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One of the favorite parts of my job is teaching classes on how to take supply chain concepts to the next level to improve corporate performance.


I love helping people to see supply chain concepts differently. One of the ideas that I am researching and sharing is the concept of building Market-Driven Value Networks. The concepts of being market-driven build on the research that I have done for the last ten years on building Demand-Driven Value Networks (DDVN).

The vision is aspirational and takes the concepts of being demand driven to a next level. To ensure clarity in this post, let’s start with definitions. I define DDVN as:


Demand-Driven Value Networks: A network that senses demand with minimal latency to drive a near real-time response to improve  demand shaping and demand translation.


And, a Market-Driven Value Network as:


Market-Driven Value Networks: An adaptive network focused on the delivery of value-based outcomes. It  senses, translates, and orchestrates market changes (buy- and sell-side markets) bidirectionally with near real-time  latency to align sell, deliver, make and sourcing functions. It builds on the concepts of becoming demand driven.



These are a step change in thinking. Both move the supply chain design from inside-out to outside-in. Traditional supply chains respond, but they do not sense. The processes and architectures that we built over the last thirty years delivered inflexible processes that take too long to respond. These legacy processes amplify and distort market signals putting the supply chain on the “back foot.”  As demand and supply volatility increases, the sensing and translation of network shifts is importance to corporate performance. Nine out of ten companies are stuck. They are unable to drive growth, maximize profitability and minimize cycles. More and more, companies are realizing that effective value networks drive GROWTH. No longer should the supply chain be thought of as just a cost center to manage.


As I teach the class, I learn too. Here I share these insights and recommendations to the readers of this blog on how to get started.


My Lessons Learned


Supply chain practices are steeped in belief statements that there are “best practices” and that the “order is the best representation of demand.”  As we build supply chain strategies in the class, I work with attendees to first answer the questions in the green box to design the strategy:

  • What are the right ways to support the business strategy?
  • What are the right trade-offs between the value drivers for each value network?


Time after time, I find that companies are left with lofty business strategies that are not translated into actionable plans for the organization. I also find that there are too few business strategy consultants that understand the need for this translation. Most companies struggle with this activity. I find most are in a quite a mess.


The next step is to answer the questions on how to define demand and supply relationships to deliver on the promise of supply chain value networks.  The activity starts at the end of the supply chain in the definition of demand and supply relationships. It cannot be effective from the inside-out.


Companies are not good at demand. The gulf between commercial and supply chain teams needs to be closed. For most, the building of demand relationships is a new concept.  It is often the first time that attendees to the class have thought about the frequency, availability and cleanliness of demand data. We then work together through activities to gain an understanding of demand synchronization, harmonization and translation. The goal is to make channel data useful by the corporation.


In parallel, the design of supplier relationships to maximize value is a ripe area for discussion. Only 22% of companies are actively managing the end-to-end value chain to deliver on corporate sustainability goals. We discuss the principles of supplier development and how companies shift from punitive practices, where costs and waste are pushed backwards in the value chain, to owning the extended supply chain to deliver on the brand promise.


Most supply chain professionals have spent their time at the center of the supply chain and have not thought about the options and the design of the ends of the supply chain enough. The center is strong and inflexible and the ends are weak.


After answering the questions in the white boxes, companies can then define the process. It should be then, and only then that the business processes can be defined. Process needs to follow strategy. When this happens, there is greater balance between metric trade-offs and resiliency in year-over-year improvements in corporate performance.




Many companies do not know where to start. And, we try to be clear in the course that the starting point is in improving reliability. The Market-driven Value Network visions need to have both “big wings and big feet.” The feet are grounded in reliability. When given the choice between reliability and shorter cycles, the supply chain leader needs to choose consistency and reliability. This includes consistency in manufacturing operations, order-to-cash processes, and customer service. The wings are defined in a clear year-over-year strategy to enable evolution towards a vision.  Here is how you start:


