This title is a line from the hit HBO show Silicon Valley, a parody of life in the bubble that stretches south from San Francisco to San Jose. But it’s not really a parody; it’s more of a reality show. I’ve lived here since 1987, but only on the inner and outer edges of the bubble. But if there is one thing that I absolutely abhor and resent about life around that bubble, it is the debasement and trivialization of “the platform.”
Category Archives: Friday Rant
Colman’s Mustard, TA National Trading and Amazon Business: Juxtaposing Questionable Merchant Practices With Awesome Customer Service
A recent purchase of Colman’s mustard via Amazon Business (using our corporate account) was a reminder that there are some unsavory merchant practices lurking in the shadows of the digital commerce world. And TA National Trading, the merchant in question in this case, either made a bad mistake or intentionally attempted an old trading company trick that is more common in the third world (unfortunately) than something we usually see in developed countries.
Keith Emerson, the keyboard player for the trio ELP (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) died earlier this month, unfortunately at his own hand. As the consummate perfectionist, he didn’t want to disappoint fans as nerve damage had been affecting his right arm at the age of 71. What a tragedy — and waste of genius’ life. I’ve been playing a lot of ELP recently, and although it’s been a real hit on my productivity, I can’t help myself.
When I tell people that I am a services procurement and contingent workforce industry analyst, I usually get either a glazed look or a look that betrays a kind of sympathy or pity. That is usually the time — after a moment of uncomfortable silence — to turn the tables and ask what they do. But given that I am an analyst, I have felt compelled to ask myself and try to answer these questions: What is an analyst? What does an analyst do? Here’s what I found.
Just over 30 years ago, Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in print when I was in college. The cartoon series resonated with me strongly, and I have loved sharing it with my kids because of its humor, certainly, but also the way in which it captures a love of life not overly jaded by the trappings of everyday society. I’m not going to go overboard here, but there are some things that perhaps we can all learn from a little boy, his stuffed tiger and a healthy dose of imagination.
I confess that I have a mild addiction to the tune of a rather particular type of spirits that I go through at the rate of a bottle or so every few months: the very un-American Fernet Branca, a truly wonderful liqueur that not only centers the mind but also settles the stomach and the nerves with just a few sips. While definitely an acquired taste, the lessons of Fernet Branca as applied to procurement, from a leadership role or below, are many.
There’s been an awful lot of debate among both liberals and conservatives on what type of president Donald Trump would be. But I think there’s an even more fun question to ask: If Donald Trump were a chief procurement officer (CPO), what would he be like? I actually think we can begin to arrive at the answer from looking closely at his views on policy — and candidly, it looks like he’d actually be a somewhat effective, if unloved, CPO. Here are some reasons why.
Do you consider your procurement organization to be customer-centric? Are you really concerned about it? The Hackett Group’s report, “The world-class performance advantage: How procurement organizations are reinventing the stakeholder experience,” enumerates some very compelling reasons why you should be. What about your customers? What do they think? Are they satisfied? Or while you are efficiently and relentlessly pursuing your business mission — reduce costs and risk to drive fiscal year profitability — do they think you are more like the Olympia Restaurant?
These days, one cannot swing a dead cat, as the saying goes, without having contact with the “gig economy.” The media are all aflutter — or shall we say, atwitter — about the “gig economy” or “on-demand economy,” both of which usually mean people doing low-skill, low-wage jobs on a contingent basis. The labor economics terms include “precarious jobs” and “casualization of labor.” Now, I’m not judging the “gig economy,” but have we lost our bearings? Has our attention been misdirected away from something much more critical?
In recent months I have noted a disturbing phenomenon: the increasing number of delivery people bringing packages of all sizes to different addresses along my home street. Online retail purchasing of just about anything and delivery of those purchases to residences has created an unprecedented influx of delivery vehicles, all containing a range of different items wrapped in a large amount of (not environmentally friendly) packing materials. Shouldn’t we consider the consequences of our new consumer culture, especially what entails, downstream, in the “last mile”?
Good customer service goes a long way and I commend businesses that realize this, even if it takes a couple of tries to get it right. Such was the case for Visionworks, which recently righted a major wrong I wrote about back in June. When the scratch coating on glasses I purchased in spring 2014 began to flake off for the second time in 1 year, I learned the problem was a well-known supplier defect. At first my local store refused to replace my lenses because my warranty had expired. But after I took to Spend Matters to address the issue, Visionworks began to take a different tone.
I'm not sure exactly when, but around a few years ago, terminology began to appear in the procurement technology provider community that labeled transactional purchase-to-pay (P2P) processes as “downstream” – meaning post-contract processes – and strategic sourcing processes as “upstream.” It has become a convenient shorthand naming convention – and also seemingly harmless. But, recently, I saw a provider trying to create some thought leadership about upstream value creation and downstream value capture and decided it was time to say something. Or a few things…