Archives for February 2016

Partly Cloudy With A Chance Of Scattered Pigeons

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/28/2016 | 6:11 AM

By now even your Gran' Maman knows that the much-vaunted cloud is nothing more than a bunch of server farms, kept under roof in secret hideaways just outside far distant locations.

The server farmers are not simple growers, clad in Oshkosh B'Gosh, JCPenney plaid, and sturdy work boots. They are, rather, technogeeks, nerds from some silicon centroid, a curious mix of West Coast laid back and East Coast driven.

We forgot about them for a while, content to let SCM applications reside "up there", with occasional  worries about security, financial stability, and whether SaaS was a for-real phenomenon. But, rising from a deep slumber, The Cloud is back, landing with both feet on the universe of SCM. It's not just about having a convenient place to stash all your mis-remembered passwords, and not caring where your execution applications are actually running.

Today, we are looking at TMS and Global Trade Management as probable cloud-resident technology, adding to the roster of SCM applications as catalogue offerings and/or Saas options. Overall, cloud-delivered SCM offerings are growing staggeringly faster than traditional solutions.

And, the big kids are taking over the game, with SAP, Oracle, and JDA dominating the market. Growth appears to be driven by companies that want or need to get into the current century with technology at something less than the national debt, and vendors-suppliers who quake at the possibility of getting left out of continuing business recovery and growth.

The topic, in total, deserves deeper and wider investigation and coverage - so much is going on, with smaller, specialized, providers invading the space, and their customers getting aggressively creative about how to leverage cloud-based capabilities.

Hold on tight. This ride gets more exciting with each loop-de-loop.  And keep your eyes peeled for pigeons overhead; it's still possible to get splatted from above.

Are Komodo Dragons Really Dragons?

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/24/2016 | 1:36 PM

Probably not. But, you object, "everybody calls them dragons". Sure, and "everybody" calls machete-wielding murderers and baby-killers religious zealots, too.

But turning to the evidence, as best we can interpret it, the Komodo Dragon looks like a very large lizard, and appears to share some unsavory personal habits with its smaller cousins. True, it can bite a person, and is a germ and disease factory of great prowess, whether in a "safe" zoo or in its homeland on a handful of Indonesian islands.

Using classical illustrations as a guide, the great lizard falls short of full dragon status on a number of counts. It cannot fly;indeed it has no wings, not even vestigial remnants. Neither are there any reports of exhaling fire for purposes of intimidation or barbecuing a foe.

A dragon that does beset the supply chain practitioner with intense regularity derives from the CFO's favorite mantra when applied to others, e.g., those actually doing the work, "We need to do more with less again this year!" So, how does the leader, leader-to-be, aspirational leader, or yet-to-be-recognized leader maintain his or her personal, group, or team productivity?

Entrepreneur contributor Steve Tobak reminds us that real leaders don't follow, confesses to terminal disorganization, admits to the sin of procrastination, but claims success from following a few simple rules. His core conclusion? "If you want to accomplish great things, you should focus on doing just that . . . Figure out what you want to do and just do it."

His Seven Rules?

Focus on goals and priorities. If you don't know your goals, you don't really have any. Know what the priorities are to ensure you can meet your goals.

Know yourself. Strengths, weaknesses, talents, shortfalls. In a corollary, know those on your team, where they fit, how they plug gaps, how they stand in for you, and how they work together.

Always get the job done. Always. No excuses. What else are you getting paid for?

Love your work. If you don't, what's the point?

Be flexible, adaptive, and creative. Promise to serve and to solve, then figure out how.

Work when you have to, not when you don't. Pull all-nighters, work weekends when you have to; watch Judge Judy when you want to.

Take care of yourself. Eat right, sleep right, stay in shape. Be ready to take on the challenges of succeeding.

My Eighth Rule?  Then go on offense, and have a ball doing it.

30 Years Of Perfect Attendance Ought To Count For Something!

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/21/2016 | 12:41 PM

We continue to face the supply chain management dilemma of a pervasive talent shortage at the same time we must confront an army of long-term out-of-work ("in transition") practitioners. It's painful at the human level to try to do positive networking while the between-jobs individuals with families and mortgages clutch at straws in palpable desperation.

People counseling job seekers have useful tips to improve the odds, but their lists tend to be sort of mechanical, as well as incomplete. They generally, and correctly, recommend doing extensive research before going on an interview. Research on the company, the industry, principal products and markets, financial position, known strategies, public knowledge challenges, and the backgrounds of likely interviewers.

This, btw, is not the time to assume that you've got special insights, know what's wrong, and are ready with defined solutions to fix the enterprise. That tack will almost surely guarantee that there won't be a second interview.

This good advice begs the core question of how to get an interview in the first place. The answer? Any and every way you can. Job sites. Ads. Fairs. Network contacts. Referrals from a friend to another friend. This process alone is a full-time job.

In the interview, forget about your titles, spans of control, responsibilities, committee assignments - all that superficial structural stuff. Talk only about accomplishments, outcomes, and organizational impacts (balance sheet, income statement things) - profit margins, top line growth, headcount, cost management, asset productivity.

You need to show that you are a leader, and not just a manager. But, in the act of positioning yourself as someone who gets the right things done, do not be overconfident, cocky, the smartest little boy or little girl in the room. You are your own advocate in this arena, but you cannot be arrogant or dismissive of your audience.

Ask tons Of questions. One, to indicate interest and intelligence, and, two, to genuinely discover if the job and the company are right fits for you - and for your long-term plans. If all you are trying to do is get a job, any job, it will become painfully obvious to the interviewer almost immediately.

After the interview send a recap memo. Not a thank you note; you are not trying to impress Miss Manners. Send a thoughtful summary of what you think you learned, and how you think you can help the company - and how you fit into the culture and environment.

Even if you are a recent graduate, never mind your GPA. Nobody cares; it's work experience, attitude, cultural "fit", and references that make a difference. While you're at it, forget the cover letter, no matter how artfully crafted, in your profile. It is a waste of paper that no one, anymore, reads.

A key element the HR pros too often omit is that you need to show up fully armed with comprehensive understandings of what's happening, what's changing, and what's coming down the pike in your particular slice if the supply chain pie.

Nobody wants to hear about your relevant experience in 1995.

Happy hunting!

Did Jim Cantore Start This Way?

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/17/2016 | 11:48 AM

It was The Kid's first winter in Ohio, a wake-up call after growing up in Miami. La Diva, his older, but not necessarily wiser, sister asked - halfway down the road from Fear to Consternation - "Say, what is this Level One snow emergency, anyway?"

The Kid, then as now, did not skip a beat in responding. "It means that there's not enough snow for sledding."

La Diva thinks that holiday caroling is an outdoor sport, so the issue was dropped.

But, upon reflection, The Kid was once again more right than wrong. Sure, the elderly and impaired ought not be driving through the snowflakes in a Level One situation. But, it takes a lot to turn a 12-year old Buick LeSabre into a toboggan.

We often face needs to explain complex and nuanced concepts in straightforward terms to help our leaders understand how tough the job of supply chain management really is. Don't worry about impressing the boss with your grasp of trifling detail. Give him or her the headline news in short, simple words, and get on with solving the problem at hand.

The boss will thank you, and your career will appreciate the support you get in easing the pain.

The USPS Breaks New Ground And Gets Its Second Wind

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/14/2016 | 7:25 AM

Or vice-versa, as time will tell.

Putting aside their self-inflicted catastrophe in first class mail losses, parcel is seen by some as USPS' only hope for survival, let alone prosperity.

On the surface, the Postal Service would seem to have it made, as it jumps into the parcel fray with guns blazing. They've been granted significant rate reductions, further Increasing their price advantage over UPS and FedEx. They've got another edge, without the price burden of the major carriers' accessorials, including profit-boosting fuel surcharges.

And, favorable winds could be rising. USPS is becoming the last mile solution for major carriers without their footprint density. They are handling many Sunday deliveries. But, they face challenges.

Billions in fleet upgrades. Lagging technology and visibility applications. Cost layers, rather than asset leverage, in the Sunday initiative. Margin drains from the other side of the business. Longer term, and more significant, is the mission-vital need to transform the organization, to make it genuinely service-driven, to cut through wasteful bureaucratic processes and HR/LR handicaps.

We can tell how fragile our parcel is by the distance our mail-person feels is needed to drop it; the higher the drop, the more valuable the contents. And, she obviously feels that bending, squeezing, and folding smaller packages to force-fit them into our community-standard mailboxes is somewhere in her official position description.

Who and what will win out? Good sense or bitter anti-customer feelings? Service or revenge? The answer will determine USPS' ultimate fate, not price advantage or structural designs that the prevailing culture elects not to own.

Muppet Central: 5 Minutes, Miss Piggy

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/10/2016 | 7:19 AM

A wave that continues unabated for years and years is no longer a wave. You cannot have missed noticing the consolidation - global - that has been ongoing in the logistics industry for a couple of decades.

Deals abound, notably and recently FedEx/GENCO. But, XPO has been on a tear, becoming a major league player in the logistics service provider (LSP) space relatively overnight.

Industry observers don't hesitate to offer opinions, and they span a range of options. Some are uncritical enthusiasts; some suspect that acquisitions and subsequent head-chopping will continue. I don't know Brad Jacobs well enough to ask, and if I knew I could only tell under penalty of death. But, there are some obvious paths to consider.

One is the accumulation of functional capabilities sufficient to provide price-attractive one-stop shopping for customers, with an end game of staking out a sustainable dominant position in the industry. Others include variants on investment end games.

One option would be the creation of a flexible-scale full service provider with an adjustable cost structure. Its sale could be a windfall for the architect of its creation. Another would be the sell-off of individual functional units, each dressed up - tarted up, some would say - to attract suitors with deep pockets.

This would be the classic "putting lipstick on the pig" tactic employed for generations by venture and private equity capitalists. The sum of the parts would add up to significantly more than the cost of the whole.

Sort of like selling Miss Piggy and Kermit separately versus as a pair. I will note that ABC has created a rift between the frog and his porcine paramour in the interest of higher ratings and viewer engagement.

HMS Resolute

By Art van Bodegraven | 02/03/2016 | 11:36 AM

I've always been intrigued and amused by the names of warships, especially the British versions. Intrepid, Victorious, Valiant, Courageous, Resolute, for example.

The images of epic sea battles that are today shadows in the mists of memory and history, relics of a glorious past and a time for heroes.

But, with the call of Resolute, I must return to an earlier theme, the importance of resolutions for a New Year. Resolution requires, for lasting effect, resolve, and resolve entails a resolute pursuit of objectives, changes, and outcomes.

So, how are you doing with your resolute resolve in the execution of resolutions? Have you sought the TV infomercial path to six-pack abs? Have you forsworn the habits that make spa membership mandatory on the meat market bar scene? Or, have you begun to adopt the leadership and value-adding behaviors that can change your career trajectory forever?

It's not too late to adopt either or both approaches. You need not wait for 2017 to roll around to make promises all over again.

Think it over. It's your life, personally and professionally.

And I'm going to keep bugging you about this - resolutely. 

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 Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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