  • Stabilize ERP Investments. I believe that ERP is important to improve transactional accuracy and cycle efficiency. You simply cannot have an effective supply chain without it, but I recommend that companies do it ONCE and do it WELL Avoid ERP bells and whistles. It is important that companies do not become hostages to long, multi-year ERP rollouts.  It is too big of an opportunity cost for the organization. In addition, the promise of extended ERP is not worth the trip. The gap in capabilities between best of breed supply chain planning applications and those from ERP providers is growing. When given a choice, implement the base modules for ERP and do it well. Side-step the planning and analytic offerings.
  • Actively Invest in Cloud-based Analytics for Self-service by the Line of Business User. Today, companies cannot get to data. The multiple ERP instances and the tie of analytics only to ERP projects, leaves the company unable to get data from a heterogeneous IT landscape. The advancements of in-memory, cloud-based analytics like Qlikview in combination with visualization technologies like Spotfire and Tableau.
  • Redefine Demand.  Start by recognizing that the order is a poor representation of “true demand.” Start by asking for demand data by channel partners and then build systems to synchronize and harmonize channel demand data with new forms of analytics to recognize patterns. (Technologies to synchronize and harmonize demand data are sold by vendors like Orchestro, RSI, Retail Solutions, Retail Velocity, and Teradata.) Redefine demand planning to model what the company is “going to sell” and take advantage of the new attribute-based modeling capabilities from vendors like Logility and SAS, and demand translation capabilities (E.g. replace rules-based consumption logic) with solutions from Terra Technology. After taking these steps, invest in building cognitive learning engines and implement test and learn capabilities with technologies from Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), IBM and Enterra Solutions. These learning engines allow companies to sense, learn and then act.
  • Build Strong Horizontal Processes with a focus on Orchestration. I describe orchestration in the blog posts  Just You and Me Dude and in the second post Bait and Switch. The important horizontal processes are Revenue Management, Sales and Operations Planning, Corporate Social Responsibility and Supplier Development. Build strong what-if capabilities through systems like Kinaxis and Steelwedge.
  • Invest in Business Networks and Inter-Enterprise Systems of Record. We are on the cusp of building effective business networks. There is a strong need for inter-enterprise systems of record. I do not think that this will happen through the repurposing of indirect procurement networks (E.g. SAP’s redefinition of Ariba). Instead, I think that this will happen through the evolution of industry-specific business networks.  I am busy researching the business network evolution of GHX for Healthcare, E2Open for high-tech, Elemica for the Chemical Industry, Exostar for Aerospace and Defense, the redefinition of Covisint for the Automotive Industry, and GT Nexus for Apparel and Distribution Intensive industries. What is old is new again. I describe this in the post Emperor’s New Clothes.


What do you think? I would love to hear your voice.


We know that companies are busy, and that it is hard to go to conferences and keep track of all the changes in the technologies. In our training, we try to build it down and combine the research with experiential exercises. If you are interested in having your teams participate in the training, and learn the concepts, check out our training options.


Why It Matters

Posted by lcecere Oct 2, 2013

As I work with companies, I often contrast the strategies, approaches and outcomes within a peer group. Over the last five years, I have helped two companies, Sonoco Products and Owens Illinois (OI) with their selection of technologies to improve Sales and Operations (S&OP) planning. Both companies provide packaging materials to the food manufacturing industry. Owens Illinois provides glass products and Sonoco Products provides flexible packaging. Here I contrast their results.


Six years ago, Owens Illinois' primary question was IT standardization versus the choice of best-of-breed vendor. The decision was a political tug of war. Waring factions undermined progress on business process. IT and the business teams were not aligned. They were unclear on their supply chain strategy and the role of supply chain planning. Complexity reigned in the business and they were unsure how to manage it.


Figure 1.


Sonoco Products, on the other hand, had a clear objective to maximize asset utilization while improving customer service for strategic customers. Their goal was to visualize excess capacity and make it available to enable their sales teams to offer upstream opportunities to their clients. It was their way of "shaping demand."


As a supplier three to four levels back in the supply chain, life as a packaging provider is tough. Demand is volatile, price is competitive and complexity reigns. Food manufacturers, over the course of the last decade, have pushed costs and waste backwards in the supply chain. Products have proliferated by 37% over the last five years and packaging suppliers are being asked to provide more and more innovation to help the food manufacturers bring new products to the market.


Figure 2.


The companies are similar in size. Sonoco Products is a $4.5 billion dollar company, located in the southern portion of the United States. Their journey to be more market driven with a strong focus on Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) is now seven years old. Owens Illinois (OI), a $6.3 billion company, manufactures glass containers with headquarters in the midwest. OI has been more focused on transactional efficiency, procurement and IT standardization.


As I write the new book, Metrics That Matter, I am studying the patterns of corporate performance based on choices in supply chain program execution. A company that is effectively working a supply chain strategy will have a nice, neat pattern at the intersection of operating margin and inventory turns. A company that is not balanced will tend to have a pattern that oscillates with no real trend towards improvement.


Figure 3.


Contrast the patterns of the two companies in figure 2. Owens Illinois oscillates with little predictability. While Sonoco Products is losing margin (in large part due to a tough market), they are making improvements in inventory turns. The pattern is much more reliable and they are executing a growth strategy.

So, what can we learn?


A Marathon, Not a Sprint. The story of supply chain excellence cannot be told in  one year snapshots. It cannot be accurately represented by studying two years, or even three. It requires a study of the patterns over a five to ten year period. Supply chain leaders deliver reliability and resiliency in the results.


Conscious Choice.  The journey is about conscious choice and leadership. It cannot be about singular metrics. Instead, it is about managing the trade-offs and improving supply chain potential. The supply chain needs to be managed as a complex system to drive continuous improvement against the supply chain strategy.


The Focus Needs to Be End-to-End. I am teaching a number of workshops this month with well-intended clients that have defined supply chain as a limited function of distribution, manufacturing and procurement. They will make limited progress unless they can redefine their initiatives to cross over and define their go-to-market strategies.


S&OP Matters. Sales and Operations planning done right (focus on the management of the supply chain to maximize opportunity and mitigate risk end-to-end) improves organizational alignment and agility, and improves operational resiliency.


Don't Waste Your Time on the Wrong Battles. The discussion of which system is less important than moving forward with a system. The supply chain as a complex system cannot be effectively modeled on a spreadsheet. The political arguments of IT standardization often result in one function winning the battle while the company loses the war.


What do you think? Do you have a story to share on the implementation of supply chain strategy? I would love to hear it.