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I believe that a training program can be extremely successful without spending additional money on the program.  There are two ways to achieve these improvements; focus on the ‘Listen, Do, Review’ methodology of continuous improvement and focus on objectives that bring business value to your company.  This new focus on continuous improvement and value add objectives will require a coordinated effort and long term plan to measure and deliver the objectives.  This new focus will require a redesign of not only your training strategy, it will also require a redesign of your training organization and activities to support your redesigned training strategy.  If this concept gains momentum it can have a profound impact on the training industry by changing from a fire-and-forget type training practice, to a ‘Listen, Do, Review’ type training practice.

The fire-and-forget practice is represented by the type of training programs that are currently most prevalent in the industry are programs that provide a class or seminar and hope that the content will stick.  There is nothing wrong with this type of training program is you are searching for classes and seminars to fill a specific program that you are developing, or if you are trying to reward someone for their efforts.  However, this is not a very good method if you are trying to develop a new skill and improve your workforce.  In order to improve your workforce you must develop a strategy that defines where you want to progress in your workforce.  Then you must determine how to implement, or deliver, your strategy.

You will recognize this suggestion as the standard method to guide all organizations; develop a mission statement, then develop a strategy to deliver the mission, then define the program required to meet the objectives and deliver the mission.  This is the disconnect in many training programs causing a failure to deliver on the mission and strategy. I don’t think this failure is intentional, I think this failure is due to a lack of experience in delivering a program.  I believe that the missing link to successfully delivering on your training mission and strategy is to focus on the basic nuts and bolts of program management and delivery.  Think about the examinations provided by evaluations and papers over the years, especially the Chaos Reports from the Standish group, reporting that only 16% of projects are successful.  Considering the results of this and similar research, why would you think that a training program can beat these odds?

It is critical to the success of both your training program and your company’s future that you reevaluate your training strategy along with the methods that you deliver your training programs.  This includes implementing the program management methodology to delivery on the objectives of your training program and also the implementation of the ‘Listen, Do, Review’ type of continuous improvement methods and measurements.  This is especially critical now because continuing education has become a prerequisite to the success of both the individual and the organization.  Education and training can be one of the key ingredients to the continuing success of your company and a robust and effective training program can help to ensure this success.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you plan and coordinate your training program?  Have you contemplated, or implemented a ‘Listen, Do, Review’ model in your training program?  Are you utilizing industry project management practices to help you deliver your training strategy?              

In order to be effective at training program must follow the ‘Listen, Do, Review’ model.  This model utilizes the continuous improvement model to increase the likelihood that the training will stick.  I’ve discussed the challenges to improving customer service effectiveness through training and also mentioned that the recommendations I made to improve your customer service effectiveness would be appropriate to use in your general training program.  I’ve come to realize that the critical ingredient to successful training programs is the ‘Do’, or practice step. This practice step allows you to develop the experience and internalize the training so that your ingrained subsconscious actions will allow you to perform without thinking.  The value and new learning opportunities are achieved when your training is internalized and your subconscious supports your methods.

This ‘Listen, Do, Review’ model I’m suggesting is a radical change to the standard training model which is more of a ‘fire and forget’ model.  The reason why I am calling the standard training model practices as a ‘fire and forget’ model is because of the current practice of presenting and attending a training class, or seminar and then there is generally no follow-up to reinforce or building on the information that was presented.  The limits of the ‘fire and forget’ training model are lack of a review and revise or reinforce steps that will help you to internalize the practice and actually develop or increase your level of expertise or experience.  These limitations have an especially large impact on your customer service effectiveness.

My recent discussions related to success in customer service helped me to realize the importance of the ‘Listen, Do, Review’ model.  The discussions have also helped me to understand the importance of this model for the entire training program delivery and effectiveness.  The objective of your training program should be to build experience within your organization.  In order to build experience in your organization you must practice, practice, practice.  This means that your training program must be viewed as a long term investment that develops the experience and expertise in your staff that will support the success of your organization as a whole.  Too many times and in too many organizations a great deal of money is spent on training for the employees through on-site and off-site classes and seminars which introduce the subject and do not provide the long term activities that will develop the expertise and experience.

