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2013

In my last entry I discussed developing your  ‘in person’ based network of professional contacts, especially in your local area.  As I mentioned in my previous entries you should focus on developing strong ‘in person’ professional relationships with business professionals in your local area.  I reflected how this particular networking tripod leg will challenge and help you to develop your interpersonal skills.  The in person networking will also help you to strengthen and extend your technology based professional network.  Your in person networking will provide the local contacts that will help you to develop your local career support network also. 

 

 

I will also continue to remind you - Take some time before joining a new community to identify the value that you will both gain and provide to the community by joining.  Remember that in order to gain and provide value you must participate, so my advice regarding this is to periodically review the sites to which you are a member to reevaluate the value of the network including the level of participation you are able to maintain.

 

 

In my final entry in this series I will cover the importance of developing your industry and professional organization network to round out your professional networking.  Your industry and professional organizations network will provide a basis for developing your career.  Your industry and professional organization network will also provide you an opportunity to learn more about your industry and also provides an opportunity to participate and even shape your industry through active participation in these organizations.  This is where your networking skills will really come together to provide the greatest benefits across your network.  I’ve had the best experience in my network from both a growth and benefits perspective by focusing on local professional networks.  This allows you to more easily participate and build strong and lasting relationships to support your network and encourage your network in supporting your professional growth. 


As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had very positive experiences and growth potential that developed from my active participation in local industry and professional organizations.  I have developed strong relationships that continue to this day after many years.  Even moving away from the cities where I developed these relationships has not weakened the relationships, in fact these relationships remain just as strong even considering the time and distance since they were first developed.  The local professional organizations provided a ‘safe’ environment to grow in the professional community and also my develop presentation and networking skills.


Ten years ago I started to use LinkedIn to build a network and I will be the first to admit that I did not place much credence in the strength of that network.  Now I have reached a point where my professional network is growing organically at a dramatic pace and I’ve become more discerning in my network selections because I realized that in order to generate the greatest value and benefits across my professional network I must focus on providing value to this network and this takes time to achieve the greatest value.


I hope that you have realized from this series of discussions that you must utilize all three networking methods in order to develop the strongest and most valuable professional network.  My advice remains the same, be very careful in your networking selections and connections in order to build the greatest value.  Another piece of advice that I recently fully understand the value is the willingness to change and drop associations when they no longer provide value or meet your needs.  Remember - the other partners and groups in your network are changing and growing in the same manner as you are changing and growing in your career and it is foolish to think that everything will remain the same forever!


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


Do you have a professional network strategy and do you maintain your professional network on a regular basis?


Do you regularly attend professional networking events or conferences?  Do you have a strategy to develop and maintain your professional network while attending these events?


What kind of benefits do you achieve from your professional network?  Do you consider your professional network to be collaborative?

In my last entry I discussed the technology based networking tools as a basis to grow and expand your own professional network.  In that entry I discussed the importance of these tools to provide a great method along with the necessary tools to support your professional networking in a broad spectrum.  These types of tools provide you the ability to expand your network globally and I also think one of the key strengths of these tools is the asynchronous communication method; this is critical to allow you to network globally and not be impacted by the time zones.  Don’t forget my caveat though - Take some time before joining a new community to identify the value that you will both gain and provide to the community by joining.  Remember that in order to gain and provide value you must participate, so my advice regarding this is to periodically review the sites to which you are a member to reevaluate the value of the network including the level of participation you are able to maintain.

 

 

In this entry I will discuss developing your  ‘in person’ based network of professional contacts, especially in your local area.  As I mentioned in my initial entry you should focus on developing strong ‘in person’ professional relationships with business professionals in your local area.  This particular networking tripod leg will challenge and help you to develop your interpersonal skills.  This will also help you to strengthen and extend your technology based professional network.  Your in person networking will provide the local contacts that will help you to develop your local career support network also. 

 

 

I also like to utilize my in person based network to add features and benefits to my professional network.  These additional areas of focus, if you will, are in career development and recruiting.  The in person network allows you keep your fingers on the pulse of your local market needs and allows you to support recruiting needs within your network.  These specific features will help to develop your local reputation and increase your value to your local partners and also increase the interaction within your professional network. 

 

 

The last key feature I like to develop locally in my in person professional network is interaction and support of local industry networks along with professional organizations.  These activities that focus on the industry will allow you to both develop your industry and professional organization contacts along with providing you an outlet for developing your presentation skills and speech making skills.  My advice in this area is to volunteer to support organizational activities including presentations and speeches to support your local professional organizations.  In this case I cannot stress enough the importance of making a deposit prior to a withdrawal - helping support your local professional organizations will provide an incentive for leaders in these organization to think of you first for opportunities both within the organization and your local market.

 

 

Interesting enough I will end with the same advice I gave regarding your technology based networking and that is - Take some time before joining a new group or organization to identify the value that you will both gain and provide to the community by joining.  Remember that in order to gain and provide value you must participate, so periodically review the in person networking activities along with the local professional and industry organizations to which you are a member to reevaluate the value of the network including the level of participation you are able to maintain.

 

 

In my next discussion I will get into a little more detail on the final leg of your professional network tripod.


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


Do you have a professional network strategy and do you maintain your professional network on a regular basis?


Do you regularly attend professional networking events or conferences?  Do you have a strategy to develop and maintain your professional network while attending these events?


What kind of benefits do you achieve from your professional network?  Do you consider your professional network to be collaborative?


As I mentioned in my last entry I am going to start my discussion today with ‘technology based’, or social media, networking.  This was the first leg of the tripod of interaction, development and support of your professional networking activities that I believe is required to develop a robust and mutually beneficial collaborative network.  I will reiterate here that I believe it is extremely important that you focus on a mutually beneficial collaborative network.  Remember the old adage related to developing a relationship; ‘It is important to make a deposit before you make a withdrawal’.  I remember when I first heard this that I thought it was quaint but over the years and as my professional network grows I find that this is a critical foundation concept to developing a mutually beneficial professional network.  This practice of giving before taking, or asking, is the action that encourages your professional network and relationships to grow.


As I said previously ,you must develop your ‘technology based’, or social media, network through LinkedIn and Google+ especially and I would advise you to be very careful about using Facebook for your professional network.  There are many professional networking sites, including the Kinaxis Supply Chain Experts Community, where I hope you are reading this blog.  If you’re anything like me the number of technical professional networking sites to which you belong will ebb and flow as your career progresses.  Experimentation is a good thing in any professional network and I think you will find that there are two considerations that can guide your site selection and participation; What are your objectives for joining a networking site?    What is the level of participation you can focus on the network?  I think answering these questions periodically will help you in maintaining the number of sites in which you participate to a level that is maintainable.  I have found that networking web sites provide me with the capability to maintain and develop personal professional relationships.  I find the asynchronous method of communication, mainly through email (some sites provide an instant messaging, or chat capability) allows me to maintain a ‘conversation’ at a pace that is very maintainable.  I also find it very easy to discover an interesting discussion and begin to participate intelligently, or even start the discussion again, after weeks pass.  This is why I feel these networking web sites are an important leg of the tripod of interaction in your professional networking development and maintenance.


As with any type of networking activity whether personal or professional, you must be careful about the sites you join and especially careful about the number of sites you join.  Before joining a site I take into account many different aspects to the site and these aspects change with each site including; the person that invited me to join, the discussions that are common on the site.  Are there topics or areas of interest to me found on the site?  Will the site provide a social opportunity, or a research opportunity?  I would also advise you to be very careful with the personal focused sites such as Facebook, as I mentioned previously I don’t believe that Facebook is an appropriate site for business or professional networking.  That being said though, Facebook is a very appropriate, and valuable, outlet for developing personal relationships with your business customers. 


I’ll leave you with two pieces of advice that have helped me in my professional networking on web communities.  Take some time before joining a new community to identify the value that you will both gain and provide to the community by joining.  Remember that in order to gain and provide value you must participate, so my advice regarding this is to periodically review the sites to which you are a member to reevaluate the value of the network including the level of participation you are able to maintain.

In my next discussions i will get into a little more detail on the remaining legs of your professional network tripod.


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


Do you have a professional network strategy and do you maintain your professional network on a regular basis?


Do you regularly attend professional networking events or conferences?  Do you have a strategy to develop and maintain your professional network while attending these events?


What kind of benefits do you achieve from your professional network?  Do you consider your professional network to be collaborative?

tbrouill

Your Role In The Future

Posted by tbrouill Mar 23, 2013

After my last post on Future State Organizations I realized that it is easy for me to advise you to stay ahead of the curve, or even create your own curve or niche that will drive the next evolution of the supply chain.  The hard thing is to execute this advice. While I can reiterate that I firmly believe that there is an opportunity to take advantage of these changing times I realize that this advice can be particularly difficult to implement.  I believe that the best way to implement, or institute, a plan is to focus on building a flexible and collaborative extended network of collaborators to develop a mutually beneficial professional network to help you identify and encourage you in your efforts to maintain relevance.


How does this all relate to the supply chain?  Well, a supply chain also can be viewed as a growing and changing entity whose needs and interests will also grow and change.  So the trick here is; how do you learn to grow and change to support your career growth?  I will say this; and as I’ve said in the past; these types of changes will only increase in velocity and impact on the supply chain.  You must develop a flexible and resourceful supply chain in order to take advantage and drive the change, rather than being driven by the change.


Just as you invest in your supply chain and your extended partners to develop a robust and mutually beneficial collaborative extended supply chain network, you must also invest in your professional network to develop a similarly robust and mutually beneficial and collaborative professional network.  In developing your own professional network you must focus on three areas;

  • You must develop your ‘technology based’, or social media, network through LinkedIn and Google+ especially and I would advise you to be very careful about using Facebook for your professional network.  While Facebook can be great for your personal network I do not advise you to utilize Facebook too much for your professional network.  I would suggest that you create a Facebook page for your professional networking and completely segregate your professional network from your personal Facebook page.
  • You must develop your ‘in person’ based network of professional contacts, especially in your local area.  You should focus on developing strong ‘in person’ professional relationships with business professionals in your local area. 
  • You must develop your ‘in person’ industry network of professional contacts.  This can be achieved through attendance at conferences and training programs.


These three areas of focus provide the tripod of interaction to help you to develop a robust and mutually beneficial and collaborative professional network.  Each leg of the tripod supports two functions; one is the growth of your professional network and the second is the support of the other two legs in your tripod.  Each leg of the tripod also supports a means of collaboration with your professional network to continuously communicate, share and support the other members of your professional network.


In my next discussions i will get into a little more detail with each of the legs of your professional network tripod.


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


Do you have a professional network strategy and do you maintain your professional network on a regular basis?


Do you regularly attend professional networking events or conferences?  Do you have a strategy to develop and maintain your professional network while attending these events?


What kind of benefits do you achieve from your professional network?  Do you consider your professional network to be collaborative?


In my recent discussion regarding the business impacts of the economy I covered an business challenge that I felt was the result of the recessions.  It was about many company’s tendencies to depend on single suppliers.  My belief is that this is the result of cost reduction efforts, including job elimination that were driven by the recession.  My theory is that due to job elimination in companies as the result of the recession that the remaining staff were focused on the ‘keep the lights on’ activities and maintaining their day to day activities and did not have the time to perform the detailed analysis required to manage and maintain a robust vendor relationship.  It may have been a little early to validate my theory but I believe that there is a direct relationship to an earlier theory I discussed relating to the development of a community of consultants with the skills and experience to design and deliver major business initiatives.  I thought this would be a good opportunity to review that theory and show the relationship.


These two theories are, I believe, are  two sides of the same  coin  and directly related to each other.  So I guess the question is - where do we go from here and how do we address these challenges?


In another discussion the person presented a very interesting theory that I thought described one of the causes very well, he said ‘It come down to a company as it grows, loses its vision, morals and memory of history while succumbing to the pressures created by investors. A small business, family owned with no investors is more likely to cut management or owner profits to keep workers, out of loyalty to workers who made past success possible.’

Now the simple fact of the matter is that everyone can’t work for a small business, as much as we might like, so that means that we must take responsibility for our own career and well being.  We must recognize the fact that we must identify what it is that interests us and then we must identify the method that we can achieve, and maintain, that interest.  You must also recognize the fact that your interests will very likely change over time and you should be prepared, and vigilant to identify those changes so that you can take the steps to meet your changing interests.


How does this all relate to the supply chain?  Well, a supply chain also can be viewed as a growing and changing entity who’s needs and interests will also grow and change.  So the trick here is; how do you stay ahead of the curve, or better yet, how do you create your own curve or niche that will drive the next evolution of the supply chain.  I will say this; I firmly believe that there is an opportunity to take advantage of these changing time and as I’ve said in the past; these types of changes will only increase in velocity and impact on the supply chain.  You must focus on building a flexible and collaborative supply chain in order to take advantage and drive the change rather than being driven by the change.


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


Have you thought about the challenges that have manifested themselves as a result of staff reductions?


Are there any additional activities within your organization that have been shorted due to a reduction in the ability to support the business? 


Have you thought about how you can take advantage of the changes in the marketplace?

Collaboration is quite a popular topic on many discussion boards these days and there seems to be a few standard trains of thought that appear over and over in the discussions.  There are people who see the opportunities and have begun to build collaboration networks, I refer to these individuals as possessing wild exuberance.  There are people who are tepid about the opportunities, these people who are willing to experiment with the collaborative network in a limited manner and willing to give teh collaborative network the benefit of the doubt.  There are people who are steadfast in the need to maintain control and see the collaborative network as a costly and the hurdles to achieving benefits almost overwhelming.


I think that anyone that has followed my past discussions  would have  guessed that  I am solidly in the camp of the exuberantly supportive of building strong and extended supply chain collaborative networks. In fact I think its safe to say that I would push the lines of expectations and the extent of the collaborative network.  I must say though that after following so many discussions on collaboration that call out the concerns and risks I can understand some of the hesitation people display towards collaborative networks.   I’ve come to realize that there are some valuable points in the hesitant responses and I realize that you shouldn’t discount something simply because it  doesn’t comply with your views.  The hesitation can be healthy and the cause of the uneasiness should be evaluated and addressed as risks to the success of your collaboration initiative.   I realize that it is a good idea to document the risks so that you can develop responses and mitigation plans.  Exuberance can provide the drive to start, along with the drive to carry you over the finish line, but risk mitigation can provide the insurance for a successful initiative. One of the most important capabilities that you must focus on for the success of your initiative is permanently collecting intelligence.


One point that I believe is essential to the success of a collaboration initiative is a strategy of inclusion I believe that the difference between great success and mediocre non-failure is a strategy of inclusion. The scary part of this  strategy of inclusion is that it requires you give up a modicum of control.  This is where my exuberant support comes to bare and pushes me to take that leap.  I think now that in order to limit risk and increase the likelihood of success of your initiative you must have involvement and support of a cross section of personalities and viewpoints to help identify the challenges and risks but more importantly to encourage the team to take that leap of faith to achieve the results and mutual benefits that a successful collaborative initiative can deliver.  In order for your initiative to be successful you must focus on the cross functional leadership along with a vision to provide direction and drive, persistence in following your strategy and consistency in goals and objectives.


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


Have you thought about the challenges that have manifested themselves as a result of staff reductions?


Are there any additional activities within your organization that have been shorted due to a reduction in the ability to support the business? 

I’ve written in the past about the impact of the Great Recession on the supply chain and especially the impact on the knowledge base within organizations as a result of reductions in spending.  My basic proposal, along with my very strong belief, is that as a result of the dramatic reductions in demand caused by the Great Recession, organizations reduced staff levels pretty much across the organization. These reductions in staffing may have allowed organizations to weather the worst of the Great Recession but these reductions also dramatically limited the organizations ability to support the demand since the economic demand has been slowly returning.  In addition to limiting the ability to support new demand, the reductions in staff caused two additional challenges;

  • An increase in the level of effort required of the remaining staff to support the demand.
  • A dramatic reduction in the knowledge of the staff and the available of the time to support new functionality and analyze how to support the business. 


My hypothesis is that organizations cut into the bone in cutting staff and as a result would not be able to support the growth after the recession.  This lead to my proposal that outsourcing and operational business consulting would grow and become the operative model supporting organizational initiatives in the future.  Early on during the recession, in the 2009 timeframe, this hypothesis gained acceptance and I think has become a common practice within many organizations.  This has also become a positive influence and produced dramatic growth in both the consulting market along with the Third Party Logistics market.  The pretense, and common mantra heard regularly now is; focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. 


This brings me to the reason that I am bringing this up again.  Recently I saw a discussion on the impact and risk of single supplier relationships on a supply chain.  As I was reading I saw many points and factors that I realized were related to and resulting from the staff and cost cutting measures from the Great Recession.  In this case, the impact on organizations of the cuts is that the existing staff within organizations are working as hard as they can, including additional hours, to support the slow growth in demand.  This results in the staff having less time and even less opportunity to thoughtfully evaluate the performance of their supplier structure, the risk to the organization of supplier failures or more likely supplier and supplies interruptions on their organizations. 


I discussed this point with the author of the discussion and we both realized, and agreed, that this reduction in the use of multiple suppliers was most probably the result of the reductions in staff as a result of the cost cutting performed in 2008/2009.  We are entering into another opportunity for consulting and Third Party Logistics providers to expand their services and solutions to support the needs of many organizations and provide solutions for these challenges.  In other words I think that we are entering into a new pattern of services growth along with new outsourcing services.  I will also be the first to say that we must be very careful and prepared for the changes that will be necessary to support these services; there must be an expectation of analysis and experimentation to identify the appropriate services and solutions to these challenges.


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


Have you thought about the challenges that have manifested themselves as a result of staff reductions?


