It was a great event! As far as user conferences go, I think it’s safe to say that Kinexions is one of a kind.
The acknowledgement of this with a Stevie award can be used as evidence. A few great blogs have already been written summarizing the event as a whole (Reflections on Kinexions 2012 by Kirk Munroe and Thoughts from Kinexions: The Power of One by John Westerveld ) so I won’t try to re-iterate. I did however want to take a moment to touch on a theme that I noticed repeated throughout the conference both during main stage presentations and in individual conversations I had with conference attendees: Innovation is key to success.
It is well understood, by people in any industry, that innovation is fundamental to success. The challenge however, is not only coming up with innovative ideas, but taking the risks associated with actually implementing the innovative ideas. It’s easy to think of examples of innovative products being brought to market and the success this generated for the companies that took the risk to do it. The supply chain management industry is no different. Perhaps these innovations aren’t as obvious to those outside of the industry, but for those behind the scenes who are running these complex supply chains, the innovations and the risks associated with implementing them are real. That’s why innovating is probably one of those things that is easier said than done. With that in mind, if we needed a push to take the necessary steps to be more innovative, Kinexions and some of the main stage speakers may have provided it.
The first hint of this idea of innovation came during one of the best conference presentations I’ve seen to date. The theme of the presentation by Laura Dionne from Triquent was “Compromise” or more importantly the desire to NOT have to compromise. As she reviewed her history in the industry, the story kept coming back to the fact that at each technological step along the way, there was some need to compromise when it came to actually using a given solution. That story changed when it came to the deployment of Kinaxis RapidResponse when finally, she didn’t have to compromise. Though not explicitly stated in the presentation, this got me thinking about an important kind of innovation. The idea that a solution could be designed and deployed to allow a user to do what they want and not have to compromise in any way. Some might say that this doesn’t sound very innovative, but anyone with software development experience will tell you that actually pulling it off involves a lot of innovation and creativity.
On Day 2 of the conference, the innovation theme appeared two more times. One of them was during Roddy Martin’s Conference Wrap-Up presentation. One of the first slides of his presentation showed what he called the “5 Stages of Systemic Performance-Improvement Maturity”. As I read the description of each of the 5 stages, it became clear that as you move from one stage to the next, you become less reactive and more pro-active in the way that you approach the supply chain. But it was the description of the 5th stage that really brought it together for me. Roddy’s view that companies that had reached the 5th stage of performance-improvement maturity had a “culture of innovation and sharing”. The word culture is the key word here. Anyone can say that they are, or are going to be innovative, but as Roddy indicated, building that into the fabric and the culture of a company is what separates the leaders from the pack.
Finally, the presentation that really cemented the notion of this need for innovation was that of Don Gasperi from NCR. During his presentation, he took us through the history of the company and the examples where they have had to be innovative in order to re-invent themselves and stay relevant time and time again. He had one line in particular that resonated with me and that was “A company needs to innovate or die”. In my opinion it was right on the money and one of the highlights of his presentation, so much so that I did tweet it. In terms of their supply chain, he took it one step further referring to the need and desire for “disruptive innovations”. His description of disruptive innovation was one that reduced costs by half, doubled the quality and quadrupled the customer value. He made it clear that for NCR, the deployment of Kinaxis RapidResponse was one of these disruptive innovations.
The real theme of the conference was the Power of One. Everyone, around one view, making decisions as one team, empowered by one product. This was clearly demonstrated over the course of the conference. However for me, one of the underlying themes was the need to innovate and I liked Don Gasperi’s quote so much that I’ll say it again… “A company needs to innovate or die”.