38 posts categorized "Web/Tech"

Your Moneyball Story

By Richard Sharpe | 06/12/2019 | 1:41 PM | Categories: Web/Tech

Summary: Baseball Season is always an exciting time, especially if your Team is knocking it out of the park!  But winning consistently can be a real challenge.  Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s (Moneyball fame) faced this challenge.  Billy became the A’s General Manager in 1997 following a dismal 96-97 year compounded by key players leaving and significant budget cuts



Billy knew that critical recruitment decisions could not be made using traditional “experience & opinion” based decisions.  He recognized the value in tapping into the abundance of data available on players in the Major and Minor Leagues. 

Fighting traditional decision making techniques, Billy drove his staff to find young players or out of favor players who were more productive offensively and defensively.  The result?  The poorest team in baseball with the smallest budget blew past the competition in successive winning seasons.  That is a truly remarkable story.

What is your company’s Moneyball story?  Are you getting repeatable and meaningful insights from your analytics and data initiatives that challenge or compliment historical decision making processes? 

Case In Point:  Let’s look at one area that all companies can relate to, pricing discounts.  Traditional sales management techniques focus on sales volume with discount strategies focused on incenting top line growth.  Discounting can be done in many ways but how do you know that it is driving value to your bottom line?

Take a look at the following graph of customer sales verses applied discounts.  Clearly higher sales with lower discounts (the green area) is great.  But what about customers with higher sales and higher discounts (the yellow area)?  A traditional sales assessment would say that this is acceptable to meet revenue growth requirements.  Said another way, the Sales Umpire would say “Your Safe”.


But let’s add another dimension to evaluate the performance of these customers. Let’s look at the profit generated by these sales.  As you can see below, 38 customers were actually unprofitable. 


Giving much higher discounts than average for a customer that is marginal or unprofitable could be the basis for the Umpire to yell “You are out”.  Or it could be smart information that can be used to create more “value based” discounting strategies.

Action:   Supply chains are complex with a lot of variables that can impact Cost To Serve and Net Landed Profit performance.  In today’s highly competitive and volatile market, understanding the financial impact of decisions made to manage these variables is imperative.  It is most likely that in your company there are well established norms associated with driving top line growth and discounts.  What hidden gems are waiting to be found in your operation? 

Takeaway:  Billy Beane challenged his staff to fill playing positions in a new way.  Beane focused on player selection based on a specific performance analytics.  They defied conventional wisdom and built their Team using analytics and the data that was available.  Billy found value in players that other teams did not see. 

Are there Moneyball opportunities in your operation?  It may not be easy, but at the end of the day, if your measuring yardstick is “earnings per share” versus “sales per share” are you ready to play ball?


I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Please comment on this posting or email me at rsharpe@ci-advantage.com .

All the best,

Richard Sharpe


Digitizing The Supply Chain – Maximize The Value

By Richard Sharpe | 04/03/2019 | 11:59 AM | Categories: Web/Tech


Summary: A lot is being written about companies recognizing the need to “digitize” their supply chain.  But what does that really mean?  Generically, digitization is to convert information into a digital format.  But in the context of supply chain, let me offer the following:

Digitizing the supply chain is to meaningfully connect and make available data associated with the Plan, Source, Make, Deliver and Return (SCOR) functions of the supply chain.

In other words, having repeatable and trusted digital visibility of the end to end supply chain.  This information can then support:

  • the proactive monitoring of product flows (Control Towers)
  • improvements in operational efficiencies (S&OP applications) or
  • critical insights regarding the total actual cost to serve for each product and customer

Why is this a topic that is top of mind for many supply chain executives?  Is it correlated to serving customers better, driving efficiencies, lower costs or beating the competition and therefore driving profitable growth?  Absolutely! 

But achieving these objectives and maximizing value is not only an investment in digitization.  Achieving real value requires breaking down the organizational silos using this information to gain maximum advantage;  investments in the people and processes as well as the technologies

Case In Point:  I was recently interviewed by Supply Chain Radio Now  and told the story about a major Waste Disposal company. The company wanted to use digital supply chain operational data to better plan and execute servicing their residential customers on a national basis.  They had selected our company’s technology but the CFO sponsor had a traditional, technology focused strategy for it’s deployment.  We explained to the CFO that his deployment strategy would not work because it did not address the required attention needed to address the process and people related requirements.

Action:  The CFO took the position that if his deployment strategy was not used, the business (worth several million dollars) would be given to another companyWe respectfully but clearly explained our position and he left the building.  The next day, he returned and said that he had changed his mind because of our conviction in the proper deployment strategy.  The subsequent adoption of the solution was extremely successful and led to additional national solution rollouts for the same company.