Are there any additional activities within your organization that have been shorted due to a reduction in the ability to support the business? 

tbrouill

Visibility In The Ocean

Posted by tbrouill Mar 16, 2013

Visibility in your extended supply chain can be a nebulous effort that can turn into an unending effort providing limited to negative benefits.  While a well coordinated and focused visibility initiative can bring about huge benefits, if you are not careful you can just as easily be involved in an initiative that never brings benefits.  I think that a visibility initiative focused on your extended supply chain can be a ‘blue ocean’ strategic initiative.  On the other hand a blue ocean strategy does not mean that you should try to boil the ocean with your initiative.


I think that the opportunities that can be provided by a strong and imaginative visibility initiative are almost boundless.  I think that the visibility potential has only scratched the surface of the opportunities.  You also must be careful that you don’t get overwhelmed by the potential opportunities, remember the operative word in BI is ‘Intelligence’, so as I’ve said in the past, your objective is to create intelligence, or knowledge.  Start with something small that can provide a foundation for the future, start with something that requires support from your partners and will also provide benefits to both your partners and your own organization, remember a blue ocean strategy does not require that you boil the ocean.  Now that you’ve decided that visibility can be a strategic advantage to your extended supply chain and that visibility will provide mutual benefits to all of your participating partners, and you’ve also realized that there is a potential for developing a highly beneficial blue ocean strategy, so where do you start?


I think that the best way to develop a blue ocean strategy is to not start out to develop a blue ocean strategy, focus on the identification of benefits and the development of knowledge and I think you will be surprised how quickly the strategy and mission can be defined.  A piece of advice here, don’t be greedy and don’t be selfish, especially in the initial phases of your visibility initiative.  It would be best, I think, to build a mutually beneficial first step that may even provide more benefits to your partners than to yourself, remember the old networking adage - in order to make a withdrawal you must first make a deposit.  In the initial phase of your visibility initiative you should try to focus on an objective that provides benefits to your partners.


Start with discussing your thoughts and direction with your partners in your extended supply chain.  Start with developing the key objectives with your partners in your extended supply chain.  Start with a focus on developing knowledge that will benefit your extended supply chain.  Most of all start with expecting the best of your partners and I think you will find that your partners may surprise you.


I think that a strategic visibility initiative encompassing your extended supply chain can be a game changing initiative driving huge benefits to yourself and all partners in your extended supply chain.  It is important to reiterate again that you must strive to maintain focus and don’t fall into the trap of trying to boil the ocean, your objective in this initiative should be creating knowledge from the vast and varied amounts of data that is available across your extended supply chain. 


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


Have you thought about developing a shared definition of visibility across your extended supply chain?


What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

tbrouill

Visibility Viewpoints

Posted by tbrouill Mar 14, 2013

In this discussion I will cover some of my key viewpoints regarding visibility.  There are probably as many definitions of visibility as there are people discussing visibility.  All of these discussions are very important and help to define the objectives for your extended supply chain.  Speaking of your extended supply chain, it is critical that any discussion of visibility be viewed and discussed from the perspective of your partners in your extended supply chain as one of your base requirements.  While you can achieve a great deal of value from defining and achieving an increased level of visibility within your own organization, you cannot hope to achieve significant value without a focus on your extended supply chain.


So, I want to add some additional clarification to this discussion.  I do not consider visibility to be a business process improvement exercise.  Although you can definitely increase your visibility as a result of improving your business process, improved visibility is by no means tied to a business process improvement exercise.  I view visibility improvement as an exercise in creating knowledge from the data that you have available from your operational systems, your supplier performance, your extended supply chain capabilities and also the supply chain event management and tracking.  I believe that you must include your extended supply chain and you partners involved in your extended supply chain in order to develop the greatest value in knowledge.  As you increase your knowledge you will also increase the capabilities of your extended supply chain along with the value developed and returned through the improved capabilities provided through your extended supply chain.


Knowledge provided by the improved visibility will only be limited by the acceptance and collaboration of your partners in your extended supply chain.  You must have information to develop knowledge and the information must encompass the full realm of your extended supply chain in order to develop the highest value knowledge.  I think the place to start developing this visibility is in tracing and tracking the progress of your product through the supply chain; ideally you should develop the ability to trace the progress of your product from the delivery of the raw materials to the factory, all the way to the store shelves.  Eventually you will also want to extend the tracing capability to include customer returns along with a reason for the returns.  All of these data points will provide you with the metrics to understand the sequence, pinch points and both real and perceived quality of the product you provide to your customers.  This knowledge will provide value to each partner in your supply chain.  You can understand timing and the product life cycle in a more meaningful manner that will allow you to experiment with product life cycles, raw material, factory locations and also help you to better understand and improve your extended supply chain capabilities.


