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.
Category Archives: Friday Rant
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…
I learned a surprising and fairly upsetting lesson about sourcing this week. Call me naive – I am still a rookie in the procurement world, after all. But, what I learned is that companies knowingly work with suppliers that provide defective products and services. Or at least one company does: Visionworks. I bought a pair of glasses from the company last spring, and since then I have had the lenses replaced when the anti-scratch coating began chipping off. However, the coating is again flaking off my "replacement" lenses, and Visionworks says I am out of luck, despite admitting their suppliers sometimes create batches of scratch coatings that are "defective."
By the very nature of the word "sustainable" we can hear that it refers to the longer term – to what can be continued over time. Many companies want to support this approach (or at least be seen as doing so), but what can tangibly be done? I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that whether a company or a supplier is in a right-to-work state or not (i.e. not unionized, or unionized) can make a big difference in local economic conditions over the longer haul.
Recently, Team MetalMiner (a sister publication to this one) decided to revamp its regular monthly sourcing and pricing forecast report on the basis of discussions with large metal buying organizations. Several Spend Matters and MetalMiner team members (our parent company is called Azul Partners) suggested I try a freelance website such as PeoplePerHour. I did. Check out what my experience was like. Sneak peek: the product I got from working with PPH created was great. But the customer experience? Much less so...
My Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (aka MBPr) is losing its charge – otherwise it's largely been a champ so far since Jason and I each bought one the very first day they came out in 2012. There have been some bugs along the way (e.g. WiFi and Bluetooth don't always like each other, and some unexpected crashes), but overall it has been a good relationship. As is expected with all battery-powered devices (remember that prospective electric car buyers!), eventually the charge doesn't last. Early on, I got a solid 8 hours out of my MacBook battery, maybe even 10 hours or more sometimes, especially on dark planes with the screen dimmed down. Now, however, 3 hours or so, and it’s shutting down.