Takeaway:  Digital visibility that provides connected, trusted and actionable end to end supply chain information is one key for “thriving” and not just “surviving”.  But it also requires addressing the people and process considerations in order to take full advantage of the information across the organization. 

Mastering the digital supply chain will separate the winners from the losers.  It can support multiple critical needs including knowing the exact financial contribution of every product or service sold to every customer. That type of insightful knowledge can make servicing my trash can and yours an even more profitable venture.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Please comment on this posting or email me at rsharpe@ci-advantage.com .


All the best,

Richard Sharpe

Increasing / Decreasing Costs – “Smart” Cost Decisions

By Richard Sharpe | 02/12/2019 | 11:20 AM | Categories: Web/Tech


Summary: With the uncertainty of an economic downturn, companies in 2019 will look to cut costs in an attempt to meet shareholders’ earnings expectations.  Typically, cost reduction programs are established by functional areas of the business (sourcing, supply chain, inventory, etc.) and may be tailored to certain groups of customers based on top line revenue contributions. Why is this a problem? Simply stated, not all customers are the same as it relates to their true profit contributions.  In fact, for most companies, a small minority of customers actually provide the vast majority of profits that subsidize marginal and unprofitable accounts.  

Cost cutting decisions made across a customer base can have serious, unwanted consequences.  Reduction in service levels or inventory availability for highly profitable customers can cause them to become dissatisfied and to look to your competition for alternative choices.  The end result, your cost cutting measures may actually have the unwanted effect of significant decreasing the profitable performance of your company.

Case In Point:  Prior to looking for ways to reduce operating costs, a profitable 5 Billion dollar company in Chicago decided to accurately measure the profit contribution of each customer and customer delivery location.  Their customer base comprised of 110,000 delivery locations across the United States.  Want to venture how many locations provided the vast majority of their profits?  Most people would say use the 80 / 20 rule and therefore over 20,000 customer locations.  The actual answer was less than 3%.  Without knowing this and relying on higher level revenue or gross margin information, typical cost cutting measures could have had catastrophic results.

Action:  The approach that this company used for this analysis ensured that the entire organization had confidence in the profit performance information.  As a result, the information was very actionable.  Cost reductions were implemented for the unprofitable and very marginal customers while protecting the service and support of the high yield customer group.

Takeaway:  Wholesale cost reduction programs can be dangerous.  It is imperative to identify customers that provide significant profit contributions to your bottom line and protect that business relationship.  However, determining the root cause for poor performance is equally important.  With that information in hand, cost cutting programs can be tailored to customers or customer segments to not only reduce operating expenses but also improve these customer’s margin contributions.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Please comment on this posting or email me at rsharpe@ci-advantage.com .


All the best,

Richard Sharpe

Pinpointing Profit Leakage

By Richard Sharpe | 01/15/2019 | 10:29 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

: Earnings reports are a key indicator of a company’s financial health but they are an aggregation of a vast array of incurred costs and realized revenues associated with running a business.  The financial impact of specific decisions in managing product and customer transactional costs and revenues is typically visible at an aggregate level such as categories of costs or revenues by customer or customer groupings. 

However, individual actions or decisions in sourcing, supply chain or sales can significantly impact operating margins and create negative performance exceptions.  Profit leakage exceptions can be hidden in standard financial reporting.  Finding these specific profit leakage opportunities and the root cause can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Case In Point: On a monthly basis, a Retailer would have a team of Financial Planning & Analysis Managers perform analysis on procurement, specific supply chain activities and store sales to try and find significant opportunities associated with incurred costs or reductions in revenues.  The process was time consuming and did not catch all of the significant exceptions that needed to be analyzed.  A decision was made to create a scalable approach that would not only review all exceptions but would also track the progress of resolving previously identified items.

Action: To be scalable, the company recognized that the solution had to have several key characteristics.  It had to provide for an approach that would ensure that the data that would be analyzed would be accurate and specific.  The identification of the exceptions needed to be fast and the ones with the biggest impact prioritized.  Finally, the analysis needed to examine opportunities across the entire operation including procurement, supply chain, inventory and sales activities on a recurring basis.  The company selected a cloud-based technology platform  that provided data governance capabilities as well as robust processing and reporting. 

With the initial activation of the solution, profit leakage exceptions across every functional area were identified that totaled several million dollars.  What would historically take the company weeks to accomplish was now done on a repeatable basis in a matter of days.