This realization and understanding of the importance of the ‘Listen, Do, Review’ model has been a bit of a realization, or awakening, moment for me.  This realization has all come about as a result of my earlier discussions on the importance of experience in your drive to deliver exceptional customer service.  The customer service practice simply highlights the importance of experience and the examination of the importance of the delivery of excellent customer service provided the catalyst to this realization.  This realization though will have a major impact on your training program and your training measurement.  This realization and hopefully acceptance would also have a major impact on the training industry, where the methods are focused on the ‘fire and forget’ model.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you plan and coordinate your training program?  Have you contemplated, or implemented a ‘Listen, Do, Review’ model in your training program? 

You can increase the likelihood of success in your customer service program by increasing your focus on training and then increasing the expertise required to support the positive customer experience requirements.  I believe that one of the key factors in providing a positive customer service experience is the experience level of the individual providing that service.  This can be very difficult because dealing with the customer can involve as many variations on the experience as there are people.  While training can be extremely important, the real life experience provides the practice necessary to deal with the almost limitless variations.

In order to be successful at providing customer service you must not only learn the activities through training, you must also practice the activities so you can become proficient.  Providing excellent customer services requires proficiency in at least three areas; marketplace, business specifics, product specifics.  An individual can be trained in each one of these areas and there are whole industries available to provide this training, whether live or web based.  In order to become truly proficient in customer service, or any practice for that matter, you must develop a proficiency in the activity that is developed through practice and experience. 

I’ve hired many individuals in my career, from entry level to masters of the practice.  One my key learning experiences and pieces of advice to others is to hire the B or C student.  These are the ones that generally had to work hard for their degree.  I firmly believe that these individuals bring a critical experience to the table; the ability and desire to stick with a challenge until they succeed.  This is critical because everyone must learn how to fail, this experience helps a person to stick with a challenge to overcome the obstacles. You might wonder how this relates to becoming proficient in customer service?  It is related because it is important that you don’t get discouraged and that you strive to overcome the obstacles that will be thrown your way in dealing with customers. 

The way to overcome the obstacles you will encounter is the combination of training to introduce new skills and the practice that will be required internalize the training.  I firmly believe that you gain more experience through practice and obstacles.  I think there is also another key factor to success in providing exceptional customer service, genuine interest in helping people.  This factor alone will help you to overcome the obstacles that will come your way.

These training recommendations can be valuable for any training program and not just a program to improve customer service.  The experience factor is critical to the success of your training program.  Think of training compared to the efforts you went through when learning to ride a bike.  While your muscles and subconscious were learning the skills, you had to constantly think about each action required to ride, for instance, watching your feet on the peddles.  Then when your muscles and subconscious finally ‘ingrained’ the actions and requirements to ride a bike you were able to ride without thinking and your were able to perform other things while riding.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

We all have some interaction with service providers each day.  What are the factors that are important to you and play into your positive experience?  In each of your experiences how training play into the requirement to develop and ingrain experience? 

The search for exceptional customer service is sometimes comparable to a search for the Holy Grail.  I would define exceptional customer services as superior, consistent and dedicated. In addition, I think the relationship to the Holy Grail search is fitting because of the ever changing requirements for exceptional customer service. There are many aspects to exceptional customer service and the challenge is that the aspects and requirements shift with every interaction based on mood (both customer and service provider), type of service and even environmental impacts such as rain, snow and sunshine.  There are additional factors that play into the experience such as training and quality of the products and tools.  I think to be blunt, in order to provide exceptional customer service you must have a psychology degree, an engineering degree and the patience of a saint!

The phrase or concept of a service economy takes on different degrees of complication and requirements based on the type of service.  You would expect a different level of expertise and the expectation level is different if you are interacting with a grocery store associate as compared to an auto mechanic for instance.  This is just common sense, I know, and I’m explaining this as a means to provide a baseline example for this discussion.  As a result of the service economy, the search for exceptional customer service brings an increased level of importance to the success of an organization.  This increase in expectations also brings an increased level of expectations in the experience and the skills of the individuals providing this service.  This increased level of skills brings with it an increased level of training and education in order to deliver exceptional customer service.

