you can utilize the tools and capabilities across your partners.

 

There are however two specific tools that can be extremely beneficial to your collaboration framework; a wiki to support your documentation requirements and also google+ to provide a place to collaborate and share free-form communications with your partners.  The wiki can prove extremely valuable in providing a location for your procedures and manuals that can be shared across all of your partners in your extended supply chain.  The wiki also provides a great tool that can be updated by all partners in your extended supply chain, think about the value of wikipedia and you can imagine the power and value this tool can provide to your collaboration framework.  The second tool, google+, will probably provide almost as much value to your collaboration framework for two reasons; because of the tool’s capabilities in providing groups for you to communicate with your partners, and because it is free so you can experiment with the tools and developing capabilities without concern for incurring cost for these experiments giving you a great framework to experiment without fear of failure.

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

 

What integration tools do you currently employ that could be utilized in developing your collaboration framework?

 

Have you experimented with google+ either personally or professionally?  I know that this has probably not been very high on your list of things to try but I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you experiment with the capabilities.  I know that this tool has not been very high on my list of tools with potential high value, but I have recently begun experimenting and have found a great deal of potential value.

I recently discussed the importance of determining and taking advantage of your extended supply chain partner collaboration technical and operational capabilities.  This is a critical step and especially critical requirement in developing a strategy to develop and extend a collaborative framework across your extended supply chain.  Your partners’ capabilities can provide a much needed boost to your effort and can also help to identify the most valuable capabilities along with the desire to grow and expand these collaborative capabilities. 

 

There is one critical aspect and requirement for this objective that i did not mention, and I must thank a reader for calling out this requirement.  In addition to defining and understanding your partners’ capabilities from both a technical and operational perspective you must also define and understand all of the interactions across your organization and silos with each of your partners.  This is a critical aspect and requirement to help to ensure the success of your initiative.  I think its fair to say that overlooking this requirement could be one of the single biggest contributing factors to failing in your collaborative network framework program. 

 

Its easy to see how disconnected interaction practices could drive confusion and eventually serious problems in your program.  You cannot expect success in your program if your internal silos are each interacting differently and also requiring different integration and collaboration capabilities from your external partners.  The confusion caused by a disjointed program without coordinated focus will cause disillusionment in your efforts both internally and externally.  After all, you cannot hope to present a consistent and coordinated face to your partners if you do not understand and coordinate your internal interactions with these partners.

 

OK, so now the question is how do you go about doing this?  I think that every organization will be required to develop a strategy to go about the investigation because every organization has different methods and priorities for their relationships and interactions with their partners.  This effort should really start with a strategy for managing and coordinating the relationships with your partners from an enterprise level that cuts across silos.  i suggest that this effort also has the potential for providing a significant financial value to your organization that would be delivered by improved efficiencies and also elimination of duplicated effort. 

 

This can also provide significant financial return on investment for your partners.  After all if you are experiencing confusion and duplication of effort in your relationships with your partners, it is only logical that your partners are experiencing the same difficulties.  In order to ensure success in this initiative you must work with your external partners in order to increase the likelihood that you identify and understand all of the interactions and requirements of these interactions.  This effort should focus on defining the interactions, the objectives of the interactions and the value of the interactions.  Once you have defined these points you can then work with with your internal and external partners to review these points to determine how to streamline and coordinate the interactions in the most efficient manner.

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

 

Have you embarked on an exercise to identify and understand all of your interactions with external partners?

 

What are the key considerations and benefits of the various silos’ interactions with external partners?  Are there any common threads in the types of interaction with your external partners?

 

Have your external partners raised any concerns regarding various conflicting requirements in the relationships across your organization and silos?

In my discussions related to a collaborative network supporting your extended supply chain a thread related to the importance of a robust continuous improvement program arose.  Many leaders view it as a key underpinning of any strategy and requires a willingness to experiment and innovate.   This lead to a conversation with Steve Christensen regarding an approach BabbleWare advocates you take: Prototyping.  The following interview with Steve provides a great introduction to the value and potential you can quickly realize in your supply chain and references results others have already achieved with this approach.  Because at the end of the day, you only get paid for results.

Why Prototype?
Business demands constant change.  Since the systems of record (ERP, Best of Breed or Homegrown) fail to keep pace with this change businesses fall behind and lose competitive advantage.  BabbleWare built its software for People and designed it to change.  Prototypes offer an opportunity for our customers to explore, measure and execute their ideas on how best to react to change.  Since constantly changing regulatory and competitive pressures require business create a new way to meet those needs, prototypes are the only logical way to find the right answer; quickly, cost effectively and with proven results.  Prototyping works especially well when a company wants to create change to establish a competitive advantage.

What happens during a Prototype?
The Work Plan is based upon 3 Design Workshops.  Each Design Workshop is less than 2 hours long.  Here is an overview of the workshops and their goals.

1st Design workshops define, innovate and deploy prototype solutions for acute business need.

2nd Design workshops refine, validate and certify pilot ready solutions for user acceptance and introduction.

3rd Design workshops adjust, document and finalize so that the custom App can have unlimited users and transactions to prove business value before full project investment and roll out.

What is your anticipated return, or benefit, realized through your prototype program?
Prototyping itself proves the return/benefit as it delivers the enterprise solution envisioned by the customer.  Each company’s need is unique, for example;

  • Toyota achieved 6 Sigma accuracy for picking transactions in their warehouse during their one week prototype.  They also accidentally achieved 272% increases in productivity
  • Owens & Minor reduced full time staffing requirements by 4 people and error rates from 7% to 0% during their one week prototype.
  • Bakers Footwear decreased their transit times from the end of a production line in Asia to a store shelf in the US by 38%.  They also reduced the cost by 35% or over $2 per cubic foot of product shipped.  Their prototype took a month but included Vendors and Employees executing more than a half dozen ‘apps’ collaboratively; including print on demand serialized carton labels at the end of a manufacturing line by the Vendor, receipt, parcel label print on demand and directed loading of ocean containers by their Asian 3PL as well as connection to the Parcel carrier once the containers arrived in the States.
  • A large European 3PL designed Apps for replenishment and putaway that seamlessly connects to their client’s ‘legacy’ system of record.  This prototype is approaching deployment, took 3 weeks and has anticipated direct labor savings in excess of $750K in the first year alone.


You referred to a prototyping capability that you've developed with BabbleWare software, can you describe your reasons for developing this capability?
The ability to prototype is inherent in our software.  Since the  system(s) of record does not need to change, our customers were able to explore solutions to long standing problems without the barriers of resources, risk, cost and internal politics typically associated with ‘change’.  Consequently, our first project with Toyota showed that not only did our software re-write the rules on how business can change but also how enterprise software could be delivered.  Instead of a month-long initiative to build support for the need to change, followed by months of vendor selection and months/years of installation, training and support we deliver solutions really, really fast.

How does the prototype, and BabbleWare, support and develop the collaborative capabilities with your customers' partners?
Collaboration can be between Employees; across departments or divisions.  It can also extend beyond the boundaries of your business to include Vendors and Customers.  Each of these already have their own system of record (SOR).  So being able to isolate those disparate SOR’s mitigates the conflict.  Our customer knows their business and where value is available.  Building non-invasive ‘apps’ that raise the efficiency, accuracy, visibility and collaboration of any group via a prototype encourages exploration, participation and ownership.  When people realize they can shape the process to fit their goals the excitement builds and adoption becomes an obsession.  We support this innovation and collaboration by providing the software and services required to convert their ideas to reality.  During a prototype we often provide the secure cloud necessary to achieve the unique goals.

Does this require any support from the customers' partner(s) to implement the prototype?
It depends.  That isn’t an evasive answer but rather a reality of each customer’s opportunity.  The scope of the prototype dictates the participants required.  Bakers designed and deployed apps that fit their business requirements AND made their vendors more efficient, accurate and their transactions visible.  The vendor’s employees needed to use the various apps to perform their work for Bakers.  So it all comes down to the scope of what our customer is trying to achieve.

Can you describe the steps and timeframe required to implement the working prototype along with any additional tools that may be required?
The Work Plan outlined above provides a reference to the steps.  The scope of the project will decide the number of Design Workshops and the timeframe unique to their specific needs. After a Design Workshop, sometimes within 48 hours, the prototype solution is in the hands of the customer.  Toyota got their first ‘version’ within about 90 minutes.  Owens & Minor included a Kaizen with swim lanes for 2 and a half days.  We delivered the first and ultimately final prototype the next day.  Bakers took longer because of the scope and outside ‘vendor’ involvement in the deployment of the apps.  So again, it depends.

There are no additional tools required.  Our solutions run on any laptop, tablet or phone that has a browser and can access the secure cloud server.  Since most prototypes are run on our cloud server, all they need is access to the internet.  We built our application to be 100% agnostic.  Regardless of the SOR, operating systems, form factors, etc….we’ve collapsed all of the barriers to innovation.

What is the timeframe that your customers normally realize a return?
The return is usually immediate – within days.  The break-even point of their investment is often less than 2 months.  Determining factors are scope and the ‘value’ that the customer can achieve.  The 3PL mentioned earlier justified the decision based upon a 5% gain in productivity.  We will beat that by up to a factor of 10.  That’s the purpose of the prototype.  Not only to have a friction-free solution quickly but to measure the actual results in real time.  In fact as part of the prototype we build a cost model of their current operation so that we have a way to understand the opportunity and the results.  If a prototype isn’t successful and achieve the goals we either adjust the approach or abandon the prototype entirely.  Because we do not interfere with the SOR or current operations this is a ‘no harm – no foul’ situation.

What is required to roll out the prototype to a larger group of partners?
Scope dictates roll out.  The apps created are scalable down to a single person performing one function/process.  As a large scale example let’s use the Bakers project for Vendor Collaboration.  We have turned their project into a ‘pre-built’ product called InboundCSC.  If a new customer wanted that functionality we could have one of their vendors executing a single PO in a week.  BabbleWare advocates isolating the SOR and never requires a forced cut over or ‘go live’ date.  Our apps run in parallel to existing systems and more users and volume can be added as need and opportunity dictate.  BabbleWare trains and supports all of the users of any of our apps.  However, even that is fast.  Users generally require virtually no training and minimal support.  The apps are almost self-explanatory. 

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this discussion -

 

Do you utilize prototyping in your supply chain partner program?

How would you implement a prototyping framework to help with your program to implement a collaborative framework? 

Have you thought, about or begun to identify, all of the types of interaction with your vendors to help identify how to begin a collaborative partner framework implementation program?

I will return now to my previous discussion topic regarding building the collaborative network for your extended supply chain.  In this installment I will begin discussing a little more regarding strategic activities and developing your program to build out the framework and capabilities to support and grow a robust collaborative network for your extended supply chain.  This is based on the assumption that you have developed a strategy and are starting the program to develop a collaborative network framework.  A key ingredient to the success of your program is to honestly evaluation the current capabilities of your partners and how they can be related to your current, and future planned capabilities.

 

I’ve mentioned in previous discussions that you should group your partners by capabilities and then relate your partner capabilities back to your own internal capabilities.  The objective of this evaluation is to identify and understand your capabilities alignment with external partners.  This can then be used to identify potential revisions to align your internal framework to your external partners’ frameworks.

 

This is an important exercise in helping to determine your need for an additional partnership layer to align and connect your external partners’ frameworks with your internal framework.  This additional partnership layer is important because it can provide an ‘insulating’ layer with your external partners and eliminate the potential need to develop custom integration points.  My suggestion is to develop an integration layer with your external partners that can be eventually eliminated by improvements to your internal collaborative framework.

 

I also suggest performing an additional evaluation and comparison related to how your partner capabilities line up with your long term plan for your internal capabilities.  This is one of the key steps, or activities, you should perform to identify how you can reach your long term vision for your extended supply chain collaborative network.  It is critical to identify your partners’ capabilities so that you can align those capabilities and potential relationships with your own roadmap of capabilities and plans for delivering your extended supply chain collaborative network.  This exercise must be performed as a combined exercise with your partners in your extended supply chain.  After all in order to develop a collaborative network you must collaborate with you partners to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship.  This can be a very valuable exercise in developing these relationships and also developing a robust and flexible framework to support these relationships.

 

Your partner capabilities evaluation should also include the type of culture each partner provides in the relationship; I suggest rating the types of culture on a continuum between ‘technology followers’ to ‘technology innovators’ with variations between the two.  This is also something that should be discussed with your partners, in addition I would suggest discussion your partners’ rating of your own capabilities.  This exercise will provide you with something of a confidence factor or a validation option to ensure that your program objectives, benefits and schedule are attainable throughout the life cycle, or implementation cycle of your program and that you have aligned the partners capabilities with achieving these objectives. 

