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Category Archives for "For CXOs and VPs"

How much does the market engagement process matter in Business?

Market Engagement

How Much Does The Market Engagement Process Matter In Business? 

Almost as much as rules of any game matter to the champions of that game. If you are a competitive sailor, or a golfer you know how vital it is to know the rules of the game and play by the rules.

Otherwise, you risk being disqualified, or getting penalties. 

Just consider Tiger Wood’s two shot penalty at the US Masters in 2013 for a wrongful drop. If even the best player in the world, who has been totally immersed in the game since he was 2 years old can make mistakes about the rules, what chance do we lesser mortals have?

Fortunately, in business the things are different

While there are general set of rules as per the legal principals in the country, the rules of engagement are left to the parties.

For this reason it is vital to take complete control of the game by designing the rules of the game in such a way that you meet your objectives for the game.

Now, does that mean your vendors have to lose along the way?

 Not really, because if they do then we would not be able to call it The 5-STAR Business Network. But, that is not how most companies play the game.

Most companies structure and run the market engagement process in a rather formulaic and archaic manner. Perhaps this is a legacy of procurement protocols or legislation enforced by governments or anti-corruption departments.

In my book Outsouring 3.0 you can read the key questions to ask during Market Engagement preparation.  


What Supply Chain Managers Can Do About Safety Recalls?

If you are in Australia, it is more than likely that you already know this saga. If you are not in Australia, or do not follow the news cycle, take a look at the video below:

This happens all too often. Once every few months, in some part of the world, a crisis of similar nature emerges.

Several years ago it was this:

I could keep finding a lot of similar videos about products and places – but you get the point. And, it is a not a new problem either. Take a look at this story from over 3 decades ago:

The point is that the lack of supply chain security hurts the company, the industry and the economy significantly.

Some band-aid solutions are rolled out – mostly to restore public confidence and get the demand up again. However, a comprehensive supply chain security regime is never put in place.

Having done large scale supply chain transformation projects for companies as sensitive as explosives, chemicals, fertilizers, food stuff, soft commodities, bakeries, meat, dairy, livestocks, and many others, we have seen both – the vulnerabilities and some really cutting edge supply chain security in practice.

Unfortunately, supply chain security, in conceptualisation and training, has not kept paced. There is no university course that covers this topic sufficiently. Conferences skirt this topic. Books cover it sketchily. Regulatory framework is patchy and officious.

And after complying with the regulatory burden most people relax in the belief that they have done enough.

In fact they have no basis to go beyond regulatory requirements, lest they are accused of being paranoid or overzealous about security.

Yet, dozens of incidents have demonstrated that regulatory framework is never enough. Each company has to develop its own supply chain security framework, based on its own particular circumstances. Even compliance with insurance requirements is not enough. Reputation damage to your business is a non-insurable loss in most cases.

How do you develop your own supply chain security framework?

Complying with regulatory and insurance requirements is a good start. You also need a more robust, holistic and comprehensive supply chain security framework that provides the guidelines for your own company’s supply chain security model.

Our report titled  SUPPLY CHAIN SECURITY – A COMPREHENSIVE, HOLISTIC FRAMEWORK provides the information to get you started.

Better still – run a one day workshop based on the content of the report. It will be the best 20K your company ever spent.

 

Outsourcing Tasks Does Not Transfer Responsibility For Those Tasks

Outsourcing Tasks Does Not Transfer Responsibility For Those Tasks

President Obama quipped in an interview with CNN. On May 14, 2010 "you had executives of BP and Transocean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else...The American people could not have been impressed with that display, and I certainly wasn't." The legal wrangling continues and will take considerable time and expense to resolve. We need not go into the gory details of dollar numbers too big to even fully comprehend, but from our perspective in this Chapter three key points stand out:

  • When you outsource a task, service or suite of services, you could still retain significant responsibility for its full and proper execution.
  • Brand-names, size of the company or even their experience is no guarantee of performance of the outsourcing service contracts.
  • No matter how close the 'partnership' is at the start, the test of a successful outsourcing contract is how it ends.

While these 3 key take-aways are still relevant to our discussion here, what is more relevant is the fact that all the companies in question will have to continue to outsource (and insource). So the practice of outsourcing itself will continue unabated. What will change after this learning experience is that the practice will be carried out in a much more sophisticated manner. That is the whole point of this book.

Before more on to newer, more sophisticated models of outsourcing that are emerging and examining them in more details in the next few chapter, let us consider the evidence on the satisfaction from current outsourcing arrangements.