I think you will find that the beauty of this type initiative is that as you develop a greater level of visibility and knowledge of your supply chain this increase in knowledge will identify new areas of focus to build on the visibility capabilities that drive increased knowledge.  Remember, visibility is a building block to knowledge and your initiative to increase visibility will only provide value as you increase knowledge.


It is important to reiterate again that you must strive to maintain focus and don’t fall into the trap of trying to boil the ocean, your objective in this initiative should be creating knowledge from the vast and varied amounts of data that is available across your extended supply chain. 


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


Have you thought about developing a shared definition of visibility across your extended supply chain?


What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

tbrouill

Tower Of Babel Unwound

Posted by tbrouill Mar 12, 2013

So I’ve been discussing the challenges and risks that have come about and formed a Tower of Babel challenge in communication and collaboration that can threaten the success of your extended supply chain.  I don’t want to leave the wrong impression, however because this is not an insurmountable challenge.  This challenge can be met, as with so many business challenges, through focus, careful analysis and planning to deliver a strategy that supports the objectives of both your internal business partners and external supply chain partner.  The ‘trick’ is the ‘careful planning and analysis’!


I think that I have spoken in depth a few times regarding the ‘careful planning’ activities and so I will not focus on that too much.  I will leave it to say that careful planning will have a huge impact and can certainly make the difference between success and failure.  This type of initiative will be greatly impacted by your thoughtful and careful implementation of the planning and program management methodology that is required to be successful in any initiative.  I think that anyone that has followed my discussions will understand the importance that I place on the careful planning aspect in a successful strategy implementation initiative.  So while I am not spending a lot of time now on that aspect you must remember and understand that I still place a great deal of importance on the ‘careful planning’ aspect of this initiative.


This time I think it is critical to discuss the importance of the ‘analysis’ aspect of this initiative, along with the complexity that is involved with this type of analysis.  Careful analysis that involves your key external supply chain partners is critical to the ability to provide value.  This is where you will unwind the Tower of Babel.  Remember the Tower of Babel is a story about how the most magnificent structure known to man at the time floundered and failed because the parties building this structure could no longer communicate.  So in order to unwind the Tower of Babel syndrome you must focus on communication between and across your extended supply chain partner with a goal of delivering mutually beneficial value to all members of your extended supply chain. 


I believe that in order to unwind this Tower of Babel, you must come to a common language and understanding along with a common set of objectives that provide mutually beneficial value to all partners of your extended supply chain partners.  So where does this start?  I suggest that you start with the identification and agreement of the key data point that will provide a common language and understanding.  These would include such information as a definition of the ‘perfect order’ that can be accepted and measured by all partners.  Additional points to include in the objectives are the key events that you will use to measure progress of shipments, I would also add product quality metrics along with reverse logistics metrics.  In fact I think that reverse logistics could be the next big opportunity in driving value into the extended supply chain, you must however identify the key metrics that provide meaning and value to the extended supply chain. 


Don’t fall into the trap of trying to boil the ocean, your objective in this initiative should be creating knowledge from the vast and varied amounts of data that is available across your extended supply chain. 


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


Have you thought about developing a shared definition of visibility across your extended supply chain?


What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

In my last discussion I covered an introduction to my thought and general suggestions related to Big Data in the extended supply chain and I described this as a Tower of Babel.  This is because of the tendency to use the same words and phrases when discussing something such as visibility with your partners in the extended supply chain but talking at odds because each partners has a different meaning for the words and phrases, creating a Tower of Babel in the extended supply chain.  Obviously data, no matter how big, can solve this.  However intelligence and understanding the data and then sharing that understanding can solve the problem.  This is an extremely complicated challenge though that will require a great deal of thought and planning in order to unlock the benefits.


I have come to the realization that the ‘secret sauce’ to unlocking the value and the business benefits may be something as simple as collaboration across your extended supply chain.  The concept behind the Tower of Babel is that the information is available and your partners are actually utilizing the information in their operation, but the information means something different to the other partners in the supply chain.  Based on this concept then I would suggest that there is no amount of data and no amount of analysis of this data that would provide value across the extended supply chain.  This is where collaboration comes into the equation, collaboration can provide the contextual information to bring knowledge, and value to the data that is available. 


There is much information available across your extended supply chain and it is important for you to make a thoughtful evaluation to identify the aspects and information that are the most valuable to your organization and extended supply chain.  You must start thinking of your extended supply chain as an ecosystem that must be nurtured in order to flourish.  This ecosystem concept is where the collaboration aspect comes into play.  Think about the data as the foundation and the bricks of the tower, then the collaboration is the mortar that locks the bricks together to form the building that provides the value to the community and the ecosystem.  The stronger the collaboration, the stronger the mortar holding the bricks together in your tower.


