Crowdsourcing is something that people fundamentally understand when it comes to things like getting something designed...but few people really get how procurement organizations can use it with some of their business processes. I decided I needed a little more firsthand knowledge, so I "applied for a job" as a "crowdsourcer." And wouldn't you know, as soon as my application for the job was accepted, I was almost immediately laid off. They had filled the position before I could even start the work! Imagine my surprise a week later when I got an email that the position had opened up again. I quickly accepted and then received some very very lengthy emails, essentially requiring me to sign my life away in order to register as an official "crowdsourcer." I was very impressed to be sent a video that walked me through all the documents I would have to complete for the registration process. I also received a short FAQ sheet, which I was told I had to review before sending any questions to the support desk. What with a few college degrees behind me I figured it was a straightforward process and I would complete it and get on to the testing quickly. Little did I know that the actual registration process was dramatically different than what the video explained. So after three hours on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and referencing the FAQ many times, I finally broke down and emailed the support team. They made it very clear that any question submitted had to be concise and with screenshots. I carefully constructed my request asking where to find information so I could complete the registration process and begin my testing. My husband was surprised when he returned home from some Saturday afternoon fun, to find that I was still sitting at my computer some two hours later, still trying to simply register.
Two years ago, McKinsey & Company published an article on Big Data, calling it "The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity." I recently ran across the article and it struck me that in many ways it was spot on. Frankly, analyzing large data sets isn't a new concept...it just has a title now...Big Data. And now that it does, as I mentioned in my last Big Data post, I can't stop thinking about what it is and how it can be better used in the world of sourcing, outsourcing and supply chain. One of the things that really captured my attention in the McKinsey article was their reference to the issues that need to be addressed regarding Big Data, including privacy and security. Imagine the collective power of the information consumers give to various sources--banks, loyalty programs, online retailers, healthcare providers--most of the time, the information you provide in one place isn't meant to be accessed by another. We expect our information to be kept private and confidential. Disclosing personal data is a slippery slope. As Jeff Bertolucci recently said in InformationWeek, "...companies implementing big data strategies might consider this informal motto: 'Don't be sneaky.'" Be honest with how you plan to use the data you collect and don't share it without prior knowledge, unless you are ready for the mistrust that will follow. Ideally, Big Data should result in something that benefits both the company collecting the information and the consumer or organization providing it. Why else would people be willing to give freely of private information?
I have to admit, when I think about the power of Big Data, it is a little bit creepy. I mean think about it...it's a little like being stalked...and at times, by ourselves. I go to a website like Overstock.com and look at kitchen chairs. The next time I am on my personal email, an ad for those very chairs pops up. From a marketing perspective, it’s called “retargeting.” The chance of my purchasing those chairs increases when that same ad pops up again and again, following me from website to website. From a business perspective, it’s called Big Data. The company...in this case Overstock...can take the information that they’ve gathered on me, a consumer who is interested in purchasing chairs for my kitchen, and use it predictively.
By definition, Big Data refers to three Vs: volume, velocity and variety. But it’s what you do with all the data you have (volume), the speed at which you can access it (velocity) and the types of sources you pull it from (variety) that provides the real insight. One of the best known uses of Big Data analytics is Amazon...and they’ve been using it for years to suggest items you might want to purchase/read/etc., based on your search terms coupled with other people who viewed/purchased the same items. Sometimes I select an item just to find those that are similar. But Amazon goes one step further too and sends relevant emails down the road, just when you’ve nearly forgotten about that item. Talk about a good use of predictive analysis.
Conflict minerals...is this just the beginning of a long line of areas that supply chains are now being held responsible to settle unrest and injustice in the world? I am personally torn by the rules - I agree we all need to recognize where our supply chain needs can cause harm to others, from child labor to carbon footprint to funding an underground militia – but why is this not played out through public scrutiny versus corporate rulings? Without financial penalties, it is public disclosure, public pressure and a board backing the decision to make changes that will sway a company’s practices…so why enact such an ambiguous act subject to dramatic swings in interpretation? Coming out of a recession and adding this layer of governance to an already risk filled supply chain is a cost and a burden at a time when we need to be rebuilding shareholder value, creating jobs and putting more money in the economy. Until the entire world recognizes the need to support the conflict minerals provisions, are we not unjustly “taxing” American businesses? Has anyone actually studied the cost of implementing a program to fulfill the requirements? Why is it okay if we put our label on a generic item using conflict minerals, but we can’t manufacture with it? How does that make sense? How come it is okay to use a button containing tin as an ornamental part of a garment, but if it acts to close a shirt or zip a pair of pants, it is now a functional part of a garment and must be disclosed? Really? Am I the only one confused here?
