Archive for the ‘Milesahead’ Category

SMAC in the Middle of Supply Chain Change – Part 3 of Kinaxis & Cognizant Series

Published October 27th, 2014 by Trevor Miles @milesahead 0 Comments

digital natives versus digital immigrantsMy friends at Cognizant and I have been having a healthy discussion on the Internet of Things and how these technology changes are shaping the way we work.

This is part 3 in our series.

Some colleagues and friends think I am nuts to put so much emphasis on the Digital Natives, and perhaps I am. Being a Digital Immigrant myself, I am only too aware of the command and control structures with which I grew up and which have been the foundation of all organizations for which I have worked. I’m not so naïve as to think that this change will happen quickly.

Throughout history major changes in technology have driven changes in social and business structures, the classic being the Pony Express and the steam train. But more fundamental change came from the printing press. This is a closer equivalent to the impact digitization will have on business structures, including a major shift in business models and therefore winners and losers.

We used to go to an office (many still do) because this was the easiest way to organize a workforce and structure work. Similarly with factories. People have to go to where the machines are. But in a digital world the only reason to have an office is for the management, which are almost always Digital Immigrants, to enforce a structure and linear decision making processes, the very things that Digital Natives find most constrictive.

I’d also like to point out that these are the very things that cause siloed organizations and long decision cycles in our supply chains. The hand-offs and approvals which are the basis for our existing organizational structure date from the days of runners and carrier pigeons.  Jonathan Lofton raises many of these points, form a different perspective, in his blog “Unleash Pixar-like Creativity in Your Supply Chain Management Organization”. The braintrust Jonathan writes about has no authority, is collaborative, and is consensual. This is how Digital Natives like to work and what Digital Immigrants find threatening.

Technology is simply an enabler. It is how we use it that brings value. And much as we have had to rethink the first applications that were simply a digitization of a paper based paradigm, we need to rethink how we structure our organizations and get work done to get maximum utility out of the digital world. And the Digital natives are experimenting with these as we speak. As we have in the past, let us, the Digital Immigrants, extract the value from their experimentation rather than resist the inevitable change. I find these tremendously exciting times.

For additional reading on the topic of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, check out my recent blog on “Do Supply Chain Planning systems generate any value?” as well as the following presentation by Marc Prensky from the Handheld Learning conference.



Posted in Inventory management, Milesahead, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management

On-demand Recording of Purposeful Collaboration: What It Could Mean for Your S&OP Process

Published October 21st, 2014 by Melissa Clow 1 Comment

Purposeful Collaboration What It Could Mean for Your S&OP Process

Last week Alan Lepofsky, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research and Trevor Miles, VP Thought Leadership, Kinaxis participated in a webcast on ‘Purposeful Collaboration: What It Could Mean for Your S&OP Process’.

The two discussed how even with heavy investments in Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), many organizations are not achieving material or sustainable breakthroughs. This is often because they are executing a sequential, disjointed process with contributors operating in their narrow functional box.

In this recorded webcast, learn how purposeful collaboration can connect content, conversations, colleagues and communities to drive improved business outcomes.

Topics covered:

  • Harnessing and capitalizing on “working social” in a B2B environment
  • Using the key tenets of purposeful collaboration to enable effective decision-making, resolution and consensus building
  • Capabilities required to facilitate purposeful collaboration in S&OP
  • Changing the mindset away from the individual supply chain / S&OP functions to connecting functions and most importantly, people

If you missed it, feel free to check out the slides or the webcast recording.


Posted in Demand management, General News, Inventory management, Milesahead, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply Chain Events, Supply chain management

SMAC in the Middle of Supply Chain Change

Published October 6th, 2014 by Trevor Miles @milesahead 1 Comment

Of course the title is a play of the adverb “smack in the middle”, which Merriam-Webster defines as at the heart of the matter.

smack definition

By SMAC I mean the acronym Cognizant, amongst others, uses for Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud. SMAC has the potential to change the manner in which the extended supply/value chain shares data, collaborates in the resolution of issues, and engages in value sharing business processes.

monday cartoonIt is about time for supply chain change. We have been talking about removing the silos of supply chain planning for decades. Not just in supply chain planning, but across the entire enterprise.