Takeaway:  Profit improvement opportunities can be significant by having the ability to pinpoint exceptions in financial performance by product, customer, store or channel.  For some, the root cause may not be something that can be easily changed.  But for many exceptions, actions can be taken to minimize the future impact on margin erosion.  Having this type of robust and repeatable capability insures that the company is proactively looking for all opportunities to maximize shareholder value. 

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Please comment on this posting or email me at rsharpe@ci-advantage.com .


All the best,

Richard Sharpe

Don’t Use Data Integrity Issues As A Crutch

By Richard Sharpe | 12/11/2018 | 9:47 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

: “Our data has significant challenges and this is a real handicap for us.”  It is rare to talk to a company that believes they have very little challenges with their data.  In fact, the recent Supply Chain Quarterly Big Data Analytics Survey found that data quality and access issues were one of the main frustrations that business users have in getting true business value from their analytical initiatives. Unfortunately, many companies use their data liability issues as a crutch to justify why they are not getting true value of business analytics.

Case In Point: Several years back, a meeting was being held with the CFO, COO and SVP of Supply Chain for a well-known apparel company.  They knew that they needed to build the analytical capabilities of their organization but were skeptical because of their perception of the current state of their data. Fortunately, the SVP of Supply Chain had previous experience in tackling this issue.  He convinced the others to take a first step that would demonstrate that their data could be turned from a liability to an asset to produce meaningful insights on opportunities to reduce costs and increase profit margins.

Action: A Project Team was assembled and all sources for their transactional data associated with their supply chain and sales operations were identified. Data Subject Matter Experts were involved to address any data issues. Consensus was reached by the Team on how the data should be intentionally transformed to build a foundation for SKU and customer specific cost and profit performance information. Cloud-based technology was then used to further validate the data and to create specific and actionable financial performance insights that could be refreshed periodically. By benchmarking performance of similar customers and products, significant financial opportunities were identified. The Project team also found an unexpected bonus associated with potential inventory working capital reductions in excess of $10 million dollars.

Takeaway:  Competitive Insights presented at the CSCMP Global Conference in November of this year.  As part of that presentation, recommendations were made on basic building blocks to address data issues. You can receive a copy of this presentation at this website.

Data integrity issues can be proactively handled to ensure that operating data becomes a valuable asset.  An asset that allows for visibility into actionable insights that drive trusted, fact based decisions. The companies that take this seriously will consistently move ahead of their competition and drive additional profitable performance.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Please comment on this posting or email me at rsharpe@ci-advantage.com .


All the best,

Richard Sharpe

Knowing Your Actual Cost To Serve For Each Customer

By Richard Sharpe | 11/27/2018 | 10:48 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

: Most companies can measure gross margin contributions for customer or store sales orders.  However, when it gets down to decisions regarding servicing those orders it becomes a little grayer.  Often the incremental and varying levels of costs associated with fulfilling those orders is buried and certainly not visible through the P&L.  So whats at stake?  Missed opportunities to realize significant cost reductions!  This is particularly true as companies struggle with the current shortages around transportation capacity.

Case In Point: One Chicago based company created an initiative to accurately measure the Cost To Serve of every customer through every sales channel.  The results were shocking.  For one specific channel, all customers were receiving 24 hour service deliveries (a one size fits all approach).  However, less than a third of these customers generated a positive contribution to the company’s operating margin. 

Action: Taking action on this discovery was made easier because the decisions were being made on fact based insights on the true cost to serve to each customer location.  Customers were categorized into performance segments based on sales volume, the cost to service those sales and the profit generated by those sales.  Delivery service levels were then aligned based on financial performance and an immediate $3.2 million dollars in transportation cost savings was realized.

Takeaway:  Ongoing knowledge about the specific and accurate costs to serve your customers or stores should be a core competency of your organization.  It is essential in managing the dynamic variations of operational costs and their direct impact to profit performance.  Using generalized information in managing your operation can lead to missed cost reduction opportunities.  Accurate, specific and repeatable Cost To Serve insights will allow you to out pace your competition and delight your stakeholders.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.  Please comment on this posting or email me at rsharpe@ci-advantage.com .

All the best,

Richard Sharpe

Global Survey Results – Recognition, Frustration & Action

By Richard Sharpe | 10/23/2018 | 9:52 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

The results are in.  At this year’s CSCMP Global Conference in Nashville, the Team of professionals that conduct, analyze and report on the Annual Analytics & Big Data Benchmark Study (Lisa Harrington - lharrington group LLC, Susan Lacefield - Supply Chain Quarterly, Dale Rogers - Arizona State University, Zac Rogers - Colorado State University and myself) presented the findings of this year’s survey (a copy of the presentation can be made available - see below).  The results clearly indicated that companies continue to recognize the need to gain business value from Big Data Analytics but that there is a significant amount of frustration across industries. 

Challenges with data, struggling with meaningful analytics and ultimately getting to actionable strategies were clear drivers for this frustration.  As an example, look at the attached graphic on data:

image from www.ci-advantage.com
The good news is that companies are gaining a deeper appreciation for the business value that can be derived from Big Data Analytics and are being more objective with regard to the effort that is needed to achieve that value.  So what are some key steps to cross that gap faster?  Four primary areas and specific actionable steps were cited to drive success as depicted in the following graphic:

image from www.ci-advantage.com
So the race is on.  Companies get the fact that in the fast paced environment that we all operate in today, it is critical to make fact based decisions using the all of the transactional data that is available through a set of business user analytics. Decisions that drive competitive and profitable performance. 

For a copy of the presentation, please contact us at insights@ci-advantage.com 

Thank you,

Richard Sharpe

Do You Know If Your Organization Is Leading or Lagging?

By Richard Sharpe | 07/24/2018 | 11:49 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

If you are anything like me, the last thing you want to do is complete another industry survey.  However, gaining significant benefits from supply chain big data analytics is now a race to the top. Being a leader in utilization equals competitive financial advantage. Being a laggard means being marginalized by your competitors.

Companies will spend $266 billion this year on analytics and big data initiatives with 40% of companies doubling their spending on supply chain analytics.  Are you?  If not, how can you have a fact-based conversation within your company to raise the bar in prioritizing this critical need?  Edwards Deming said it well, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion!”

That's what the Second Annual Analytics & Big Data Benchmark Study is about and we need your help.

Why should you care about this survey? What's in it for you?

  • know where you stand against your competitors during our industry's transformation to Supply Chain 4.0—the big-data fueled, next-gen supply chain?
  • know where supply chain analytics technology is going?
  • know how companies are making this technology "real" in their global supply chains
  • use this knowledge to gain support to empower your supply chain's future?

What you get for participating:

  • a copy of the full survey results with in-depth analysis. You receive an insider report on the survey findings. High level results will be presented at the Council of Supply Chain Management professionals' annual global conference. You get the full findings—not a summary.
  • If you're one of the first 100 respondents, you'll be entered in a drawing for one of two $100 iTunes gift cards!

The survey is anonymous.  Please give us 10 minutes of your time and fully complete the survey (we can’t count partial answers).

Click here to participate in the survey

If you have trouble with the link above, please copy and paste the following URL into your web browser: https://colostate.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3gvY5LULNVRsj9r

Thank you,

Richard Sharpe

Does your “Data Tank” Have Water In It?

By Richard Sharpe | 02/13/2018 | 8:48 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

It is hard to pick up any industry publication and not see articles on “the digitization of the supply chain” or “the value of supply chain visibility”, or “the power of analytics”. Certainly, the value of these types of supply chain advancements is significant. As certain, some companies will realize the value and thrive while others will not.

Is your operation ready to fully empower and utilize these advancements to get all of the true benefits that analytics can offer? Realized benefits that come from fact based, data driven decisions. Does your data have the high octane impact of TRUSTED data that you really need to run your business?

The Problem

Consider the impact on your business. Do data issues cause your organization to:

  • Be hampered by indecisive actions or bad decisions
  • Spend valuable time resolving data issues rather than solving problems
  • Experience organizational confusion and frustration
  • Have a lack of confidence and mistrust about specific functional data
  • Believe that data is more of a liability than an asset

You’re not alone. Data quality is a universal issue. A recent Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2016/09/bad-data-costs-the-u-s-3-trillion-per-year) article states that data issues are costing businesses in excess of $3 trillion dollars a year in the U.S. alone! Here is a highlight from the article:

“The reason bad data costs so much is that decision makers, managers, knowledge workers, data scientists, and others must accommodate it in their everyday work. And doing so is both time-consuming and expensive. The data they need has plenty of errors, and in the face of a critical deadline, many individuals simply make corrections themselves to complete the task at hand.”

So what’s the impact of making less than optimal decisions because of imprecise, inaccurate, or untimely data for your company?

