At Singularity University’s Global Summit, keynote speaker David Roberts posed the question, “What if machines made more money than people?” Sounds crazy…but is it? With Blockchain, could that be the way of the future?
I confess that when he asked the question, I still didn’t feel comfortable enough with the concept of blockchain to have an informed opinion on the viability of it. So I did what 77% of people do when seeking information on the Web…I Googled it…and I kept Googling it until I found articles that dissected the concept well enough that it made sense. If you are equally confused by the term, hopefully this analysis will benefit you as well…because rest assured, you WILL need to understand it—especially if you work in sourcing, outsourcing or supply chain as the potential is unlimited.
Fundamentally, blockchain allows consumers to transact directly with one another without the need for an intermediary, like a bank. If you use Paypal and select “eCheck” as your payment method to reimburse a friend for say a concert ticket, it appears to go directly from you to them. In actuality it first has to clear your bank, which can take 3-5 business days, or up to 8 days if another country is involved. Blockchain removes the middleman by using digital currency (aka cryptocurrency) which can be spent with companies or people who are set up to accept it as a form of payment. The digital currency can be converted to cold, hard cash, but with thousands of companies now taking digital payments it is not really the norm.
In the Mexican coastal town of Puerto Vallarta, where the weather is hot and the tequila flows like wine, a new trend is emerging from an old Mexican delicacy...chocolate. The town is host to a chocolate museum, chocolate tour and fancy tequila/chocolate-paired tasting. Last week I had the opportunity to attend to one of these tastings where I learned about the different types of tequila and how the chocolates amplify their flavors when properly paired.
This unique experience also came with a crash course on the history of Mexican cocoa, the main ingredient used to make chocolate. Cocoa was once only consumed by ancient Mexican royalty. According to my tequila sommelier and a report by the World Agroforestry Centre, the Olmecs – an ancient tribe in Mexico – were thought to be the first people to consume chocolate. These indigenous people crushed the beans, added water, spices and chilies and drank the delicious elixir.
Ironically, last week an article came across my desk about cocoa. What were the odds that in the same week that I learned about the origins and use of this delicious nut, I’d also circumstantially run across an article about its production? I found the correlation too good to be true until I read the article and discovered the unfortunate state of cocoa production. Sadly, this article did not come with tequila, but the bitter reality of a lack of ethics in the cocoa industry’s supply chain.
As supply chain practitioners know, it is critical to know where and how your products are being sourced, but the farther you are geographically from the beginning of the supply chain, the harder it is to control…and in countries where labor laws are lax, it becomes even more tragic. This gets tricky with products that can only be produced in very specific environments. Cocoa is one such product that can only be grown 10 degrees north or south of the equator with the majority of its production in West Africa, the Ivory Coast and Ghana.
Hailey Corr, Junior Editor and Marketing Associate, Outsource and SIG
In recent months, Warren Buffett signaled what many saw as the death knell for the future of retail by selling off his company’s position in Wal-Mart, which Berkshire Hathaway had held for ten years. Simultaneously, ten national restaurant chains with more than 1,000 locations in total have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2015, and others are reporting disappointing sales. In contrast to all of that, however, Amazon reports growing sales this year in their home delivery service for groceries, trumpeting the growing trend that many people are beginning to embrace of ordering anything and everything online.
Welcome to the Digital Age.
We now live in a time when a hefty 74% of customers rely on their social networks to guide their buying decisions, and 92% of customers feel that online information is more trustworthy than other sources. Digital technology is becoming omnipresent, and it’s doing nothing less than rewiring human society. The critical inflection point at which technological innovation and human experience converge is called Digital Singularity.
There is profound uncertainty in all this, but more importantly, there is profound, unparalleled opportunity. Up until recently, technology was simply a physical tool, like a phone or typewriter, that was used to supplement our lives. Today, however, our relationship with technology has become much more cohesive. Technology is becoming part of how we live, work and play. In fact, it is becoming an extension of us.
As a supply chain professional, you already know the value in establishing and maintaining relationships, but are you maximizing your communication strategy? For millennials, the use of social media is natural; it’s a part of our everyday lives. For other generations, it’s hit-or-miss. Some people are social media privy, some are experts and some avoid it like the plague. Whether or not individuals choose to use social media from a personal standpoint is their own prerogative. Whether or not companies use social media for their brands shouldn’t be a question at all. We live in a digital age where virtually (no pun intended) everything is online. So, it makes perfect sense for you to market your brand online. While having a website is absolutely essential, you also need vehicles to drive traffic to it—one major channel for that is social media. If you’ve totally been ignoring digital transformation for your brand, let’s make a U-turn, take the bull by the horns and start with the following seven steps.
Choose your Platforms
There are 1.5 billion people using social media. Exciting, right? There is a whole virtual universe out there for you to explore. Each social media platform was designed for a different (sometimes just slightly) purpose. In addition, each platform generally reaches unique (yet sometimes overlapping) audiences. Once you understand each platform, you can develop your segmentation strategy. Don’t underestimate the power of these platforms for connecting with your suppliers, vendors and customers. They are using them too and you can learn a lot by being on the platforms they are frequenting.
Create a Voice That’s Consistent Across All Platforms
You work hard to build a reputation that’s trustworthy. You’ve created a beautiful logo, compelling marketing collateral, engaging online campaigns and held endless photo shoots – and the list goes on. However, all your hard work is in vain, if you don’t know what others are saying about you or your suppliers. For example, most companies don’t know if there are slaves in their supply chains. It might sound far-fetched, but human traffickers target unskilled workers to fulfill shortages all along a supply chain and if you’re like most companies, you aren’t even aware of it. Monitoring your online presence, in addition to the reputation of companies you do business with, will provide valuable insights for your brand, and more importantly – will keep you in the know when the reputation of others in question.
These social media tools can help you better monitor your online presence and the reputation of others.
Mention - Paid Service
Mention is an online platform that provides real-time web and social media monitoring. Mention is very user-friendly and is a great way to stay informed every time someone mentions your name, brand or dedicated keywords. The platform is able to monitor billions of online sources in various languages, providing you with super rich data as to what is trending or popular. You can set the platform to receive daily alerts, instantly respond to social media alerts from inside the web portal, set priority status and collaborate with your social media team to improve customer support. This is a great tool for people looking to increase their brand’s awareness, monitor their reputation and grow relationships both online and through social media.
It is increasingly difficult, with jam-packed workdays and busy personal lives, to dedicate time to growing our skill sets. More and more, we are turning to online training or "e-learning." With time at a premium, it is critical that once we do dedicate the time to e-learning, that we gain the most we can from the experience. You can't just click through and hope to magically improve your knowledge and skills. I mean if you are going to take the time and effort to enroll, shouldn’t you engage and maximize your experience?
In my career working with adult learners and technology platforms I have noted a few characteristics that separate the high-achieving student from the just-clicked-through-every-slide student. I'll share a few best practices here.
Guy Hanna, Leadership and Higher Education, PhD (ABD)
To truly innovate, you need a certain kind of leadership in your organization. I always look for and hire people who have an insatiable curiosity and who become bored easily. I truly believe if you have the desire to constantly look toward the unknown you are a person who does not like executing the existing.
In John Sculley’s book Moonshot he speaks about how the traditional education system harms our ability to innovate. By making students remember and recite, we reward children by giving As for the right answer versus asking the right question. We reward people at work for executing according to plans, not for taking risks and for having a futurist mindset. Instead of thinking about how to do something better, we need to start with “do we even need to do it at all?”
Traditionally, one of the inherently daunting challenges in Procurement and Sourcing is to quantify and report on cost savings, cost avoidance and/or cost reductions, which can be collectively referred to as "added value." One very effective way that I have been able to successfully communicate added value and metrics to many C-suite members is by positioning it in a different way. I have found that by using the terminology and calculation for “Equivalent Revenue,” it is generally better received. Since it is a much more common business term and quantification, the C-suite can relate to it and it can be directly measured against the company’s overall revenue. As such, it is more widely accepted than trying to describe such value as only cost reductions or savings.
Perhaps most importantly, it is really as simple as taking the actual quantified “added value” and dividing that figure by the company’s overall net profit. A quick example: If the total aggregate added value amount is agreed to be $10 million, and the company’s overall net profit margin is 8%, the Equivalent Revenue needed to generate the same amount of that net profit would be $10 million divided by 8%, which equals $125M. By representing the figures in this light, C-suite members can readily identify and appreciate how much time, effort and expense would be needed to generate the same amount of sales revenue, and therefore clearly recognize the importance of an efficient and effective Procurement and Sourcing organization.
Guest Blogger, Dave Gallaer, Head of Procurement and Sourcing, NatWest Markets/Royal Bank of Scotland Securities, Inc.
The build out of the “internet of things” will drive the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours, according to IBM. That means that every time you go to bed for the night, an entirely new amount of information has flooded the world. It wasn’t that long ago that robots were only part of huge factories. Now they have them available for purchase at local retailers for less than $50. Robots are more than mechanical machines…in today’s world, they are incredibly advanced tools that have the ability to automate everything, including driving.
As sourcing professionals, it is necessary that we all understand the new world we are living in, and how it impacts not only our organization, but our daily job. Do you have a knowledgeable understanding of:
How you are going to source these new products?
How you will negotiate contracts for technologies that didn’t exist last month?
How you will incorporate these products into your work?
How contracts will be crafted to protect IP?
Do you have the knowledge, skills and competencies to fully grasp the future that is here and expanding exponentially?
Education is the answer…and there are a few simple things you can do to support your own education:
Make sure you are reading a book a month. That’s an investment of only 15-20 minutes per day. If you don’t know what to read, (I have this problem) ask someone you trust, explore the internet (trusted sites) and determine what the most successful people are reading. Make sure these books are not just about your industry or current role, but about business, innovation, creativity and other areas of focus. By reading a variety of books, you will gather different insights and uncover different views on the changing world.
Teach. When you teach others, you learn. You have knowledge others want and they have insight you need. Learning is a mutual relationship.
Mark Pollack, Vice President, SIG University and Chief Strategy Officer, SIG
As a marketer, I know the value of branding. The largest and most successful companies in the world have teams of people dedicated solely to branding. Branding is no longer about using the same logo, trademark, tagline and/or color scheme on all your marketing material. Branding is composed of different components including: brand identity, brand image, brand character, brand culture, brand personality and brand essence. Marketing agencies and consultants charge anywhere between $75,000-$250,000 to develop and manage a company’s brand.
Now here’s the kicker with branding that every marketing professional will tell you – they have no idea how it impacts their bottom line. Branding is the most difficult type of marketing to measure because you can’t easily quantify it. So, why are organizations across the globe spending so much money and time on branding? Quite simply – effective branding creates consumer confidence. Establishing a brand with a clear voice and values will enable your consumers to be loyal and confident when they buy from you. People have a natural desire to evolve with a brand whose products and services help give their life or business meaning and significance.
It’s not just businesses that need to focus on effective branding. If you care about your future as a professional in the world of work, you need to focus on your own personal brand. Personal branding is critical to establishing who you are and what you represent to those around you, the equivalent of a company’s consumers. They are your employer, your manager, your co-workers, your peers and anyone else that comes in contact with you in a professional setting. I’m not just talking about ensuring that embarrassing picture from your cousin’s wedding isn’t visible on Facebook... I’m talking about preparing for the future by branding yourself as a leader in your industry now.