Our traditional approach to a person’s function at work, and the required organization structures to control how people work, is based on the work of Frederick Taylor and others. Taylor and others advocated the concept of Scientific Management and focused on standardization of jobs by breaking each job down into small, repeatable steps. People were then trained to carry out each step in a very repeatable, efficient manner. Great leaps in productivity were achieved in its application.

“the fully developed bureaucratic mechanism compares with other organizations exactly as does the machine compare with the non-mechanical modes of production. Precision, speed, unambiguity, … strict subordination, reduction of friction and of material and personal costs- these are raised to the optimum point in the strictly bureaucratic administration.”
– Max Weber (1948): Essays in Sociology

But Scientific Management predates The Knowledge Economy.  And yet we still operate and organize our companies in ways applicable to the Industrial Age, which itself caused huge social and economic readjustment at the time.

Internet of everythingThe promise of SMAC is that we will be predicting the future (Analytics), the results will be available anywhere (Mobile), everyone will be networked (Social), and at a fraction of the cost (Cloud). Gartner predicts that by 2017, SMAC (which Gartner calls the “Nexus of Forces”) will drive more than 26% of the total enterprise software market revenue, an increase from 12% in 2012 – representing over $104 billion new revenue from this stack.

But what will get us to this promised land? I do not believe it will be with the Digital Immigrants who run our corporations now. We will have to wait for the Digital Natives to force their way through the corporate hierarchies. As Jeff DeGraff writes

Digital Natives view the world horizontally, in equalitarian terms. Rather than dividing the world into hierarchies, they see everyone as existing on an equal level. They embrace the benefits of sharing things and ideas with each other and, in doing so, they cross boundaries.

I can’t wait. But this is not how our corporations are run now, including supply chains. And SMAC is right in the middle of the change that is coming.

For additional reading on the topic of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, check out my recent blog on “Do Supply Chain Planning systems generate any value?” as well as the following presentation by Marc Prensky from the Handheld Learning conference.

Posted in Milesahead, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management

Purposeful Collaboration: What It Could Mean for Your S&OP Process

Published September 22nd, 2014 by Melissa Clow 0 Comments

Purposeful Collaboration What It Could Mean for Your S and OP Process

Just a quick post to let our readers know of an upcoming webcast “Purposeful Collaboration:  What It Could Mean for Your S&OP Process” on Wednesday, October 8th at 2:00pm ET.

Even with heavy investments in Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP), many organizations are not achieving material or sustainable breakthroughs. This is often because they are executing a sequential, disjointed process with contributors operating in their narrow functional box.

In this webcast, learn how purposeful collaboration can connect content, conversations, colleagues and communities to drive improved business outcomes.

Topics covered:

  • Harnessing and capitalizing on “working social” in a B2B environment
  • Using the key tenets of purposeful collaboration to enable effective decision-making, resolution and consensus building
  • Capabilities required to facilitate purposeful collaboration in S&OP
  • Changing the mindset away from the individual supply chain / S&OP functions to connecting functions and most importantly, people

register now




Alan Lepofsky, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research
With almost two decades of experience in the software industry, Alan helps organizations understand how to develop, purchase and implement collaboration solutions. Rather than evangelizing how social software can change the way people work, he instead focuses on how organizations can improve their existing business processes by providing access to the colleagues, content and communities that can help people get their work done more effectively.

Trevor Miles, VP Thought Leadership, Kinaxis
As vice president of Thought Leadership, Trevor serves as an expert source for Kinaxis customers, prospects, industry analysts and journalists. Known throughout the supply chain field, he has published many articles, presented at various industry events, and is a contributor to the Kinaxis 21st Century Supply Chain blog.


Posted in General News, Milesahead, Miscellanea, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management

Do Supply Chain Planning systems generate any value?