I know this all sounds great and you’re anxious to start on your own program.  I don’t, however, want to over simplify the magnitude of this effort.  First you must identify the data that is important from the internal aspect and the external partner aspect, there will be data that is important both internally and externally but for different reasons.  Then you must come to an agreement across the extended supply chain regarding a shared definition of the data.  These activities are challenging enough but then you must add to this the effort to evaluate the complicated and large volumes of data across the extended supply chain, in other words you must bring meaning to words and numbers that bring value to the extended supply chain.  This will be one of the greatest and potentially the most rewarding initiatives you can accomplish. 


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


Have you thought about developing a shared definition of visibility across your extended supply chain?


What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

tbrouill

Tower Of Babel

Posted by tbrouill Mar 5, 2013

I promised to spend some time in this series with a discussion on visibility and the information and types of information that should be important in providing the visibility.  This is what I would refer to as the Tower of Babel in my series on visibility and Big Data.  From discussions and other articles in industry outlets I’ve come to a realization that we are all using the same words in discussing very different things, this is where I came to the realization that we are seem to be building a Tower of Babel with much of our Big Data discussions and actions.  These challenges are being exacerbated by the additional partners added to the extended supply chain over the years.  These additions and lengthening of the supply chain in general has resulted in a lack of visibility that has been expanding over the years.


Another challenge adding to the lack of visibility across the extended supply chain is the increased level of outsourcing and dramatic expansions of outsourcing in the extended supply chain especially as a result of the recession.  The drive to reduce costs has increased the level of outsourcing throughout the extended supply chain, resulting in a reduction in visibility.  This comes as a result of a single minded focus on cost reductions and losing sight of the total cost involved in the product development and delivery from raw materials to the consumer’s table.  This has been especially costly and the resolution and priority of improving the visibility across the supply chain has come as a result of recent failures especially due to natural disasters in the extended supply chain.  I find this outcome especially interesting because it highlight one of the very important aspects of visibility and that is the total cost of products from the raw material to the consumers’ table.  This highlights what seems to be a global market life cycle; chasing one aspect of manufacturing savings around the world without taking into account the total cost aspect.  I am coming to believe that this is the result of a lack of patience to investigate the challenges and also a lack of data, or more accurately a lack of knowledge in analyzing the global capabilities, risks and costs. 


This challenge in capabilities is manifested as the Tower of Babel that I refer to in my discussions.  First I think we must come to a common definition of the data.  I would focus on demand volumes based on product sales, production capabilities including the production volumes and product quality, supply chain capabilities and durations and last but not least the total cost of your supply chain from the raw materials to the consumers’ table.  All of this information must be fully defined as to what is the expectation and then ensure that everyone in your supply chain understands the definitions.  This exercise will also feed into and strengthen your collaboration across your extended supply chain.


I am putting these suggestions out for you to evaluate and define the details and level of importance as they relate to your individual extended supply chain.  There is much information in these areas available and it is important for you to make a thoughtful evaluation to identify the aspects and information that are the most valuable to your organization and extended supply chain.  You must start thinking of your extended supply chain as an ecosystem that must be nurtured in order to flourish.


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


Have you thought about developing a shared definition of visibility across your extended supply chain?


What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

tbrouill

Crack The Code

Posted by tbrouill Mar 3, 2013

Previously I spoke about a ‘Tower of Babel’ challenge to a successful visibility initiative.  I think at this point it is also very important to mention that there is a similar, or even matching challenge, with collaboration in your extended supply chain.  In fact, I think that these two concepts, visibility and collaboration, are two sides of the same coin.  There is a growing need in the extended supply chain for two critical things; visibility and the collaborative ability of the partners throughout your extended supply chain.  Fortunately these two things have a symbiotic relationship and support each other, almost in a ‘chicken or the egg’ type of relationship.  There is a growing hunger in my discussions’ area of focus; the extended supply chain, for visibility to support the operation and efficient flow of goods.  In addition there is a growing understanding that is driving the need for improved collaboration especially in the extended supply chain.


In the past, the organization (purchaser, wholesaler, manufacturer) identified the information internally that they deemed as critical to supporting their operations.  Much of this information was collected through integration with their direct partners in the form of purchase orders, invoices, advanced ship notices, etc, utilizing EDI transactions via either a direct connection or through EDI Value Added Networks.  This provided each organization with a pool of information they were able to utilize to help manage their internal operation, forecast the volume and schedule of shipments planned for each of their facilities and then electronically pay for the product.  Over time this data need expanded to include individual purchasing organizations providing suppliers and manufacturers with their forecast inventory needs to improve the timely supply of their inventory needs.  So, in the past, visibility could be defined as the product and shipment information describing the flow of the product from the supplier and/or wholesaler to the purchasing organization.