Crowdsourcing is a disruptive force that may affect some traditional outsourced relationships over time. If a company can have quality work performed by crowdsourcing, we have eliminated the overheads attached to a typical outsourced provider and potentially increased the expertise by a large percentage over what a single provider might provide. While I don’t think crowdsourcing will ever fully replace outsourcing, we still need to understand and figure out how it fits in our normal sourcing activity. The advantage of crowdsourcing is the ability to move massive amounts of work without the handcuff of working hours with traditional employees. Per a recent webinar featuring Lionbridge and massolution, we shared the dramatic impact that crowdsourcing will have to supplement our workforce as baby boomers leave the system. With 6.29 million crowdsourcing workers as of 2011 (according to massolutions) and over a 100% growth year over year since 2009, we can tap into some incredible talent through crowdsourcing. To quote Jeff Howe, “It’s also a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of the work is all that counts.” As companies begin to experiment with crowdsourcing, whether in a public or private crowd, it will be interesting to watch as it evolves. Have you tried crowdsourcing? If so, in what capacity? How do YOU see crowdsourcing as it relates to outsourcing? Is it something companies should start paying more attention to? Please share your thoughts and ideas!
Everyone can distinguish between a good presenter and a poor presenter...
Do they read their slides or speak from their heart?
Do they engage the audience or put them to sleep?
Do they speak with passion or are they having a hard time speaking at all?
Do they look at their audience or are they too busy looking at their notes?
...but fewer people actually think about the fact that the slides someone presents can be equally important. Really good public speakers often have no slides at all…or their slides show pictures that help them tell a story. But most people aren’t comfortable without a crutch, so they err on the side of putting too much information on the page, hoping their audience equates good speaking with a high word count. There is a happy medium—a nirvana for the average presenter that provides them with the cues they need, without all the eyesore charts, graphs, colors and dense bullets. Keeping a few pointers in mind, everyone can step up their game…which frankly will make it easier on all of us, especially those that are trying to focus more on what you are saying and less on how you are presenting it.
Insight #1 – If you have to apologize for the amount of information on the page, you have too much information on the page. Any presenter that starts to speak about a slide by saying “I know this is hard to read but…” has already lost his audience who is now focusing more on figuring out what is on the slide. A good rule of thumb is to consider how the presentation is being delivered. If it’s a leave-behind and not something you are actually presenting, the detail may be necessary. But if you are formally presenting the information using an overhead screen, LESS IS MORE.
Remember the movie Back to the Future? In it, Doc Brown sent Marty McFly into the future (after going 30 years back in time to help his parents first). Thirty years was a lot to imagine back then and watching it recently, the movie didn’t get it right. We don’t have hover cars fueled by nuclear fusion and the world doesn’t look a lot like the movie set. But seriously, how could they ever imagine iPads in the hands of infants, free world wide calling on Skype, talking GPS on mobile phones, yet alone even the Internet. We need to practice some of the things these movie writers did and quit talking about Talent Retention--that’s the past, not the promise of the future--10,000 baby boomers are retiring every day between now and 2030 according to an Oracle contingent workforce study published in 2010. Therefore, we can only “retain” so many people in our organization—and some we will be glad to see go. So we shouldn’t only be thinking about managing retention right now but also about the organization of the future. What will it look like? We only have to look 5 to 10 years out to know that our workforce is going to look and behave very differently than it does today. To think that people that work in sourcing in the future have the same values as your (or my) generation is crazy. From recent studies on how to retain talent, we know that each generation has different values and is motivated by different things. So rather then focusing conversations solely on "retention," our discussions should also include what skill sets our companies will need for the future…and where they will come from. We should be asking questions like:
If you are reading this blog, then you already know that a new day has dawned at SIG...and no, we don't mean there is a new Dawn or that Dawn Evans is making any changes...only that SIG is moving forward. After a year of planning, designing, programming, testing, fixing, redesigning, reprogramming, retesting and reorganizing, we have finally launched a new website! We are so excited to share this site with you. We hope you find the site easier to use…and the information you are seeking, easier to find. We’d like to point out some new features so you can maximize your time visiting the SIG website:
Calendar of Events - Want to plan ahead and make sure you can attend the next Summit or see if there are any events coming to a city near you? Our full calendar is on the home page of the website. Click on the blue links on the calendar for more information or to register. We even have all the Summit dates listed through 2017, so you have no excuses for not attending!