Published September 8th, 2014 by Trevor Miles @milesahead 0 Comments

I have been in the advanced planning and scheduling (APS) space since 1995 when I joined i2 Technologies in Europe. Before that I was in management consulting doing what would be called supply chain design or reengineering today.

While MRP and S&OP were defined as early as the 1980s, these provided rough cut analysis at the aggregate level, nowhere near the level of detail that is possible today. The diagram below by Oliver Wight, with some enhancements by me, captures the progression of capabilities since the 1970s. My enhancements were to add the underlying technology and company information at the bottom which gives some context.

 Oliver Wright S&OP IBP

The key point is that I have spent a lot of my working life focused on the value generated by more advanced planning solutions.

It has been with some shock, therefore, that over the past few months I have come across a number of prospects, partners, and analysts that question whether any real value has been generated by all the investments in technology over the past 25 years. I have come to the conclusion that this needs some further analysis, which I won’t be able to complete in a single blog.

Let me start with the confusion between planning and execution. I was on a call last week with a large company in the food and beverage space that has spent $100s of millions, and many years, on an ERP deployment. And of course during the deployment their organizational structure has changed and they have gone through some M&A activity in that time. Needless to say they have a continued multi-year deployment of the supply chain planning system provided by the ERP vendor. And they are still a long way from complete from deploying the ERP modules let alone the supply chain planning modules. Now they want to deploy an S&OP process. They have piloted the process in Excel and know that they need an enterprise level solution for a global roll-out of S&OP. The issue is that none of their IT investments in the last 10 years have moved the needle on operational metrics such as inventory levels, case fill rates, and other operational metrics. Their words. As a consequence they are looking for tangible evidence of value before progressing with a global deployment.

paul meyer productivity quoteAbout a week before that I was at dinner with Mo Hajibashi of Accenture. Mo has been around this space about as long as I have and has seen all the changes. We were reminiscing about the trade exchanges that were so much part of the discussion in the late 1990s. Of course these largely went the same way as the rest of the dot com bubble. But Mo went on to say that many companies have struggled to quantify value from their investments in supply chain systems. We were there to discuss other topics so we did not dig too deep into his statement, but it stuck, and came roaring back when I was in discussion with the company I mention above.

In July, Lora Cecere of Supply Chain Insights kicked this all off with a blog on the Forbes web site titled “My Quest to Know …” in which she seemed to question the value of IT in driving value in corporate performance. She states that

As technologies evolved over the course of the last decade, there was a promise that investments in software like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Planning (SCP) or Business Intelligence (BI) would improve corporate performance. I was a research analyst in the throes of this movement, writing article after article on how IT projects will drive corporate performance improvements. I believed it. I was a prolific writer and a committed disciple. I thought it would transform organizational capabilities.

While Lora and my paths are different, our trajectories are the same. I studied Industrial Engineering and Operations Research focusing on Optimization Theory. I lost faith in optimization early when I realized that the uncertainty in our knowledge of true capacity, yield, lead times, and hundreds of other variables drowned out the promise of optimization. And that is assuming that we have a good handle on demand, which we don’t. However, I still believe in the promise of greater productivity through replacement of slow and manual processes with fast and agile digital processes.

In other words, while I didn’t dispute Lora’s findings, I was puzzled by her conclusions of supply chain planning systems. She seemed to be saying that benefits have not been realized from deploying planning systems, which didn’t fit my understanding of her position. When I asked Lora about her blog she replied that:

Supply chain planning, while over-hyped, and under-delivered by many technology vendors and consultants, adds value. The companies that achieve the highest levels of performance, and balance, in corporate performance make the design of their networks and their planning processes a priority. It does not happen overnight, and does require the right fit of technology to drive greater potential. The factors are the right data model, a frequency of planning that reflects the rhythms and cycles of the supply chain, and the right level of granularity of the modeling. The best planning systems are implemented carefully based on conference room pilots and focus on modeling the business. As a result, the best implementations are usually not the fastest.

