The following is this author’s weekly guest commentary appearing on the Supply Chain Expert Community web site.

Like it or not, the power of the Internet has moved us as a society into a more social-media dominated focus of views, insights and perspectives.  Consumers turn to individualized reviews or impressions of products from other consumers to help make a buying decision for a product.  Technology providers utilize social media based marketing practices to create added interest in their products, or in the case of Apple and others, added hype. Political campaigns and news media leverage polling to either sway voters or predict election outcomes. It may seem that “voices” surround all issues and it may sometimes be difficult to understand what the most meaningful trends and opinions turn out to be.

The practice of supply chain management is unfortunately not immune to the effects of these trends, both positive, and not so positive.  Supply chain teams remain in need of meaningful external benchmarks and associated indications of best practices. They help in challenging inward focused thinking, keeping organizational perspectives focused on best-in-class capabilities for their industry and as a means of setting appropriate stretch goals.  If this author provides any sampling, my email inbox is constantly peppered with survey participation requests.  These surveys come from industry analyst firms, business media, academic institutions, technology providers and others.  There is unfortunately no limit to surveys and the conclusions drawn from such surveys. It is, however, very important for teams to be very diligent on interpreting the design parameters of such surveys, the sampling population, along with the depth of the conclusions and/or recommendations.

Let’s point to some succinct examples.

Perhaps you have noticed some recent quantitative surveys that continue to indicate responses that seem to indicate that increasing demand forecast accuracy is the prominent tactic for improving supply chain responsiveness.  Yet, Community readers will hear numerous industry speakers and read commentaries from thought leaders and executives from best-in-class companies who continue to conclude that efforts directed at becoming a more demand and response management driven supply chain have provided a far more productive use of organizational direction-setting. The forecast will never be accurate, period!

In the increasingly important area of global supply chain risk identification, mitigation and supplier innovation, recent surveys indicate responses pointing toward increased supply chain visibility or supplier based collaboration as dominant practices.  Then again, take the time to tune-in to organizations that have gained significant rewards and benefits toward establishing supply chain resiliency, and the roadmap is far more granular and action-oriented.

We offer succinct examples. On the Procurement Leaders site, Sammy Rashed, Global Head of Productivity and Sourcing at Novartis, identifies five specific initiative areas where procurement teams can expand the “breadth and depth” of contribution to supply chain resiliency. In a recent Supply Chain Digest Newsletter, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Unilever outlines that organization’s  “Partner to Win” program, currently involving 30 strategic suppliers. He points out how he is moving the Unilever supplier network away from a previous lowest cost, opportunistic transactional “procurement of the past” perspective to one where suppliers are encouraged toward “co-creating” innovations in product and processes that can impact both the top and bottom line. At Supply Chain Matters this week, we had the opportunity to catch-up with Mickey North Rizza the highly visible and respected sourcing and procurement industry analyst at AMR Research, now Gartner, who recently joined a sourcing and procurement provider. Our discussion reflected on Making a Bigger Impact in Times of Business Challenge, namely that a highly uncertain and potentially volatile business environment requires more strategic management skills and acumen, and the ability to have supply chain capabilities support both your company’s top and bottom-line objectives as opposed to a singular focus on cost reduction.

The takeaway from this commentary is that while the Internet and social media allows for an increased personal voice and more means to sample opinion, teams need to remain very discerning in separating group or biased thinking techniques vs. discernible views from well recognized experts, as well as those organizations that have embarked on the journey toward process and practice improvements, and have the important learning that matters.

Bob Ferrari