I mention all of this as a lead in to an example of my experience in purchasing a new Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Gear watch that is paired with the phone.  Where I made this purchase is not germane to the discussion.  This was an expensive exchange and I also had an increased level of experience requirement to configure the devices because of they are new to the market.  Because of these additional requirements and expectations my customer service experience was a roller coaster ride of positive and negative experiences.  In this example there was also a healthy impact from the tools required to support the experience.  This experience started very positively, it moved into great disappointment due to delays and inexperience in the configuration, including problems with the tools required to support the configuration and a lack of experience and expertise in the skills required to configure the devices.  The experience was pulled out though by the addition of an experienced technician who also brought to the experience a dose of compassion in addressing the emotions involved in this type of experience.

This experience brought to light the key factors, and difficulties involved in provided exceptional customer service.  I think this experience also brought to light the importance of the personal side of customer service.  I believe that this personal side of the equation is the ‘it’ factor that helps to ensure the experience is positive.  This challenge with this ‘it’ factor is that it is difficult to train, this factor is more experience based than skill based. 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

We all have some interaction with service providers each day.  What are the factors that are important to you and play into your positive experience?  In each of your experiences how does the ‘it’ factor play into the experience?  Are there some types of services that require increased level of the ‘it’ factor?

The Apperating System framework will define and guide the future through the new paradigm created by the development of software and hardware ecosystems that obscure the hardware interface.  The one constant though is that these iterations will continue and even increase in frequency and capabilities in a discontinuous manner because of the potential and capabilities for which consumers are searching.  I see the overarching objectives of the Apperating System concept to be providing the technology and hardware as an appliance that is easy to use and provides compelling capabilities.  The first areas taking advantage and moving the Apperating System are already focused on technology and this is where the greatest interest lies.

I think the future in Apperating System offerings will drop the technology from the focus, shifting the focus again to delivering the experience without regard to the technology.  This direction is the combination of the Apple model of simplicity and elegance of design with the flexibility and connectivity of the Android model into a technology and hardware appliance concept.  This concept is and will be driven forward by the imagination and desire of the markets to a certain extent.  In addition to the market factors this concept will be driven by opportunity.  What I mean by that is that we will see suppliers expanding the concept and capabilities to showcase their offerings and increase market share. 

I would group the types of offerings of the Apperating System into three categories -

  • The hardware developed specifically to support the concept.  This is where I would place the Apple model that develops the hardware to support the concept and provide the appliance.
  • The software developed specifically to support the concept on any hardware platform.  This is where I would place the Facebook Home model that develops the appliance to run on any software platform.
  • The complete appliance concept where the software is developed to support the hardware, or the combination of pieces of hardware.  This is where I would place the Amazon Fire model that started with the hardware and then developed the software to simplify and extend the hardware capabilities.

I’m sure that you can see from the breakdown above that these categories provide the added opportunities to ‘mix and match’ as necessary, and the imagination dictates, to provide new capabilities.  This is, however, an example of the power and flexibility of the Apperating System concept.  The strength comes because the technology and the hardware will not limit the imagination.

The Apperating System is just the latest iteration in the continuing integration of technology in the life of people.  Some of these integration efforts will fail for a variety of reasons.  Some of these integration efforts will succeed, again for a variety of reasons.  One thing that is definite is that there will be a quickening of the integration through combinations of existing and new capabilities.  This will provide new capabilities and combinations that will only be limited by imagination.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Everyone has seen a portal, for example Yahoo, through web browsing providers.  What types of benefits do you  think you can gain through an Apperating System approach?  What types of capabilities would you like to see in this type of approach?  How do you take advantage of this paradigm shift and new user experience ecosystem.

The next generation in Apperating System capabilities provided by Kindle Fire software and Facebook Home developments provides and focuses on improved usability.  This improved usability is a similar approach taken by Apple and IOS in their development and integration of the IOS ecosystem across platforms.  The difference between the Apple ecosystem and the Apperating System ecosystem is the single minded focus on the user experience with less concern about the hardware that the Apperating System ecosystem brings to the table.  In this regard, the Facebook Home developments are much more in line with the focus on user experience without regard for the hardware.  It seems to me that this approach and focus on the user experience is the more progressive approach to this paradigm.