Sneak Peek: Peer2Peer - Our Peer2Peer (P2P) resource is one of our most popular ways to share best practices and learn from one another...and we’ve made it even easier for our members! Log in and post a question in any of the categories listed to open a dialogue directly…or if you’d rather do it "the old-fashioned way," complete a form and we’ll send an email out for you.
The Spotlight - We love this! In this area, we are highlighting recent and/or relevant white papers that are in our SIG Resource Center (SRC), compliments of our provider members. Click on the arrows or dots at the top to see the three we are featuring this month and download them for more details! Industry News - Each week we'll be updating this section with some of the hot articles trending in the space. Check in frequently for the latest news in sourcing or outsourcing OR relevant articles about one of our member companies.
This blog was written just before our Summit last month in Amelia Island: Right now I feel a bit like Santa. It is the week before Christmas (read: Summit) and the elves are hard at work and the reindeer are being exercised and the turbo sleigh just had a tune up but still, so many things can go wrong. What if the doll legs or logo’d wine glasses don’t come in? Why did the price of memory skyrocket at the last minute for the robot brain or in our case flash drives? Who is on the naughty list (still don’t have their final presentations) and who is now on the good list (confirmed for executive roundtables)? What if it rains on Summit Eve? What if someone is unhappy with their toys or their room? How do I keep the elves motivated to put in 80-hour weeks right now and then still smile and execute flawlessly? And is there enough time to make sure I can still fit in my red suit? Seriously though, this is a time of great anticipation at SIG. While occasionally you can see that someone is stressed, everyone pitches in to make sure that all the work gets done successfully. We have now worked extensively with every presentation, sent some of them back and forth with feedback four times. The Resource Guide is at the printer, the signage has all been designed and the app has launched. We have met with every general session speaker and know they are on track to be awesome. We have procured our 60 pounds of registration desk chocolate, and picked up the wine and beer for my team during the final days of prep. We are now having sticker parties (putting labels on luggage tags), pen parties (marrying pens to padfolios because the factory forgot to do so), tipping our UPS and FedEx men due to the cases and cases of items they have to carry up to the office (we are on the second story of a historic building, sans elevator).
Big Data is a major topic right now. Let me give a little analogy here. Have you been to a chain store lately and used the same credit card you have used before at pretty much the same store? Have you noticed that the coupons that spit out with your receipt are becoming more and more relevant to your actual purchases? They assigned you a tracking ID, tracked your purchases, looked at other things relevant to you at that moment...like seasons, your wedding registry, your recent home renovations...and connected the dots to try and sell you wedding favors and landscaping lights and a hat for the upcoming Spring.
That's Big Data. The corporation you buy from has started tracking your regular purchases and figured out how to predict your spend. The same thing is happening in Sourcing as well, actually it has already been happening. As we automate more and more of the sourcing processes and procurement operations and we track consumables from the supply chain to the shelf to the consumers pocket, we learn a lot more about habits, trends, and purchasing power. We can therefore more easily address risk (inventory levels, supply interruptions), leverage pricing (issue discounts, take rebates) and innovate and collaborate. Of course, Big Data requires infrastructure, which is why companies are moving towards the cloud. Imagine all of those transactions being tracked that data warehouse just gets bigger and bigger and more and more traffic comes in as we've got to figure out how to mitigate that risk and have someone else carry the burden of addressing the risk and costs of it.
Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG