In my Part One posting, I shared commentary on the changing business model of providing industry analyst services catered to global supply chain process and technology selection needs.  Our Part Two posting focused on various implications for Gartner’s integration plans involving AMR Research and what they may mean for your firm’s needs. This last posting on this topical theme will be directed toward my views on the changing forces for obtaining  industry and supply chain advisory content.

Changing Industry and Supply Chain Functional Advisory Models

In the wake of the announced acquisition by Gartner of AMR Research, it becomes ever more diligent for readers to think more about how they wish to receive industry and supply chain functional advisory opinion and actionable advice. Key decisions have many implications to business, revenue, profitability or long-term career success.  These past years of constant change brought on by globalization, the proliferation of the Web, and the structural impacts of a global-wide recession have changed the dynamics of obtaining each of these services. 

Keep in mind that the needs for supply chain experience and competencies have moved way beyond former functional knowledge bases. Whether you role is in planning, procurement, execution or IT, today’s complexity of global supply chain activity require knowledge awareness to financial, product, quality, sales, marketing and IT implications.  Global supply chains now encompass all of these process parameters.

The broader industry analyst world was founded on the basis of providing information technology advisory services solely to the IT community, and was broadened to provide functional and industry oriented coverage.  Key clients come primarily from IT technology and software providers, and as such, there can be a bias toward certain key clients or report sponsors. Ranking of vendor offerings can sometimes bring conflict between presenting an balanced and objective viewpoint vs. the need to not trigger negative reactions from key technology provider clients if not managed well.

Firms such as AMR were founded on the premise of filling a gap, providing advisory services targeted directly to functional manufacturing and supply chain teams. Research coverage was expanded to umbrella ERP and specific industry needs to accommodate the needs of IT. Analysts, such as myself, were recruited based on the depth of both our functional business process as well as broad supply chain software applications implementation experience.

An important differentiator for AMR is the firm’s high-touch model which includes timely response to a client inquiry or direct access to specific analysts.  Specialty conferences in timely global supply chain themes and peer forums focusing on specific community needs are also a part  That in my view is the secret to AMR’s success in supply chain advisory services.  How Gartner ultimately manages this differentiated service model remains a very open question, along with the future cost that Gartner decides to charge for such services. As I pointed out in an earlier posting, gaining both access and individual attention from a Gartner analyst has not been a core strength of Gartner.  While AMR’s senior executive team may look to enjoying the benefits of cashing out, clients will now have to sort out for themselves what change in benefits will flow from the acquisition.

Professional organizations are also reacting to change. Individual professional groups such as APICS (Association for Operations Management), CSCMP (Council of Supply Management Professionals), ISM (Institute for Supply Management) and others were initially established to support the professional development needs of professionals within a specific functional area. APICS for instance, was originally established to umbrella production planning and operations, CSCMP or Council of Logistics Management, its original name, was established for logistics and transportation, and ISM for sourcing and procurement.  Membership costs were often paid for by employers, since valuable education, skill certification and peer networking were provided.

Two significant trends have impacted these professional organizations. First, the same broad integration trends in global supply chain have also impacted the program needs and offerings of these professional groups.  This has resulted in an overlap of topics and services offered by each of these organizations concerning broader supply chain skill certification or training opportunities. APICS today offers a certification involving cross-functional supply chain skills, and ISM, to a limited extent, does the same.  The Supply Chain Council (SCC) provides corporations and firms with certification programs in the Supply Chain Operations Model (SCOR), a comprehensive process mapping and decision methodology that spans global supply chain process areas.  Second, severe cost pressures and layoffs brought about by the effects of the global recession have forced both individuals and corporations to make tough decisions on continuance of professional or specialty organizational sponsorship.  Individual professional membership is often no longer corporate subsidized.  Corporate memberships have unfortunately been also cutback.  The sum total is that many of the professional and industry organizations have experienced some cutbacks in overall revenues and continue to seek out more innovative and cost effective means to accommodate knowledge needs.

Management consulting firms who were solely focused on either strategy or IT integration, have now recognized the critical importance of supply chain processes in business strategy and have added experienced functional consultants.  This includes the usual premier “big-three”, but India based firms such as Infosys, WiPro or Patni now offer focused supply chain and manufacturing consulting. Infosys is reaching out with its own focused supply chain blog.  Supply chain technology vendors who embrace the new power of the web are also stepping-up availability of timely thought leadership.  The past Kinaxis Supply Chain Expert Blog Series brought together a number of noted experts commenting on various timely global supply chain topics.

A new breed of independent Internet blogs has also emerged. I would like to think that independent blogs, this one in particular, have been filling a void in supply chain advisory coverage. 

Advice for Readers

I’ve often noted on this blog that the upcoming era of the “new normal” will test traditional thinking about supply chain processes.  Consolidation, cut-backs and events involving traditional supply chain advisory sources necessitate a need to also re-think about the outlets for obtaining the supply chain advisory services that you need to navigate in the “new normal.” The context must suit your specific personal or business need, whether strategic, tactical or situational in nature.  While your goal is to seek out knowledge, proven experience and insight, the outlets of delivery are under change, whether consolidation or transformational in nature.  Here’s a way you can think about this:

  • Categorize your needs as strategic, tactical, situational or individual in scope.  For instance, your organization may need an infusion of new strategic thinking on a supply chain process or assess how an organization’s tactical capabilities compare with proven innovators in that capability.  A supply chain snafu or interruption is situational in time, requiring immediate knowledge and consul. Individuals need a sounding board as to how other functional and industry peers are dealing with a supply chain trend or problem.
  •  Seek out the individual person, professional organization, analyst firm, publication or institution offering the best objective insights related to broader or specialized supply chain process topics.  Determine the best means of cost-effective access, particularly in light of today’s requirement of constant mobility and time pressures.  This could be a timely published publication, individualized consulting, one-one-one meeting, group advisory, peer group association or individual skill certification program.
  • Determine the most appropriate means to receive information for each categorized need, particularly in the light of what is occurring in the “new normal” . Professional organizations, academic institutions, management consultants and industry analysts and publications are embracing more reach-out through web-based content, newsletters, podcasts, webanars and blogs. Noted experts and industry analysts are morphing toward individual branding vs. broader firm or organizational branding.  Seek these people out by direct access or personalized services.

 

Supply Chain Matters will continue to be a means to provide timely commentary and insights in broad strategic, tactical and situational supply chain topics because we recognized the need for an alternative outlet.

 Bob Ferrari

Disclosure: Both Infosys Technologies and Kinaxis Inc. provide degrees of paid sponsorship concerning the Supply Chain Matters blog.  Bob Ferrari is also a former employee of industry analyst firms AMR Research and IDC Manufacturing Insights, and is currently the Managing Director of The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC.