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Omaha and technology?

By Steve Simmerman | 09/11/2009 | 9:21 AM

Solid foundations required as a basis for the future

Omaha, Nebraska?  Technology?  Supply Chain? This seems like an odd mix when you first consider it.  However, on a recent trip through Omaha I was struck by the images and patterns of development in that city and how they can be applied to many of the projects that we face in supply chain, particularly technology-based projects. Omaha is the 40th largest city in the US and is the headquarters of several Fortune 500 firms including ConAgra Foods, Berkshire Hathaway, Mutual of Omaha Companies, Union Pacific Corporation and Peter Kiewit and Sons, Inc.  Omaha is a city with a long and interesting history.  Many of you sports fans, particularly baseball fans, may know Omaha as the home of the NCAA Collegiate Men's Baseball World Series.  In fact, Omaha has been hosting this event since 1950.  This brings me to the parallel to technology-based projects in our supply-chain centric lives.

We are constantly bombarded with SaaS, cloud computing, SOA, Web 2.0, even Supply Chain 2.0 stories and development announcements every day.  I don't think many of us have totally comprehended or even begun to adapt Web 2.0 into our daily lives or our businesses and Web 3.0 is already buzzing in the background.  All these developments promise to take our supply chain initiatives to the next level.  While this may be true, it's important to keep in mind where we have been and how we can leverage that experience going forward - just like Omaha did.

We have seen countless examples of where technology is viewed as the panacea.  But without a solid plan and foundation for the implementation of these technology breakthroughs it may all be for naught.  Back to Omaha.  Some wonderful developments have occurred over the past few years.  The development and expansion of the Qwest Center Omaha along a beautiful riverfront setting is one example.  The center is a very eye-catching building set along the Missouri river, leveraging a very unique facet of Omaha's landscape.  Another development currently underway is the construction of the new College World Series stadium.  In 2008 , the NCAA and the local non-profit organization that runs the College World Series agreed to keep the tournament in Omaha for the next 25 years through 2035.  A  testament to past success with the tournament, as well as a huge economic win for Omaha.  How many of us have ever experienced contract extensions that involve 25 year commitments?

The new stadium is well underway.  While today it is basically a rough construction site, with a large hole in the earth and some steel structure starting to go up. The future for this new venue looks very promising.  I sense this because I saw the construction site from the new hotel I stayed at which happens to be directly across the street from the new stadium.  Mine was not the only new hotel in the area.  In fact, the next morning I noticed several new hotels already operating in the area. 

The stadium is strategically placed to leverage the existing downtown area, the marketplace, the parking facilities already in place for the Qwest Center and more.  The scene surrounding this new stadium really impressed me.  How many times have we seen projects that race to get to the finish line, but never take the time to make sure the basic foundations are in place?  How many times do we race to embrace and deploy technology without taking the time to ensure that the underlying processes have been evaluated, that the people involved have been educated and trained, that the existing infrastructure is leveraged properly or that we have taken the time to improve the existing infrastructure to ensure our long-term success with technology-based projects?

Perhaps we all need to learn lessons from my visit to Omaha.  Before your build your next state-of-the art stadium that will be used for 25 years, make sure the hotels, the parking, the roads and the supporting infrastructure are in place first.  There are no short cuts in life.  Careful planning and building a solid foundation is vital to the long-term success of any technology-based project.  Next time you start an important technology-based project for your supply chain ask your project team - "How can we learn from Omaha?"  I'm sure you'll get some very puzzling looks, yet I'm sure you'll discover some key paths forward toward the success of your new stadium.

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About Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman is a Senior Director with JDA. Simmerman has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry including software, consulting and material handling. He has focused his efforts on working with clients to achieve high performance supply chain results through partnerships and creative solutions. He is a member of CSCMP, WERC, and MHIA and is a regular contributor to several industry publications and events. Simmerman holds his undergraduate and MBA degrees from The University of Notre Dame.



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