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Socializing the supply chain (Part 2)


This two-part series highlights social media’s role in today’s supply chain organization.

Social Pages 200pxIn our first post, we looked at the potential benefits of social networking for supply chain professionals. This second post  takes a look inside and around organizations to explore the multidimensional applications of the technology from staff to investors:

  1. Your workforce and human resources department: With workforces dispersed worldwide, technology enables the HR department to keep in touch with employees. New applications such as Socialcast and Opentext make it even easier and provide more effective ways to communicate with your own workforce. But perhaps the best value social media can offer to your HR management is in the area of recruitment. Here, the likes of LinkedIn can prove very valuable in identifying the right talent your organization needs, shifting the focus from reaching out to potential candidates to sorting and vetting the large number of possibilities – a nicer problem to have you may agree.
  2. Your public relations, advertising and marketing professionals: Never have any organizations held as much personal information on its members as sites like Facebook, Qzone, VKontakte, Bebo, and Foursquare do. While creating legitimate privacy concerns, the irony of it all is that users are voluntarily giving up personal information themselves. Social channels allow professionals to learn more about the likes and dislikes of followers, allowing for incredibly targeted marketing messaging. It also offers brands a multitude of channels to connect with customers and prospects on, whether it be YouTube, Flickr or Pinterest.  Keep in mind that social channels also come with their own pitfalls as the recent ill-fated Twitter campaign from McDonald’s has demonstrated when it backfired within hours. No idea where to start? Don’t panic, a new breed of agencies, such as Converseon, specialize in social asset management offering advice and services to prevent you from making a total leap of faith.
  3. Your market research and R&D groups: Gone are the days of the infamous ‘suggestion box’ which – let’s face it – never lived-up to expectations. Companies like Spigit offer tailored Enterprise innovation management solutions to generate, collect and analyze feedback from your staff, collaborators, focus groups or your market. Brands can also encourage participation via these platforms by offering incentives and virtual compensation packages, making the process much more likely to succeed.
  4. Your investors and finance organization: If you are a public company, you are probably finding it difficult to properly communicate with individual investors via social channels. Platforms such as Wikinvest or StockTweets are becoming very popular among individual investors and offer a potential tool to interact with them. Governments and regulators are also looking for new ways to get shareholders more informed and engaged and are reviewing what social media could bring to the investment arena. On the other hand, such is the pace of social networks that any kind of misleading information can have a direct impact on your stock price and monitoring social media in real time is a new skill Investors Relations specialists will need to learn quickly. Regulation may still restrict your ability to share critical information, but investor forums can be a powerful way of getting feedback and ‘taking the temperature’ from the otherwise silent majority.

I believe we are still in the early days of social media in the workplace and various elements will need to be addressed such as privacy, confidentiality, legitimacy, piracy to name a few. No doubt that it will shake-up a large number of policies - perhaps much further than the emergence of ‘e-mails’ triggered in its early days. One thing is fairly clear - if you intend on keeping the lines of communication open with your customers, staff and other stakeholders, you will need to connect with them on the social platforms where they are congregating. Go on, give it a go, you could even save costs in the process!


Top risks of supply chain outsourcing


I came across the 40 risks and mistakes of supply chain outsourcing in Supply Chain Digest and thought I would share with you some for my favourites:

  1. Inadequate business case development for the outsourcing decision – Often decisions are made on perceived cost alone, however hidden costs are not built into the business case, for example freight impacts, Tax implications, the impact of flexibility.
  2. Outsourcing undesirable functions versus the ones that provide greatest competitive advantage - In many cases the difficult or hard to manage functions are outsourced, however they may be core competences that should be insourced. It must be clear the value outsourcing a function will bring.
  3. Not casting one’s net widely enough for potential providers of the service, and thus missing good candidates - Many companies you have an outsourcing relationship with will tell you they have a specific set of skills but often on further examination capabilities are limited if not non-existent.
  4. Insufficient knowledge of service provider capacity limitations - Understand space availability and manpower requirements, get detailed information on how the supplier flexes during peaks and what you get for your money.
  5. Having an unrealistic timeline for any of the steps of the outsource process including start-up - Often outsourcing is complex and it must be implemented in a way that limits risks especially if the process relates to revenue generation. A pilot program usually limits risk and allows for a timely smooth start up.
  6. Inadequate planning concerning information systems and interfacing with the service provider - Systems integration is costly and needs collaboration from both sides, often resources need to be booked well in advance of the implementation date.
  7. Lack of incentives for provider continuous improvement - Aligning incentives is key to creating a long term collaborative relationship. The business should make both parties be profitable to achieve long term objectives.
  8. Lack of a formal “lessons learned” roundtable on outsourcing in general and, specifically, established outsourcing relationship - An open collaborative approach is required to build a long term relationship. A formal review process such as QBR’s will help in this process.

Do you have any favourite mistakes you would like to add?


Socializing the supply chain (Part 1)


This two-part series highlights social media’s role in today’s supply chain organization.

Social Icons 200pxIf you think that social networking is a distraction and serves no other business purpose than to give marketing executives an excuse to tweet during working hours, well, I have three things to say to you: One, you are probably not alone. Two, you could well be right on two accounts. Three, you may still want to reconsider your thoughts on social media and the role that it can play in your business.

Like it or not, social media is an extraordinary phenomenon. With the exception of a few obscure chat rooms, the concept of social media did not exist 10 years ago. Yet, it is now estimated to involve and connect over 1.2 billion people on the planet, or more than 80 percent of the Internet population. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are undoubtedly the leading forces behind the social era. However, a number of other networks are also making a remarkable “social” contribution for supply chain professionals.

Below are examples of these social tools and the benefits they can bring to various parts of your organization:

  1. Your end customer and customer support organization: It is probably fair to assume that a large portion of your customers are active social media contributors. In the last few years, a number of companies have seen that it only takes one influential and dissatisfied customer to damage your brand reputation online. However, this is a risk that can be mitigated. Dell, which relies heavily on its own e-commerce site to sell its merchandise, has recently taken an active step in monitoring what is said about the company via social media.  The company is using a social media monitoring platform called Radian6 in its Social Media Listening Command Center to listen to and analyze more than 20,000 daily posts - and act where necessary to convert negative comments into satisfied customers. Before social media, satisfied or dissatisfied customers would share thoughts with a handful of their friends.  However now in the social era, one unhappy person’s thoughts could be shared with a network of “friends” averaging over 100 people. The good news is that this also creates an opportunity for positive messaging which Dell well understood.
  2. Your channel partners and sales force: Sales representatives were the first people to safeguard and organize their Rolodex through online solutions such as Plaxo. However, these address book alternatives have been outpaced by professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. Professional social networking sites  offer value-added tools that allow you to make targeted connections, leverage your extended network to a level never seen before, or just ‘keep in touch’ with more direct contacts than could have been manageable a few years ago. Industry groups and forums on LinkedIn are also becoming a meaningful way of identifying opportunities and gathering intelligence on your market as well as your competition.
  3. Your suppliers and sourcing/procurement specialists: Supply chain professionals have had access to specialized procurement platforms for decades.  But what the Internet has brought is a faster way to access this information with a wider reach. Now brands like Salesforce are incorporating social media to create Enterprise social networks like Salesforce Chatter. Enterprise social networks like Chatter are cheaper and more informal ways of inquiring about solutions, prices or any other type of information that can help streamline sourcing, pre-qualification or even risk-management. This is also becoming an effective way of disseminating information (be it new policies or else) to your supply base and keeping an eye on what is happening with them. Finally, embedded survey tools or more sophisticated RFP (request for proposal) solutions can also help a great deal in making their administration more efficient, and this is also valid for the supplier selection process.

Next week we’ll explore the benefits social media can bring to your workforce, marketing, R&D and even investors relations. In the meantime I’d be delighted to hear your comments on your experience with social networks in the professional context.


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