The Solution

Here are vital best practices to consider:

  1. Create Executive Support – data issues create recurring and significant costs and are a real competitive risk. Quantify and qualify this impact to gain a C Level call to action.
  2. Be Intentional – don’t try to “boil the ocean”. Focus on a critical business priority and demonstrate the value that having validated and trusted data has in the speed of the priority’s success.
  3. Recognize The Power Of Cross-Functional Consensus – most decisions have a cross-functional impact. Involve other functions in the process to secure early buy-in to the solutions.
  4. Apply Proven Methodologies and Technologies – don’t go after this by creating the solution from scratch. There are proven solutions to this problem that are timely, effective and repeatable.
  5. Approach The Solution As Building Organizational Capability Not As A Project – operating system changes, acquisitions, changes in personnel are just a very few real world reasons that data issues are not a static set of problems. Solve your data issues by investing and building organizational capability to proactively address them over time.

More precise data leads to more precise information and ultimately superior knowledge. The wisest business person will make the worst decisions if they lack trusted, detail data.

There is more at stake than you might think. Companies that tackle their data issues and empower their decision makers with solid analytical capabilities will continue to win the competitive battle. Those that defer will disappear. Think Amazon!

Need ‘war stories’ and additional information to lead your company to better decisions through better data? Contact Tami Kitajima at tkitjima@ci-advantage.com and we will be happy to provide that information.

All the best,

Richard Sharpe

Beating Amazon – Winning with Offensive Strategies

By Richard Sharpe | 12/08/2017 | 7:25 AM | Categories: Web/Tech

Let's be honest. If you look at most companies’ strategies to protect margins and market share being eroded by Amazon, the operative description would be “Defensive.” Over the last few months, Competitive Insights and the lharrington group have been researching what specific actions will help companies develop winning strategies in dealing with Amazon. The outcome is a three-part white paper entitled Tackling the “Amazon Effect”—Time for Offensive Strategies. Three key takeaways have been identified:

  1. Well beyond Retail. All industries have the potential to be seriously impacted by Amazon. Wholesalers, Distributors, Third Party Logistics (3PL) Service Providers, and Manufacturers must stop playing defense and go on the offense. Offensive strategies that are based on knowing where you make and lose money for every product, customer and channel combination. Competitve actions that reinvent customer service options, targeted product offerings and intelligent pricing models that take into account the full impact of discounts, promotions, and product returns. Continuing to build traditional competitive strategies using standard P&L levels of detail will result in market displacement. Plainly put, you can’t beat Amazon playing defense.

  2. To win against Amazon it is imperative to adopt a competitive ecosystem that is built on three tenets:
    1. Rapid access to precise and specific profit performance insights by product, customer, and channel.
    2. Utilization of this information to create strategies that break traditional siloed decision making through collaborative, cross-functional decisions.
    3. Setting organizational expectations that that this type of information is the foundation for consistently creating winning competitive strategies, even as business conditions change.
  1. To gain maximum advantage, each industry must use these actionable insights to drive and protect their sustainable ability to generate profits. Examples:
    1. Retailers introducing value-adding services that drive consumer purchasing of profitable product portfolios.
    2. Wholesalers & Distributors understanding the true profit contributions of each delivery location and the specific profit performance of the products that each customer is buying.
    3. Manufacturers using profit performance insights to intelligently make informed decisions regarding product variations by channel and customer category.
    4. 3PLs increasing customer loyalty and retention by providing innovative value-added services, with a focus on making their operation and their customers more profitable.

The impact of Amazon has become the “bar” against which companies are being measured by their customers, either directly or indirectly. Companies will not survive if they continue to use functionally siloed, defensive decision-making. 

Companies must decide how to compete, collborate, emulate, diverage from, merge with, and/or capitalize on the Amazon Effect. They must be able to quickly and effectively measure the financial impact of decisions with actionable cost and profit information. Information that is trusted throughout the organization.

The choice is simple. Go on the offense to win the game or just be another losing statistic in the rapidly changing playbook.

Want to know more? Please contact or Competitive Insights at tkitajima@ci-advantage.com or the lharrington group at lisa@lharringtongroup.com 

We would love to hear your thoughts!

All the best,


The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Richard Sharpe

Richard Sharpe

Richard Sharpe is CEO of Competitive Insights, LLC (CI), a founding officer of the American Logistics Aid Network (ALAN) and designated by DC Velocity as a Rainmaker in the industry. For the last 25 years, Richard has been passionate about driving business value through the adoption of process and technology innovations. His current focus is to support CI's mission to enable companies to gain maximum value through specific, precise and actionable insights across the organization for smarter growth. CI delivers Enterprise Profit Insights (EPI) solutions that enable cross-functional users to increase and protect profitability. Prior to his current role, Richard was President of CAPS Logistics, the forerunner of supply chain optimization. Richard is a frequent speaker at national conferences and leading academic institutions. His current focus is to challenge executives to improve their company's competitive position by turning enterprise wide data from a liability to an asset through the use of applied business analytics.


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