Mickey North Rizza — An Interview: Looking Back, Accelerating Forward (Part 3)

Please click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Spend Matters: What was AMR Research's secret sauce? What made it so valuable to practitioners that was lacking in other analyst firms?

Mickey North Rizza: AMR's vision and reality was supply chain operations and innovation excellence. This was a complete focus for the firm and something we monitored at all times. I also think the innovation component at AMR Research was truly unique. Kevin O'Marah, Bruce Richardson, and Tony Friscia were truly the analyst visionaries of our industry. Bruce Richardson brought his own unique take on innovation, making AMR a truly fun company to work within and to be associated with (as well as the rest of the great package that made Bruce, Bruce). All of this came together at AMR.

How do you get a secret sauce and a formula for an analyst firm? You create a culture where business leaders and their teams want to hear about the future vision, best practices, and successes that are working for others. The teams don't want to re-invent, but instead take the best and add to it to make them successful. You also tie all of this together with assistance from the vendors and service providers along this journey. At the end of the day, business leaders need help and ideas to take their companies forward; they don't have time to research on their own to create the strategy. At the end of the day, the right analyst firm and analysts can create a value proposition that leading companies cannot do without.

Bringing employees with practitioner backgrounds into the analyst culture was not an easy or quick learning curve for the new employees. When AMR brought in new employees, it could take 12-18 months to bring them up to analyst credentials. Some were good at speaking, others writing, and many were excellent at all of it. But culturally, it took time to have them truly mesh into the rapidly turning innovation and ideas cog. But what was great about it (and took me some time as well to come up to the firm's speed) is that they let you run and go after the business. I felt you could truly make a difference by creating your own small franchise and focus within AMR that transcended something that rolled-up to an uber P&L.

It was really a culture of empowerment -- a chance to build your own ideas-led franchise within the broader AMR Research umbrella. It was also OK to be your own person. It felt like a set of personalities, not one culture or overriding group. Individuals truly drove the organization, but we all worked as a cohesive team to make and bring a difference to our clients. If I sum up the AMR Research team, it was a bunch of great individual entrepreneurs who wanted to drive more value because they could -- not because it was forced. At the end of the day, we all wanted to make a difference!

Spend Matters: Who are the Gartner/AMR Analysts that we should be paying closest attention to these days?

Mickey North Rizza: Wow, what a question! I have worked with so many great analysts and learned so much from them all. A few that stand out to me are:

Matt Davis, Gartner SC Strategy group. He covers a lot of ground and is phenomenal. I strongly recommend following him closely. He has a superb blog, is an exceptional writer and speaker and covers supply chain and value chain from spectrum to spectrum. He is a truly exceptional analyst. Noha Tohamy, another exceptional analyst, covers supply chain risk, demand planning, and sales & operation's planning. Simon Jacobson is by far the leader in the manufacturing space. He is unbelievable in his grasp of the current and vision for the future of manufacturing. Stan Aronow is another to wach closely. Stan covers high-tech and does an excellent job with supply chain segmentation and cost-to-serve analysis.

Rick Adams is a recent hire, a practitioner first and foremost who has a grounded perspective on the supply side. He has some great thoughts about supplier performance management. Ray Barger concentrates on Aerospace & Defense, industrial supply chains and work on multi-tier supply chain visibility. He is from Viasat and he covers the supply side of the equation. In terms of others to follow, on the retail supply chain and grocery side, Kevin Sterneckert covers pattern-based strategies within supply chain and consumer value chain decision optimization. Mike Griswold covers retail supply chain, specifically on the grocery side, along with a few other areas.

Janet Suleski covers PLM and Retail Sourcing, a real expert and a good writer and speaker. Dana Stifler is the leader of the Gartner SC Strategy team, with a big emphasis on talent. Mike Dominy is an exceptional thought leader in Supply Chain Service providers. Mike Burkett, Gartner SC Head of Research, is an exceptional visionary in value chain, and new product introduction. Finally I'd like to call out Debra Hofman and her team for their exceptional Gartner SC Top 25 analysis and Dr. Stephen Stokes and Hiranya Fernando for their fantastic work on sustainability. These folks are all cut from the AMR cloth.

While I met many Gartner analysts, we largely focused on value within our team, as our audience was largely the business leader. A few that stand out in other areas of Gartner that I spent time with in the last six months are Chad Eschinger, Dwight Klappich and Tim Payne (the latter two are part of the Gartner SC Core Functional team).

Spend Matters: You know a lot of providers. So what attracted you to BravoSolution?

Mickey North Rizza: A couple of things came together to make BravoSolution a logical choice and extension of where I was previously at AMR. Culture was absolutely first. The relationship BravoSolution has with its clients and the focus on adding real value (not just cliché value-add, but the real stuff -- and I mean that) was important. Through reference calls over the years with BravoSolution customers, I saw this and was very impressed.

The second factor was the entrepreneurial culture and the willingness to invest in ideas. Bravo's internal and client thought leadership in the software and solutions sector is very different from others. They leverage their overall business model based on customer ideas to make a quick and significant value-added difference. And they care about taking business strategies to the next level -- not just selling software or services. The team is receptive about new ideas and challenges, typical vendor and service provider conventions, and standard practices. The team collaborates, working to deliver real quantifiable value to their clients, while preserving an entrepreneur spirit that is instilled in the client base.

Even though the solution focus is entirely different (sourcing/procurement/supply chain outcomes through software and services vs. analyst research), there are many cultural similarities to AMR Research. This is what attracted me: the value delivery was the icing on the cake and reason I am with BravoSolution.

The combined focus on entrepreneurship, client outcomes and thought leadership is so crucial for certain individuals (including me) to thrive. At Bravo, these really come together to make a difference. It will also give me a chance to improve upon the great business strategies they've been working on with clients and take these to the next level in my client-focused role. I really feel like BravoSolution is the latest in a line of entrepreneurial companies I've worked through in my career, starting with Modus. In many ways, I am back at home.

To be continued...

- Jason Busch

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