That information was able to fill the needs of the individuals in the extended supply chain for a long time.  We have reached a point now, however, where the extended supply chain demands an increase in the information, and visibility of the flow, in the extended supply chain in order to more efficiently manage the inventory from the supplier to the shelves.  This drive for more information, and visibility, is being driven by two key factors; cost and time to delivery.  Now we have reached a point where the visibility of the data updated from each point in the extended supply chain is just not enough to support the needs of the supply chain.  We are at the point now where this information and the visibility provided must be enhanced with collaborative capabilities in order to provide the capabilities and efficiencies necessary to support the growing demands of the extended supply chain. 


This increasing demand for data to support the increasing needs of visibility, along with the increasing demands for collaboration across the extended supply chain is where big data comes into the equation.  This big data brings with it a degree of difficulty from at least two aspects; the ability to store the data and the ability to understand the data to provide value.  This is where the complication comes into play and where the ‘fun’ starts!  We have reached a point where we must understand the information in order to develop the knowledge to act in the information, or visibility.  This requires an immense amount of effort to develop the capabilities to understand and then take action and collaborate across your extended supply chain. 


In my next series of entries I will begin the discussion on visibility and the information and types of information that should be reviewed in order to provide the visibility.  Then I will also bring into the discussion the needs and capabilities to support improved collaboration.  It is necessary to bring these two points into a common discussion because of their dependencies.  


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


Have you thought about developing a shared definition of visibility across your extended supply chain?


What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change? 

tbrouill

Concepts in Visibility

Posted by tbrouill Mar 2, 2013

I was speaking the other day with a colleague about the promise and challenges of big data (One question for you; do I capitalize Big Data?) as it relates to the extended supply chain.  My colleague is focused in the business intelligence practice with a practice area in the supply chain and manufacturing in addition.  There were two concepts that came up during the conversation that I found very interesting;

  • The lack of visibility and the lack of perceived need for visibility in some areas of the supply chain and especially in manufacturing is amazing.  We have such a long way to go in this area that we can all be extremely busy for a long time.
  • The lack of a common definition of what visibility means to the individuals’ supply chain, and their extended supply chain,  is equally as amazing.  This too will provide a long term challenge and opportunity for your extended supply chain.


I found it very interesting and gratifying that both of us found the same challenges were manifested across many different business practices, and many different organizations.  The thing that really stood out for me during this conversation was that there is a common lack of understanding, or more specifically lack of a shared understanding across the partners in the extended supply chain of what visibility means.  The ‘aha’ moment, I think for both of us, during the conversation was the challenges we encountered in our initiatives caused by this lack of a shared understanding.  Basically, a I’ve mentioned in previous discussions, everyone understands ‘visibility’  but every key stakeholder in an initiative can have a different understanding, or definition of ‘visibility’.  This lack of a common understanding of key definitions can have a serious detrimental impact on the success of any initiative and can spell the death of any hope of success in a visibility initiative.

The thing that strikes me, and ties together both of the concepts I mention earlier, is that while everyone knows what visibility means to them personally and from the perspective of their position in the supply chain, everyone involved in the initiative or the extended supply chain does not have the same definition of visibility.  Of these two points, i believe the most important is developing a common, or shared, definition of visibility.  I believe that without this common definition any initiative is doomed to failure, you cannot hope to be successful if you do not start with a shared definition, this is a project management 101 concept and critical to your success. 


In fact, we came up with a term that fully describes both the challenge and the risks to the success of your initiatives - a Tower of Babel.  I would suggest that your key objective to your visibility initiative is to understand the information that you have available within your extended supply chain.  The opportunity, or at least one method, to developing this understanding is an ability to understand the enormous amount of data that is available within your extended supply chain, this is the ‘big data’ concept.  This is where the ‘Tower of Babel’ term comes into play; the enormous amount of data that must be analyzed presents an issue of understanding, this provides a level of complication that must be addressed; the lack of a shared definition of visibility will cause efforts to be scattered and off-point.  Both of these challenges together can cause your initiative to fail spectacularly, just as the Tower of Babel failed spectacularly. 


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


Have you thought about developing a shared definition of visibility across your extended supply chain?


What do you see as your current visibility needs and how are you meeting these needs?  Does this provide the ability to grow and the flexibility to change as your needs grow and change?