Let me start with Apple and the IOS ecosystem as the baseline, or jumping off point, for the shift to the Apperating System ecosystem.  Apple did a fantastic job of focusing on the user experience and then linking and extending this ecosystem across the Apple hardware platforms in a cohesive manner.  Quite frankly this ecosystem demonstrated the potential and capabilities that can be achieved by a single minded focus on the user experience.  This ecosystem was delivered through a combination of hardware and software that was paired and specialized to provide the cohesive user experience.  The ecosystem is closed and closely regulated to ensure the stability and cohesive delivery of the user experience.  This focus on stability and cohesive delivery provided a high level of ease of use that improved the user experience.  The result of this focus on the delivery of the user experience allowed Apple to commanded a premium on the prices of their tools.

Next I want to discuss the Google / Chrome / Google+ ecosystem capabilities.  Google took a different strategic direction than Apple.  Google focused on the software aspect of the ecosystem and in fact this strategy obscured the hardware component of the equation.  This strategy has proven to extend and and expand the penetration and acceptance of the ecosystem at a cost effective rate for the software, as an example the Google Chromebook provides an extremely cost effective and robust tool for the average consumer.  Google has developed an ecosystem that crosses over platforms to take advantage of the Internet capabilities to provide the extensive capabilities.  Google has also taken advantage of the progress in delivery of high speed internet access to deliver their ecosystem to the consumers at large.  I think that because of the open nature of the Google ecosystem and tools that the delivery becomes a little more complicated and cumbersome that the delivery of the Apple ecosystem.  Even with these challenges, however, I think that Google has delivered on the promise of their ecosystem.  Take one small example; the cloud printing capabilities which allows you to print from any device to an Internet connected printer.  I think this capability is an especially good example of the promise because it eliminates the challenges and allows you to utilize legacy printers or new cloud capable printers with their simple software configuration.

The next generation brings us to the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Facebook Home examples.  These Apperating Systems now provide the next level of capabilities that further blur and reduce the dependencies on the hardware that is utilized to deliver the capabilities.  It is still a little early to understand or project the impact, although I believe that we are seeing the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the technologies capabilities.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Everyone has seen a portal, for example Yahoo, through web browsing providers.  What types of benefits do you  think you can gain through an Apperating System approach?  What types of capabilities would you like to see in this type of approach?  How do you take advantage of this paradigm shift and new user experience ecosystem.              

In this entry I would like to discuss my thoughts on how you can incorporate the Apperating System concepts into your commercial environment.  From an ecosystem and life cycle perspective I think it will help to understand what I would consider the beginnings of this concept so that we can better understand the capabilities and potentials of this concept. 

Let’s go back and start with the Microsoft and the Apple ecosystems.  These ecosystems initially provided a means to simplify and interact with the hardware to perform activities.  The tools, such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentation and database software that make up office software were added onto that ecosystem to extend the capabilities.  In this ecosystem though you were still interacting with hardware and hemmed in by the means in which the operating system interacted with the hardware.  From this point, communications software capabilities improvements came into play, in the form of ftp, email and the explosion of the internet and web communication software such as HTTP and XML.  These new technologies were brought together for the user experience through web browser technology and software.

At the same time that the new internet and communications technologies were coming into their own, open and platform agnostic development and operating system technologies were maturing and expanding their reach into the software and hardware ecosystems.  These technologies like Java and Android helped to push the limits of the ecosystems by blurring and even eliminating the separation that at one point limited the free flow across and between ecosystems.  This is where and and when the Aperating System became a potential, or more accurately a probability as a next step in the ecosystem.  This is also when the direct relationship between the hardware and the software ecosystem that was the basis for both Microsoft and Apple became a hindrance to expansion and extensions to the new user experience ecosystem and the developing Aperating System ecosystem.

As I said, this is where it gets interesting because this is where the paradigm shifts and worlds collide.  Google comes into the picture and eliminates the previous paradigm of the importance of the relationship between the hardware and the software that makes that hardware work in the user experience.  Google changed the the previous paradigm and showed that the hard relationship between the hardware and the software was unnecessary which was the first step into the Aperating System paradigm.  Google introduced the early stages of the Aperating System ecosystem with the development of the Chrome ecosystem.  This Chrome ecosystem used the internet as the base framework and then layered the hardware agnostic software to take advantage and extend the capabilities across platforms into an ecosystem that ties capabilities together into an ecosystem that crosses over hardware platforms.   