The market has been scarred by two issues: the bad behavior of the best-of-breed solutions in the first generation of solutions, and the lack of depth of the extended ERP solutions. As a result, there currently a gap between what companies want and what they have. However, excellence in corporate planning matters. The concepts improve the potential of the organization to deliver higher levels of balance sheet performance. The greatest value today usually comes from a best-of-breed solution that is implemented by the same best of breed provider. The over-hyped promises of extended ERP implemented by large system integrators as advertised on signs in airports has not driven the levels of value that the best-of-breed solutions have.

Perhaps we have been looking at the benefits of  supply chain planning systems too narrowly. There have been additional benefits, and Lora points to two of them, namely our ability to absorb supply chain complexity – Lora refers to product complexity – and become a lot more efficient as measured by revenue per employee. I consider these huge gains. How could Apple have grown like it did both in terms of product and market expansion without greater efficiency and the ability to coordinate the flow of materials throughout the world? How could Procter & Gamble have expanded into the emerging markets without forming a number of regional planning hubs?  (Please note that I am using company examples which are not Kinaxis customers deliberately so that I cannot be accused of bias.)

Planning systems do improve supply chain performance when coupled with process and organizational change.  Did anyone see that wonderful spoof in which a daughter gives her elderly father an iPad who then uses it as a cutting board? This is Lora’s point. Lora is running the Supply Chain Insights Global Summit next week in Phoenix, and one of the agenda items is about the Supply Chain Index she has been working on. Unfortunately I cannot be there. I’d really like to be in the session that discusses the supply chain index Lora is developing.

us manufacturing output jobs

As I have stated already, the real question is what would have been the cost of running these massive supply chains without the IT investments? While we might have exhausted the benefits to be gained from large ERP deployments, I am not at all convinced that we have got even close to 50% of the efficiency gains we can achieve with new solutions based more on consensus building and collaboration than on optimization. I am one of those gray-haired men Lora’s refers to in her blog, but I am also a ‘digital native’, something that cannot be said about most of my contemporaries, who are typically ‘digital immigrants’ at best. Yet my contemporaries are the ones making large decisions about organizational structures, processes, and solutions that are rooted in mental models developed and perfected in the 1970s and 1980s. And far too many of the analysts and management consultants continue to position these mental models as best practice. They are not; They are yesterday’s practice.

digital natives versus digital immigrants

But let us step back from my polemic and look at the data. Of course it is impossible to separate out the investment in planning systems from robotics and other technology investments.  But we can look at the ‘digital revolution’ as a whole and make some pretty broad assumptions and correlations with planning systems. First of all this isn’t a recent topic. As early as 1990 Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT published an article titled “The Productivity Paradox of Information Technology: Review and Assessment” in which he cites even earlier analysis of the topic. Erik states that:

The relationship between information technology (IT) and productivity is widely discussed but little understood. Delivered computing-power in the US economy has increased by more than two orders of magnitude since 1970 (figure 1) yet productivity, especially in the service sector, seems to have stagnated (figure 2). Given the enormous promise of IT to usher in “the biggest technological revolution men have known” (Snow, 1966), disillusionment and even frustration with the technology is increasingly evident in statements like “No, computers do not boost productivity, at least not most of the time” (Economist, 1990).

erik brynjolfsson raching with the machine

However, in a subsequent article published in 2003 and titled “Computing Productivity: Firm-Level Evidence” Erik states that

We explore the effect of computerization on productivity and output growth using data from 527 large US firms over 1987-1994. We find that computerization makes a contribution to measured productivity and output growth in the short term (using one year differences) that is consistent with normal returns to computer investments. However, the productivity and output contributions associated with computerization are up to five times greater over long periods (using five to seven year differences). The results suggest that the observed contribution of computerization is accompanied by relatively large and time-consuming investments in complementary inputs, such as organizational capital, that may be omitted in conventional calculations of productivity. The large long-run contribution of computers and their associated complements that we uncover may partially explain the subsequent investment surge in computers in the late 1990s.