 

In closing there is one activity that I want to highlight as one of critical importance to the success of your extended supply chain collaborative network program.  This is the continuous improvement process.  The underlying nature and framework of your collaborative network is the directive for meeting continuously changing collaborative objectives.  Collaboration by its very nature can encourage ‘mutations’ that must be embraced.  In order to achieve and maintain this collaborative culture you must implement the continuous improvement process in order to institutionalize the change process in your culture!

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

 

Have you embarked on a program to implement a collaborative framework in your extended supply chain?  How do you relate to the activities I’ve outlined?

 

Are you currently engaged with a value added network that can help with the integration layer and on-boarding partners to your collaborative network?

 

Are you currently engaged with a third party logistics provider that can support your efforts in this program?

A surprising thing happened yesterday on the way to the election results, fact based analysis was validated, again, especially as it relates to the political election and campaigning process.  In fact, at the bitter end it was almost comical to watch as some ‘very smart’ people were going through the denial of the facts.  So what does that tell us in regards to our day-to-day lives and activities in our professional lives?  Well I suggest it proves, again, the simple concept that facts matter, and math matters.  Each time and each new challenge goes towards validating these concepts; the sad thing is that we have to go through this process each time a new player or business practice gets involved.

 

On the bright side, we don’t have to go back to the drawing board and change our methods, or add conditional logic to our analyses.  The sad part is that we are compelled to continuously re-prove the validity of fact based analysis and even math in some cases.  In the last eight years and two presidential elections, the winner has utilized the same analysis based on granular data collection methods and procedures that follow the same methods utilized in standard marketing and customer analysis, or work load analysis and continuous improvement programs.

 

On the down side, each time we go through a validation of the concepts we lose a little more mystery and ‘magic’.  This can reduce or eliminate the excitement of discovery but I believe it increases the satisfaction of addressing what may have been previously believed to be a unchangeable fact.  The challenge we should focus on now is the challenge of identifying the important facts that guide a process and the satisfaction of implementing a process to measure and identify improvements to the process.

 

One of the arguments that are described as a downside of this fact based analysis practice is that it removes the personal touch from your activities.  I think that is an incorrect argument and does not view the challenge or practice from the appropriate viewpoint, or perspective.  I would turn that argument on its head and into a positive and strong benefit to implementing this practice.  Namely, I believe that this practice allows your organization to identify and then focus on the activities that will reduce the redundancies and allow you to focus on the activities that improve your relationships with your customers or partners.  In these times of increased focus on improved productivity we must identify methods that will allow us to improve productivity and yet not lose the ability to develop a personal relationship with our customers and partners.  I believe that the difference between developing and maintaining long term customer and partner relationships is the ability to develop a personal relationship.  These facts based analytical technologies and practices provide us with the methods and tools to indentify and quantify the activities of most importance to our customers and partners so that we can focus our attention in those areas.  While this may remove the art, or magic, from developing a successful relationship it will allow us to improve and grow the personal relationships as a result of our focus on the customers’ ‘hot buttons’.

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

 

I am very interested in extending this discussion and gaining a better understanding of how we can learn from the election season to improve our fact based analysis practices in the business world.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been thinking about the importance of fact based analysis as it relates to our professional lives, the extended supply chain and in recognition of the season (election year), political analysis.  Its taken quite a while but some key realizations and factors have lined up and I thought I would throw out my thoughts as a salute to the election season.  I have come to think of this exercise as my attempt to maintain grounding in reality and facts during this crazy election climate.

 

I’ve come to realize that political analysis and ‘punditry’ may be on the cusp of some major changes and reevaluation of practices and principles.  The reason for this is a common practice to focus on ‘gut’ reactions and ignore facts that may not fit nicely in your own world-view.  My own ‘ah-ha’ moment came recently when I came to realize that many business practices have only recently moved into a more fact based analysis as a result of major changes in practices and principles in key business areas.  Based on this I am able to listen to the political commentary and relate to the potential upheaval that is coming in the political practice.  We are starting to see now the early adopters apply the fact based analysis and social tools that have been developed in the e-Commerce practices.  If you listen to the interviews and explanations from the early adopters you will hear the same phrases you hear in SEO or social practices.