The next step was taken by Amazon in the development of the Kindle Fire software ecosystem which was then followed by Facebook with the Facebook Home developments.   This step further developed and extended the user experience to focus more on the user and the objectives of the user and less on the interaction with the hardware to deliver the experience.  This is the further extension of the paradigm shift.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Everyone has seen a portal, for example Yahoo, through web browsing providers.  What types of benefits do you  think you can gain through an Apperating System approach?  What types of capabilities would you like to see in this type of approach?  How do you take advantage of this paradigm shift and new user experience ecosystem.


Apperating Systems

Posted by tbrouill Nov 16, 2013

Apperating System is a concept that I recently saw covered in Wired.  According to Wired, the Apperating System sits between OS and applications as an example the new Facebook Home upgrades were used as an example of an Apperating System. The Apperating System can be used to cross over operating systems and allow greater flexibility along with ability to extend across platforms, Dropbox or Google Drive can be thought of as a rudimentary type of Apperating System.  I like the concept and the promise of the Apperating System and I think that we are now moving into a time where this concept can be successful.

Amazon’s Kindle Fire is another good example of an apperating system.  Amazon has taken the Android platform and added a layer of their own and partner applications to provide an entertainment platform that they are hoping will provide a starting and ending point for your entertainment needs.  I am personally predisposed to shy away from anything related to Facebook because I feel that it has become a juvenile experience focused on snide gossip and pictures, but that is my own opinion and not really related to this discussion.  The concept of the Apperating System is a layer of applications over the operating systems that obscure the underlying operating system allowing the Apperating System to focus attention on the applications and support their strategic plans to overshadow the underlying operating system.

Anyone that has been around for a while will relate this concept to portals, a platform that provides entry to a suite of pages or applications that are related and support a business.  I think you would be correct in this relationship and I think in many ways that the Apperating System is the next generation of the portal.  There is, however, a significant difference between the portal and the Apperating System.  This difference is focused around the experience that is delivered.  The experience of the portal is, as its name implies, comparable to a view, or a portal, into an environment.  The portal simply provides a secured entry point into a partner’s or provider’s environment so that you can access tools or databases or communities.  The difference is that the portal exposes these environments but still requires you to navigate or access using your own tools.  In other words, you access a portal through your Windows workstation and your Internet Explorer browser. 

The Apperating System provides the view and access into an environment and the difference is that the Apperating System ‘hides’ the tools that are used to provide this access.  The Apperating system utilizes the tools but hides them from the user experience, providing a cohesive experience.  This cohesive experience provides the value add and this includes the ability to provide a unique user experience that simplifies the use of the tools.  The Amazon Fire is special because of the user experience it provides not because it is based on an Android platform.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Everyone has seen a portal, for example Yahoo, through web browsing providers.  What types of benefits do you  think you can gain through an Apperating System approach?  What types of capabilities would you like to see in this type of approach?  How would you compare this to Google, or Apple’s ecosystems?

The final step to any continuity plan program is taking advantage of the artifacts that have been developed as part of the continuity program.  This includes utilizing the business process definition and the definition of the processes and business developed systems that were developed outside of the corporate supported systems.  Anyone that has followed my discussions for any length of time will recognize and even anticipate my direction with this discussion.  Stretch the value of your efforts to develop a continuity plan to seed the beginning of a continuous improvement program.

In this case you can utilize your business process and systems catalog artifacts to support a continuous improvement effort to improve the utilization of your current corporate supported systems.  This improvement program should focus on how to extend your effectiveness and utilization of your corporate systems and reduce the utilization of one-off solutions.  In fact I would suggest this to be a great exercise to perform probably every two to three years.  I suggest this time period because I believe that there is a natural life cycle of divergence from your corporate systems.  I believe the reason for this divergence is that there is a natural tendency to stray from corporate systems caused by turnover and a tendency to use the tools you with which you are comfortable.  Just to clarify here is how I think divergence tendency comes about; a while after the implementation of your shiny new system people start leaving, as new people join your company is it easy to overlook training which leads to a lowered understanding about the capabilities of your shiny new system.  As a result of this lowered understanding people start using spreadsheets of their own database to help them perform their jobs.  As additional new people join the company there is an even greater divergence from your corporate systems as the cycle above starts over. 