Data, anecdotes and case histories abound on the misapplication of information technologies for supply networks. Not too many years ago, a very large corporation operating worldwide, made news with the downgrading of their earnings expectations due to supply chain system’s implementation setbacks. The expectation was that the new system would reduce the new production cycle from 1 month to 1 week. Furthermore, it would better match the demand and supply of its products to place the correct products in the right locations and quantities, all at the right time - a very lofty goal. The company spent an enormous amount of money, exceeding US $400 million in order to achieve its aim. However, the software system 'never worked right'. It caused the factories to crack out too many unpopular products and not enough of the trendier ones in high demand. While making the earning downgrade, the CEO asked the rhetorical question, ‘is this what we get for $400 million?’

The market analysts were not surprised. One respected market analyst [AMR] commented, ‘fiascos like this occur all the time but are usually kept quiet unless they seriously hurt the bottom line.’ Another respected market analyst commented that while the CEO made it sound like it was a surprise for him, if he did not have checkpoints for the projects, he does not have control over his company. A third analyst commented that companies are confused by escalating market hype and too often underestimate the complexity and risks. Another [Forrester Research] commented 'when the software projects go bad companies are more likely going to scurry up and cover it up because they fear that they are the only ones having trouble. But far from it; our conversation and research reveals this company was not unique or the only one having this kind of trouble'.

Despite their lofty goals, many of the large information technology deployment projects derail. It takes time for the word to filter out because, in most cases, the executives involved in the process are far too embarrassed to talk about what happened. They do mutter among themselves; after several similar instances the mutterings become more vocal and a trend emerges where a number of people start talking about the shortcomings of the system itself or the implementation process or of the time taken for implementation. Because the cost of this failure is so high – greater than $400 Million in the above case – it is instructive to understand the real root causes of this failure. I am not looking to apportion the fault or apportion the blame in this chapter.

Why do so many outsourcing arrangements fail?

Why Do So Many Outsourcing Arrangements Fail? 

It is common knowledge that the failure rate of complex outsourcing arrangement remains stubbornly over 50% depending on which survey you read. With such a long history and accumulated lessons from outsourcing, this is simply unacceptable. 

However, it is not only outsourced projects that fail. Internal projects – especially large scale IT systems development or technological developments have an equally unimpressive track record. For an amusing example of the reasons, I encourage the reader to peruse this blog post:

 "WHY ARE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT ESTIMATES REGULARLY OFF ?"

So, what exactly  do we do in the preparation stage? We should ask and answer several key questions:

  • What are the services to be outsourced? Why? How does this plan fit with our corporate strategy?
  • What are the Key Service parameters? How will we know that the outsourced service is meeting our strategic objectives?
  • What budget for Service?
  • How many Service Companies?
  • How long contracts? 
  • How to select Service Companies?
  • How to manage relationship/s?

So what happens when you fail to prepare? The obvious answer is that the outsourcing arrangement turns out to be sub-optimal, and sometimes even disastrous. 

If you are looking to make perfect Outsourcing Strategies without failure Risk factor, Buy Book Outsourcing3.0

30 Years Of Accumulated Wisdom Is Now Available

30 Years Of Accumulated Wisdom Is Now Available

However, it will be a fallacy not to learn from all the accumulated wisdom of the past. After all, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat the same mistakes again and again. This will enable us to understand the steps we can take from the very beginning to increase your probability of success. This will also allow you to confidently move forward with Business Network Information Technology system selection, integration and use in order to achieve the results that you set out to achieve.

The supply networks information technology projects have become bigger and bigger over the last 15 years. It is quite customary now to start with an expectation of spending around $ 50 million but end up spending in excess of $200 million on systems renewal projects.

Rough estimates indicate that, even today, about one third of these projects are cancelled without delivering any benefits, after spending more than $100 million. Another third of the projects are not cancelled, but fail to deliver significant parts of what they set out to achieve. Only one third of the projects achieve most of their strategic goals, but many still incur several budget upgrades and time overruns.

Why is this pattern of failure repeated over and over again?

To answer the key question above, let’s first examine a typical project cost structure. It is estimated that the software costs are no more than 15-20% of the overall cost of systems renewal. Programming and configuration costs run from 20% to 25%; external consulting costs generally associated with process changes run from 15-20%, data conversion costs run around 10-15%, training costs  run from 10-15%, systems startup costs run around 10%, applications support costs are between 5-10% and hardware costs are between 2-5% of the overall cost structure. Out of these costs only the software costs generally remains fixed through the systems renewal cycle. Pretty much all the rest of the cost buckets are estimated ambitiously at the start and tend to run over quite considerably as the project progresses.

5-STAR Business Networks Come Together In Many Forms

5-STAR Business Network Come Together In Many Forms

As the exploratory well it was digging nearly came to completion, on 20 April 2010 Deepwater Horizon became front page news on nearly every newspaper on earth. The incident was reported in a press release by Transocean as follows:

“Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG) (SIX: RIGN) today reported a fire onboard its semisubmersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. The incident occurred April 20, 2010 at approximately 10:00 p.m. central time in the United States Gulf of Mexico. The rig was located approximately 41 miles offshore Louisiana on Mississippi Canyon block 252.”

“Transocean's Emergency and Family Response Teams are working with the U.S. Coast Guard and lease operator BP Exploration & Production, Inc. to care for all rig personnel and search for missing rig personnel. A substantial majority of the 126 member crew is safe but some crew members remain unaccounted for at this time. Injured personnel are receiving medical treatment as necessary. The names and hometowns of injured persons are being withheld until family members can be notified.”

The details of the incident, as per the figures from popular mechanics were attention grabbing:

4.9 million: Barrels of oil (205.8 million gallons) leaked from the Deepwater Horizon well, about half the amount of crude oil the U.S. imports per day
19: Times more oil leaked from Deepwater Horizon than spilled from the Exxon Valdez in 1989 (10.8 million gallons)
62,000: Barrels leaking per day when the wellhead first broke, roughly the amount of oil consumed in Delaware each day
53,000: Barrels leaking per day when the well was capped on July 15, roughly the amount of oil consumed in Rhode Island each day
397.7 million: Dollars' worth of the oil spilled at current market prices ($81.17 per barrel)
665: Miles of coastline contaminated by oil


The resulting investigation to establish the causality, contributing factors and liability will fill up a book many times the size of the one you are holding.

Valuation Of Business Networks Ranges Into Trillions Of Dollars

Valuation Of Business Networks Ranges Into Trillions Of Dollars

Each industry has a highly unique and valuable supply network that its participants have created in response to the circumstances, regulations, customer needs, and economic situation in the industry. Either by trial and error or by intelligent design somewhere along the way, each of these networks has evolved over the past several decades to reach into its current state as a result of all the changes in economics, technology, regulatory requirements and customer tastes. Sometimes a new player, such as Red Bull, enters the industry and causes a major disruption to the established supply relationships and networks. In most cases, the established supply relationships and networks in every industry will go through a gradual evolution as the environment evolves. Most CEOs are now familiar with the power of supply networks transformation. Currently in many industries these supply networks are rapidly undergoing massive transformations as CEOs adjust their business strategies to global realities.

We will cover business networks and supply networks in great detail in Section II and III. For this reason, we will devote the rest of this chapter to looking at some other types of networks familiar to you. 

The most familiar network to you is your own. A network of
business associates and contacts. Inevitably, they come to your rescue when you need help and vice versa. They are also good sources of information, job leads, business leads and even guidance or inspiration. LinkedIn and Plaxo have put the Rolodex of old online and added far more functionality and possibilities with their web versions In that sense, online networks enhance the possibilities and functionalities far beyond what is possible with the offline networks. An enriching, quasi-structured and purpose oriented interaction is possible using online networking tools - it would be difficult to replicate this in an offline context.

Other Examples Of Networks Abound

Other examples of offline networks are alumni networks from your schools, colleges, previous work places and similar locations. Many of these are now online, though very few are doing much beyond basic database creation and sharing. Just this year, one of my graduate schools has started systematically co-creating executive education programs with the help of its alumni network - even though the possibility has existed in technological capability for almost a decade.

Some of the more well known formal networks are organisations such as the Freemasons, the Rotarians and clubs including the chambers of commerce. Each of these was created for a different mission and most still adhere to their original formal charters. Many of these formal networks are moving online, at least for the purpose of database creation and sharing. Contrary to some beliefs, most of them are rather benign associations that create a forum for gathering and sharing interests. Many networks of professionals with similar interests exist online either at LinkedIn or through professional bodies where the only condition of entry is your interest in the topic of discussion.

One such offline network where I served on the Global Advisory Board broadened its membership by tens of thousands during the five years I was on the board. 
The professional courses, seminars, forums and lecture seminars, forums and lectures series run by the organisation contributed significantly to the body of knowledge on the subject. At the same time, numerous
individuals found suitable jobs and professional progression
advancement though the network.

Another online informal network I have created on a social networking website has grown to more than 6,500 members globally and business opportunities worth more than $650 million are offered every year. It is difficult to estimate the actual trade that results from the network as trade is mostly carried out offline. This network is growing rapidly. Now I am grappling with the question of how to keep its in formal nature and yet enhance its usefulness and relevance
to the participants of the network. 


In the rest of this book, we will focus primarily on the
business networks, their efficacy - efficiency and effectiveness and their utility to the participants. More specifically, we will demonstrate how the business leaders of the future are busily building networks that will underpin their business aspirations. There are five key leverage points of the business networks and we will discuss these in details in the next section.

American railroads – a business network opens up the continent

As the business network of the East India Company was getting embroiled in exploitative trades of opium and slaves, another network, far more effective, was being established on the continent of North America. Having won the American war of Independence, the colonies of the eastern seaboard were expanding far into the continent of North America - in all directions. When the technology of railroads eventually arrived, this expansion boomed.

The rapid industrialization and growth of railroads

With the rapid industrialization and growth of railroads, it became possible to mine, establish factories and build all the modern transportation and communication networks that underlie modern commerce today. Besides opening up the entire continent and establishing the United States of America as the pre-eminent industrial power of the 20th century, the railroad network also formed the basis of massive fortunes of tycoons such as Stanford, Pullman and Vanderbilt.

Oil, steel, coal, chemicals, power stations, mining operations, grain and passenger transportation were all greatly boosted by the railroad network. It is fair to say these formed the basis of the modern industrial economy of the USA. The key feature of this business network was the clear enunciation of the positive reinforcement cycle, or flywheel effect, whereby other industries got a boost from establishment of the railroad network, which in turn further benefited the railroad networks themselves.

Venice – the powerful business network of the Middle Ages

Venetian Merchants Of The Later Middle Ages


No wonder, then, that the Venetian merchants - the middlemen closest to the end customers and with the most visibility of the entire network - moved to take greater control of the network.

It should not surprise us that consolidation of political power made the business network more effective and efficient at the same time. There are ample historic records, as well as anecdotal writings - from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice" to Horatio Brown's historical reviews - that make great reading about the business network centered around the Venetian merchants of the later Middle Ages.

The network had become a lot more formal in its form 

In the late Middle Ages, the bankers, merchants, and ship owners of Venice controlled the trade into Europe. At the peak of its power, the Venetian Republic had a fleet of ships exceeding 3000 vessels and controlled all trade from the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. To assure security of the supply network, the Venetian Republic controlled territories on the Adriatic coast, so pirates could not attack their ships coming from the east. Using their financial power, the Venetian Merchants’ Guild began to dis-intermediate the middlemen in the entire supply chain.

The simultaneous rise of strong Arab empires with central command, first in Baghdad and later in Cairo controlling a vast territory, aided this process of dis-inter-mediation as the caravans could traverse a much greater distance and were assured relatively more security in their travels. A key feature of the Venetian business network was the role of political power, as well as finance, in shaping desirable business outcomes and securing these outcomes for the key participants in these networks.



Dear Hackers – Please Do Not Kill the Cloud…

There are already plenty of nude photos in the cyberspace. No matter how attractive these celebrities are, their photos are not worth what is at stake. News Reports have been taken over by the celebrity nude photo celebration. Here is a good summary, in case you missed out:

” MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Explicit photos of dozens of female celebrities have been dumped on the internet in what’s believed to be one of the biggest celebrity hacking scandals to date. Jennifer Lawrence, the Oscar winning star of the cult movie the Hunger Games, is among dozens of high profile Hollywood actresses to have naked images posted on the internet by hackers. The incident has raised serious questions about the security of internet storage systems.

work-on-keybordSo far I have not made an attempt to see the leaked photos. Come to think of it, I have seen enough of them (when I was working in merchant navy) to last me a lifetime – so I will do this either. Is it really that big a deal? These people had posed for the photos, so assumedly they did not mind some people seeing them in those poses.

It is really of question of which people, and in what circumstances. When I posed for this photo, I did so with full knowledge that some people will look at it, and it might perhaps even leak from my cloud account. I do not mind if it happens; though now that I have put it here in this blog, hacking them will be purposeless. If you have photos of yourself in the cloud that you would not like people to see, delete them or make them public. Privacy is a luxury that does not exist in the global village.

We are all Kardashians now. But, the purpose of this blog is not to decry the loss of privacy – in my view it is overrated anyway. Plus, that bus has departed long ago. Purpose, of this blog is to make a direct appeal to the hackers to not kill the cloud. Too much is at stake. Global economic integration, supply chain 3.0 planning, collaboration, concurrent engineering, even cool products such as the next generation of phones, watches and tablets – none of this will be possible anymore with data residing in cloud and enabling So dear hackers – you will lose your cool products.

You will lose the low prices for great things – cost of everything will go up massively, if supply chain 3.0 planning and collaboration cannot be accomplished. And, you will lose your own ability to send huge files across the internet to your friends. Would you like to see that happen? A few photos of scantily clad (or unclad) bodies are not really worth that much.

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