In other words:

  • There is a sufficient business case in the short term (12 months) to justify IT investments
  • While there is a significant delay between the investment and the full gains in productivity, the gains too are massive, much greater than first assumed

In the paper “Computers, Obsolescence, and Productivity” published by the Federal Reserve Board in 2000, the author, Karl Whelan, states that:

Real business expenditures on computing equipment grew an average of 44% per year over 1992-98 as plunging computer prices allowed firms to take advantage of ever more powerful hardware and, consequently, the ability to use increasingly sophisticated software. These developments have helped improve the efficiency of many core business functions such as quality control, communications, and inventory management, and, in the case of the Internet, have facilitated new ways of doing business. They have also coincided with an improved productivity performance for the U.S. economy: Private business output per hour grew 2.2 percent per year over the period 1996-98, a rate of advance not seen late into an expansion since the 1960s.

This is enough evidence for me. At the same time I have no doubt there has been extensive over promising and under delivering, and bungled deployments. Do we really want to go back to typing letters and mailing them to customers and suppliers? Do we really want to use a manual planning board to plan the purchase of components and assembly of a tablet that occurs in multiple continents across many organizational boundaries?  I am highlighting where many of the productivity gains have already been realized.

It is going to require a new generation of ‘digital natives’ in senior positions making decisions about organizational structure, processes, and supporting technology before we realize the full potential of IT investments. And the benefits we have realized so far are enough to justify continued investment.

human evolution technology

Posted in General News, Milesahead, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain management

Throw Back Thursday: How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand?

Published September 4th, 2014 by Melissa Clow 0 Comments

How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand? Kinexions - Kinaxis & SupplyChainBrain Series

As I’ve mentioned in my last couple of Thursday blogs, we are starting to gear up for this year’s Kinexions (our annual training & user conference). A few weeks ago I began to reminisce about our videos from past conferences and I decided to create a blog series to share. So, on this ‘Throw Back Thursday’, I would like to share this video of Trevor Miles, Vice President of Thought Leadership, speaking about “How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand?”.

In this video, hear Trevor detail industry’s major supply-chain management challenges – in particular, the difficulty of obtaining full visibility of supply and demand, and dealing with the volatility of markets.

Many companies seem wedded to their spreadsheets, even though they’re aware of the format’s shortcomings. Miles says executives have “a very legacy approach” to thinking about business processes. As a result, they’ve created “islands” of automation that do not add up to a coherent, smoothly flowing supply chain.

“People want to get away from that,” he says, “but it’s the manner in which they are trying to enable those different processes that is just lacking.”

If you don’t see the video below, view “How Can Companies Respond Rapidly to Demand?” here.

Posted in Milesahead, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management

Gartner Supply Chain Leaders Conference – What will be Hot?

Published May 20th, 2014 by Trevor Miles @milesahead 0 Comments

My friend and colleague CJ Wehlage has weighed in on what he believes will happen on the Gartner Top 25.

CJ is most certainly being bold and I cannot fault his analysis beyond the usual carping that the Top 25 generates. Instead I want to focus on what seem to me to be major trends that are maybe below the surface but will inform a lot of the discussion. I go to and speak at a lot of conferences so I hear a mixture of over stated claims, future initiatives, and concerns about the state of Supply Chain Management.

Over the past 3-4 years Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) has seen a resurgence in interest, including the many variants such as Integrated Business Planning (IBP) and SIOP. More recently there has been a lot of discussion, including from Christian Titze, Ray Barger, and others at Gartner on Visibility, usually coupled with the term end-to-end. What I have been hearing more and more recently, let us say late 2013and early 2014, is end-to-end planning. Kinaxis led the charge in this space first calling this a Control Tower in 2012-2013, but that was quite confusing because the 3PLs were already calling their capabilities Logistics Control Towers. Which got even more confusing when Visibility became more popular because how is that different from a Logistics Control Tower?