Somehow you need to break this entropy cycle.  In order to break the cycle you need the information that you collected in your continuity plan program.  These artifacts will provide the basis to develop a strategy to eliminate the business developed system and re-engage with the corporate systems.  Start with the business processes that are supported with the business developed systems and compare these business processes with the original corporate systems business process maps.  This match-up provides a great basis to develop your improvement program that will include training, elimination of unnecessary processes and systems consolidation efforts. 

This type of continuous improvement program will provide you with the basis to increase the utilization of your corporate systems, it will allow you to eliminate unnecessary and overlapping systems and it will allow you to standardize your business processes.  Not only will these simplify your business processes, it will also simplify your continuity plan.  Take these ideas as suggestions and then get creative with your continuous improvement program.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the satellite systems required to support your extended supply chain?  Have you thought about developing a plan to eliminate these satellite systems?  Have you developed a business process map describing the processes,systems and partners that collaborate to support your extended supply chain?


Continuity Plan Benefits

Posted by tbrouill Nov 10, 2013

There are two types of benefits that can be derived from any initiative and a continuity plan development is no different.  These types obviously are direct and indirect.  Everyone understands, expects and justifies the continuity plan initiative based on the direct benefits that will be achieved.  These benefits are much more than enough to justify the cost of developing the continuity plan.  This is, however, a supply chain initiative and considering the standard practices that are generally inherent in the extended supply chain it is appropriate to apply these practices to your continuity plan initiative as well.  The key practice to which I refer is the continuous improvement process.  Application of the continuous improvement practices to utilize and examine the artifacts of the continuity plan can result in dramatic indirect benefits to the extended supply chain.

As I mentioned previously, an important aspect to the development of a continuity plan is the development of a business process map.  Remember the focus and objective is the continuity of the business and in order to provide that deliverable you must understand and map the entire extended supply chain business process map, including -

  • Your internal and external partners, including their roles and functions in your extended supply chain.
  • Your systems, including both the corporate support systems and the business developed systems including Access databases, Excel spreadsheets, shared templates and forms and manual workflows developed and supported through email.

This business process map contains a goldmine of information that can, and should be used to drive and support the continuous improvement process. 

You would be foolish not to take advantage of this artifact and I’m sure that the benefits that could be achieved with the help of this artifact can be dramatic.  This business process map will provide the evidence to identify the ancillary, business developed, systems that surround every business process.  These ancillary business developed systems come about for two main reasons; methods to simplify and improve the process within a department, processes required within a department that are not provided by the corporate supported systems. 

I suggest that your continuous improvement efforts focus on the second reason that I mention above - processes required within a department that are not provided by the corporate supported systems.  This is the area that will have the greatest impact on your continuity plans and also your continuous improvement program.  This focus will allow and encourage continued benefits to both your continuity plans and also the efficiencies, supportability and improvements within your extended supply chain.  The business process map will allow you to match up these applications with with the corporate systems.  This match-up process will allow you to identify the difference between the systems that are, and are not supported by the corporate systems and the systems.  This information will provide a valuable artifact in both your improvement efforts, your continuity plans, your training plans and any potential software evaluation and selection plans. 

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the satellite systems required to support your extended supply chain?  Have you developed a supply chain continuity plan?  Have you developed a business process map describing the processes,systems and partners that collaborate to support your extended supply chain?

A second, and critical step, to your continuity planning exercise is the systems evaluation and continuity planning phase.  It is important to follow a process in developing your continuity plan in order to ensure completeness.  Continuity should be viewed no different than any other project, or initiative.  In order to increase the likelihood of success you must follow a process and the most successful process in my experience is based on a business process management definition.  In my last discussion, the exercise in evaluation and definition of partners and functionality provides the framework of the business process definition.  The second step, then, to this initiative is to match the systems that support the business processes and functionality.

The systems evaluation and continuity planning phase should be executed in two steps.  The first step is the collection and documentation of the systems.  The second step is the systems continuity planning and testing of the continuity plan.  The first step of your systems continuity planning should be a continuation of your business process definition and should be staffed by the same group of key internal functional members, and both internal and external partners.  Your technology partners should be a contributing member of this team and their role in this is contributing information regarding corporate sponsored and supported systems.  It is critical in this first step of systems definition include all partners because this step must include all technology supporting your extended supply chain.  While your corporate sponsored systems provide the framework and the skeleton of your extended supply chain, the business developed databases, spreadsheets and even common templates, email and shared directories or workspaces make up the meat of your extended supply chain.