 

This topic is a particular ‘hot button’ for me and I’ve completely accepted and become a cheer leader for fact based analysis in all of my endeavors.  I strongly believe, and preach, that there is nothing more important than the identification, collection, analysis and measurement of the key data points related to any business function.  In fact I encourage people to combine fact based analysis with continuous improvement practices in order to identify and adjust to changes in your key data.    The operations and extended supply chain practices are major adopters of these practices, clearly because of the engineering practices and methodology.  It is also a natural part of an effective continuous improvement program.  I think the marketing practice was close to follow and was quick to embrace the potential opportunities once they understood the potential, and it became reasonable to collect the data at a granular enough level to perform the necessary analyses.

 

In fact, I think that the best comparison of the practice of political analysis is marketing analysis practices.  Marketing and product advertising is directly relatable between laundry detergent and politicians running for office.  The objective is to get people to believe that your product will make the consumers’ lives better whether it’s a politician or laundry detergent!   So, to me it is a logical comparison and relationship to use the same fact based analysis whether it is for consumer goods, or political office.  I would suggest that anyone living in a swing state would be able to relate to this comparison, especially as you’re watching the never ending political advertising.  If anything, I would suggest that consumers would welcome a little more truth in advertising from all political advertising!

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

 

I am very interested in extending this discussion and gaining a better understanding of how we can learn from the election season to improve our fact based analysis practices in the business world.

In this discussion I will continue my review of the three types of benefits that can be used to justify a new initiative, or program;

-          Hard benefits – these can be grouped into cost savings types of benefits that deliver cost reductions directly to the bottom line, or sales increases which will deliver additional profits.

-          Soft benefits – these can be grouped into categories that provide improvements in working conditions, coordination or communication.  They could provide financial benefits but they are generally so minor as to not be measurable.

-          Compliance, or Legal – these can also be defined as a cost of doing business based on legal or regulatory requirements.

 

In this discussion I will cover the types of compliance benefits that you may be able to document as additional justification after your hard and soft benefits for building a collaborative network to support and extend your extended supply chain.  The strength of the compliance benefits for any project is that they can be used to justify executing the project without hard benefits actually providing a return on investment.  In some instances the compliance type benefits can also be referred to as a ‘cost of doing business’.  The compliance benefits, or requirements, can justify the project because if you did not meet the requirement, there is a very real risk that your business can be heavily fined or in a worst case scenario actually be forced out of existence.

 

The compliance benefits, or requirements, can be grouped into categories based on the ‘type’ of compliance; regulatory, these are the legal requirements to meet laws or regulations; audit compliance, these are the business management and financial audit requirements; business continuity requirements, these are the requirements that put procedures in place to ensure the business can weather negative risks and events to the business such as hardware and software outages due to various natural or business events.

 

I’ll start with additional discussion on the business continuity requirements.  Considering the events with hurricane Sandy in the U.S. over the last couple of weeks I would think this is another example for the necessity in addressing business continuity.  This is a requirement that any business must take seriously and must review on a regular basis.  I saw a report in the news recently that $1 spend on risk avoidance can save $4 in a disaster recovery.  That is a serious and a very cost conscious reason for taking the business continuity requirements in regard to disasters seriously.  The business continuity and risk management requirements must be taken very seriously, and continuously, within your extended supply chain and partners.  There are two areas where significant impact can be applied; natural disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earth quakes; political impacts can also result in significant impact.  So, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a regular program to review your business continuity requirements.

 

Next in order of significance would be regulatory or legal compliance requirements.  These are divided into two major areas, or types; domestic and international.  These are also significant for your extended supply chain and partners.  These requirements are focused in domestic regulations and international trade compliance regulations.  In addition, they are continuous and in many cases increasing on an annual basis.

 

The third type I will cover is the audit or business management and controls type of requirements.  These types of requirements, while important in maintaining the business, are less significant than the other requirements.  These requirements also more often than not, would be fed by the results of the extended supply chain business operations however so they must be addressed and maintained.

 

Now for the audience participation portion of this program…….

 

Have you identified your key suppliers from both a product perspective and the transportation services perspective?

 

Have you evaluated your extended supply chain from a functional cost perspective?

 

What are the key compliance requirements you are struggling with?  Considering the recent natural disaster event involving hurricane Sandy, how are your positioned to ‘weather’ a natural disaster?