To me this is all semantics. At the core what people are trying to do, whether during execution or within operational, tactical, or strategic planning is to bring in a wider set of data so that they can investigate more alternatives during the planning phases and get early warning of things not going to plan during the execution phase. Perhaps even more importantly it is about getting different functions within the organization and even across organizations to work together to resolve issues, which is of course the essence of S&OP:

Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is an integrated business management process developed in the 1980s by Oliver Wight through which the executive/leadership team continually achieves focus, alignment and synchronization among all functions of the organization.

Substitute the words “executive/leadership” for any other group and you have what I am hearing over and over as End-to-End Visibility and End-to-End Planning. It is about lowering the walls between functions and organizations so that we can finally replace inventory with information.

But this isn’t what is in the core of the bubbling cauldron. End-to-End Planning and Visibility are driving a core need for a rethink of the entire supply chain data layer. Gartner went through this rethink a few years ago, and, as much as I hate to admit it, they were ahead of me. This is when Gartner moved from a 4 stage demand-driven maturity model to a 5 stage model in March 2013 by inserting a stage in the middle called Integrate. (Introducing the Five-Stage Demand-Driven Maturity Model for Supply Chain Leaders, 26 March 2013, Noha Tohamy, Matthew Davis)

Gartner states that what is required to achieve this stage of Integrated DDVN are

Technologies to support end-to-end supply chain processes; improved data rationalization and integration capability.
Cross-functional decision making across internal supply chain; process-focused COEs to enable the business.

I bring out these description of technology and process needs because they show the dependency of the process on the technology. They also show that my statements above are totally consistent with Gartner’s perspective.

But the elephant in the room is the technology. In fact it is really the data. Many companies have several instances of ERP, each deployed differently. Despite many moving to a single instance of ERP there are still many ‘shadow IT’ required to do what the core ERP solution cannot. And then there is the planning layer, which is even less harmonized or standardized. Most business people consider this an IT problem. Guess what? It isn’t going away until the business makes solving the data issue their issue. And it isn’t about consolidating down to a single ERP system. Even though consolidating down to one ERP instance is a step forward, with manufacturing outsourcing accelerating in many industries, heterogeneous data sources are here to stay. The question is what will the future data layer look like?

As Josh Greenbaum states in a blog published just today and titled “Security, Privacy, Big Data, and Informatica: Making Data Safe at the Point of Use

Our data warehouse legacy treats data like water, and models data management on the central utility model that delivers potable water to our communities: Centralize all the sources of water into a single water treatment plant, treat the water according to the most rigorous drinking water standard, and send it out to our homes and businesses. There it would move through a single set of pipes to the sinks, tubs, dishwashers, scrubbers, irrigation systems, and the like, where it would be used once and sent on down the drain.
But data isn’t like water in so many ways.

My bold prediction is that the data layer isn’t going to be ERP centric as it is now. And we are not going to repeat the marketplace craziness of the late 1990s. Unless cloud native ERPs such as Kenandy, which is based on SalesForce, emerge with built-in semantics to absorb meta-data from many sources and pull data in when needed. But I predict we will see a whole new breed of data providers emerge, possibly out of the wreckage that is the EAI space, that will capture this space and serve up data for analytics and business purposes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted in Milesahead, Response Management, Supply chain collaboration, Supply chain management

Part 3: My thoughts on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record

Published April 22nd, 2014 by Trevor Miles @milesahead 0 Comments

I was recently asked three questions on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Supply Chain Planning System of Record. As I said earlier, I want to share these videos with our readers…

The three questions I was asked were:

  1. What do you think of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for supply chain planning system of record?
  2. In your opinion, how does RapidResponse differentiate itself as a supply chain planning system of record?
  3. From your experience, what is the level of understanding of planning systems of record in the market?

Here’s my response to question #3. If you haven’t checked out my response to question #1 and question #2, you may want to view them first. Enjoy!

The report positions vendors based on completeness of vision in the supply chain planning system of record market and on their ability to execute to that vision. If you’re interested in reading the full report, the Gartner document is available upon request at

Posted in Control tower, Demand management, Milesahead, Sales and operations planning (S&OP), Supply chain collaboration