The reason why I suggest this systems phase be broken into two steps and the first step of systems documentation and definition include internal business and external partners is because your business team and partners have spent years developing and improving these ‘satellite’ systems.  These satellite systems provide the meat and the glue that often times makes the corporate supported systems usable in the eyes of the business and external partners.  These satellite systems are a key ingredient and requirement to the success of your continuity plan. 

Now to wrap up this discussion I think its extremely important to reiterate the value of spending the time and effort, including both your internal business and external partners in this first step of identification, definition and documentation of the systems, and especially the satellite systems that are used to support your extended supply chain.  This is absolutely critical in providing the ability to continue your extended supply chain in the event of a disrupting event.  It is also absolutely critical that you include your partners in this step to reduce the chances of overlooking a critical piece to your systems definition of your continuity plans.  While I can guarantee that you will absolutely over look some satellite systems, especially in your first pass, the objective of this definition step is dramatically reduce the likelihood that you will overlook a critical piece or system.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the out of the satellite systems required to support your extended supply chain?  Have you developed a supply chain continuity plan?  How do you work with your extended supply chain partners to limit the impact of external events on your extended supply chain?

To be effective, continuity planning must take into account an array of considerations, from the large like climate impacts such as hurricanes, to the mundane such as the time and schedule impact on your people of Daylight Savings Time.  In this discussion I will focus on the normally mundane topics that people can have a tendency to overlook.  In my opinion, two key success factors to your continuity planning is communication and visibility. 

As I mentioned previously, it is important in developing your continuity plan that you plan for regular brainstorming sessions to identify potential impacts both large and small.  This is your starting point for developing the communication framework that will support your continuity planning and exercises.  I find that brainstorming sessions should be planned for a 90 minutes to two hours at a minimum.  The reason for this is that every brainstorming session starts out with the ‘big stuff’ that is on the top of everyone’s mind.  I have found that it takes a while to get through to the more mundane because of the simple fact they are mundane.  You will need to facilitate the brainstorming session to get to the mundane by adding some suggestions and outrageous suggestions can help in this manner a great deal. 

The next point is who should you include in the brainstorming sessions?  You have your usual suspects within the supply chain that obviously should be included, you should have representatives from forecasting and planning and just as important you should have key representatives from your extended supply chain.  One group that I think also should be included is marketing and / or sales, to bring the customer perspective along with some out of the box thinking compared to the supply chain members already included.  I think its important to get different perspectives in this type of exercise in order to help you ensure you don’t overlook something that could come back to haunt you in the event of an incident.  Remember my discussion on Daylight Savings Time as an example of the types of off-beat subjects that could impact your supply chain continuity.

There is an important aspect to developing the most effective supply chain continuity plan that I want to come back to here - your external partners that make up your extended supply chain.  Your external partners will play a crucial role in the success of your continuity plan in the event of an incident.  Your external partners will provide the flexibility and the visibility to overcome many of the business continuity challenges that you will identify and potentially encounter.  The key to a successful continuity plan is flexibility and imagination.  Bring your external partners into the planning activities early as a full partner and your will increase the flexibility that is necessary to support your continuity plans.  An added benefit of including your external partners is the goodwill and the buy-in you will gain from the inclusion.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the out of the box factors required to support your extended supply chain?  Have you developed a supply chain continuity plan?  How do you work with your extended supply chain partners to limit the impact of external events on your extended supply chain?


Daylight Savings Time

Posted by tbrouill Nov 3, 2013

Daylight Savings Time impacts all aspects of our lives in many different ways, even if you happen to live in one of the U.S. states that do not subscribe to Daylight Savings Time.  Twice a year I have a love / hate relationship with Daylight Savings Time; in the spring I hate it because I gain the hour and its harder to wake up in the morning, then in the fall I love it because I lose the hour it its easier to wake up in the morning.  This reaction, for me, lasts the entire season until the next time change, interesting enough.  While my sleep habits are disrupted, there are many other aspects in our lives that are impacted by these changes. 

The personal disruptions brought on by Daylight Savings Time are relatively minor in impact.  These include some lost sleep and changes to your sleep habits.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree that these disruptions are pretty annoying.  In the spring especially when that first Sunday morning after the change I’ve found it’s just easier to delay any plans in the morning and then that first Monday I expect the sleep disruption will require a little extra coffee.  The fall then has the opposite effect; for a little bit the later daily activities take a little more and its easier to make the early morning appointments; at least for while. The personal disruptions can also cross over into your professional realm because of the impact that occur the night of the time change if you happen to be an hourly shift worker.

The professional disruptions brought on by Daylight Savings Time are also relatively minor in the grand scheme.  They do require a little more planning and coordination in order to ensure they remain minor, though. For instance something as simple as the time change itself impacts employees and employee relations and if these are not addressed can have a serious impact on the business.  How do you address ‘gaining’ an hour in the spring that potentially puts you in an overtime pay position and then ‘losing’ an hour in the the fall that potentially puts you in a short pay position?  These disruptions also impact your performance measurements, from your throughput to your labor standards in the distribution center.  The addition and loss of an hour, if not taken into account in your measurements, can cause an anomaly in your measurements that will be questioned and must be accounted for.  As you can see, these points are not major in the grand scheme of things as long as you evaluate and take them into account prior to occurrence.

You are probably wondering why I bring this topic up today, why this interest in such a mundane topic?  Well, its not because of writer’s block.  I bring this up as an example of the types external actions that can impact your business and must be addressed in your continuity planning.  It is important in developing your continuity plan that you plan for regular brainstorming sessions to identify potential impacts, such as Daylight Savings Time on your extended supply chain.  Considering the fact that your extended supply chain depends on people, throughput measurements and schedules, the impact of Daylight Savings Time can be rather large, if you don’t take it into account early.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the ‘mundane’ factors required to support your extended supply chain?  Have you developed a supply chain continuity plan?  How do you work with your extended supply chain partners to limit the impact of ‘mundane’ on your extended supply chain?

In this discussion I want to focus on the importance of developing, and maintaining flexibility in the extended supply chain.  In my last discussion I suggested that flexibility in the extended supply chain has probably reached a greater level of importance, or value, than Just in Time material management.  I suggested that a flexible and robust extended supply chain is a key ingredient to an extended supply chain continuity plan.  This is the topic that I want to cover because I feel there can be a huge value attained through developing and maintaining a flexible extended supply chain.

Let me start with a definition of flexibility as I think it pertains to the extended supply chain.  In my opinion,

flexibility in the extended supply chain means that your extended supply chain network can flex and shift to address outside influences such as weather, conflict, costs, or issues with other extended supply chain partners.  I consider flexing and shifting to also include increasing or decreasing the use of partners such as carriers, expeditors, consolidators and suppliers.  This definition covers a great deal of physical, logical and virtual conditions and can be very complex to develop and maintain.

First things first, as I like to say, start with a definition and evaluation of your supply chain network.  As I mention above, this includes all pieces and parts of your extended supply chain such as carriers, freight forwarders, expeditors, suppliers, value added services and especially third party logistics  providers.  This is a very important exercise and you must take the time to collect and research all partners, including partners that may no longer be fully active in your supply chain network.  It is at this point that you should also include the partners of your partners as part of your extended supply chain network.  These secondary partners can be important factors in considering the strength and flexibility of of your primary partners and will also provide you an opportunity to potentially extend your primary partner network.

The second activity requires analysis of the industry to evaluate potential new partners and potentially new networks or methods to add to your extended supply chain network.  This activity can be very enlightening as it requires that you research the industry to identify new entries and methods and technology.  This can be a fun activity but you must always temper it with a view of an implementation horizon; are there trends that are ready to implement; are there trends that should be monitored and finally are there trends that should be replaced.

I know what you’re thinking now - This is an awful lot of work and I already am stretched with my day to day activities and supporting normal growth, I don’t have time to take this on in addition to my other assignments.   It is at this point that i want to stress three things; the value that can be attained by performing this exercise, the impact on your business when an event occurs and you don’t have a plan in place, and last, this exercise requires a great deal of effort first time and then an annual review and update.  All this being said, this is a perfect activity to outsource to an organization that is practiced in performing the activities to develop your plan.  This can be a great investment providing a great return on investment.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

Have you considered the critical factors required to support your extended supply chain?  Have you developed a supply chain continuity plan?  How do you work with your extended supply chain partners to limit the impact of natural disasters or global unrest?