I recently finished two-and-a-half days at Singularity University’s Global Summit (not to be confused with our own SIG Global Summit!). It was an incredible, mind-blowing, education-packed few days. Singularity packs their event with high-energy speakers who speak passionately on their area of expertise. I heard presentations on virtual reality, augmented reality, healthcare, leadership, socially responsible business, entrepreneurship, the future of work and so much more. The presentations covered a wide variety of topics, but they all had one thing in common…they all made you think about the possibilities…they all challenged the status quo…and they all embraced the concept that disruptive technologies are changing our world exponentially.
No session covered this better than keynote David Roberts whose core message was that slight variations in key assumptions could have a HUGE impact on our future. In his impassioned, funny and moving presentation Roberts connected the dots on some of the most exponential technologies our world has seen by asking everyone to consider some “what ifs” in life. His enthusiastic presentation and challenging questions inspired me to dig further.
What if…your phone was smarter than you? In 2013, Gartner predicted that by 2017 smart phones would, in fact be smarter than humans. Are they? Artificial intelligence (AI) has certainly progressed to such a point that you might argue that they are. In an article and related research, Gartner presented four phases of cognizant computing:
Today is my birthday. As commonly happens on birthdays, we tend to reminisce over the past year(s). And because so much of our life is spent working, this is where my reminiscing takes me because I get to work with my best friend for a company I love, not only because I get to work from home, but because it’s existence is what I dreamt of many years ago when I was younger and (more) clueless. Yes, I know… it sounds corny, but it’s true. After all, it was a little less than 15 years ago that I landed in the sourcing world working for a small supply chain management and procurement solutions provider, Enporion. I had no clue what acronyms like SCM, VMS, P2P, RFP, or SOW were, nor this strange idea of “Reverse Auctions.”
I have such fond memories working at Enporion, but anytime I tried explaining my job to family or friends I got that “deer in the headlights” stare and I felt like I was a part of some small secret society. Back then, Mary Zampino (fellow SIG-let) and I had virtually no resources available to us on how this whole “procurement” thing worked. We tried to come up with best practices, templates, and other tools to make our sourcing clients jobs easier and offer them the most process improvement and cost savings possible. We dreamed of creating a knowledge library of resources that we so desperately needed ourselves so that others wouldn’t have to work so tirelessly to do their jobs.
It was recently announced that full tests of driverless cars will take place on UK roads (including motorways) within the next two years. The UK is lagging in this area behind some other countries, especially the USA, where the likes of Google have been taking automated cars out on public highways for several years. However, it's another landmark for technology which looks set to utterly transform human transportation over the next couple of decades.
At the same time, as I walk along my local High Street the windows of employment agencies are plastered with signs calling for drivers - of vans, minibuses, HGVs; indeed, one agency has only these jobs on display.
Obviously, any transition to automated vehicles (especially the large ones on which the logistics industry relies) will take time (how much time has yet to be seen, and many issues remain to be decided before the shift can fully take place); however, it seems both interesting and unsettling that anyone approaching an employment office wondering which roles might be most in demand would come away with his or her thoughts pointed towards an industry on the verge of radical transformation involving the eventual removal of exactly those roles currently being yelled for.
A couple of weeks ago, I published a blog entitled ‘Automation and the Human Touch’, looking at some of the challenges the automation revolution is set to throw our way regarding future employment opportunities and the education and training of our next generation(s). That blog provoked some very interesting thoughts from readers:
Of the many laws that affect the international outsourcing space, one of the most important must be that of diminishing returns. At its heart outsourcing is about efficiency – a provider can only offer a decent value proposition, and turn a profit, if it can achieve a desired output more efficiently than can a would-be buyer of its services – and yet there’s only so much money in the hypothetical pot to invest in driving efficiencies: as a very basic example, if one can spend $x to achieve 10% savings, by the fifth investment of $x the savings made are only around 60% of what was achieved with the first tranche. The returns diminish. After a while, it becomes less and less worthwhile to invest $x in that project, when the same amount put into another deal can yield significantly more.
Finding the right balance between investment and returns (and knowing where is the line beyond which further investment will yield returns too paltry to justify) is vital in any business, but especially one as efficiency-based as outsourcing, where relationships have historically often featured buyers demanding constant and consistent efficiency gains and savings – and, moreover, where the necessary investments in technology and people can be gigantic. Hence the desire on the part of providers to share the value gained by any given investment across as many clients as possible – and the complications resulting from buy-side demands for bespoke work and customisation without a simultaneous understanding of why this of necessity means higher costs, which need to be passed on somewhere, somehow…
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.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog…I’ve been remiss. But in my defense, it has been a BUSY year. We officially opened SIG University with hundreds of students now matriculating through it…acquired Outsource, the leading digital content thought leader based in the UK…launched a division of SIG in EMEA…and absorbed the LatAm Alliance (formerly called Nearshore Executive Alliance) as a SIG Working Council…and that is all since January! Not to mention launching a new website, starting two Working Groups, hosting our first CPO Meet & Eat, conducting several events with our European team, planning our first-ever awards event, holding dozens of one-day forums all over North America and beyond and preparing for our second Global Summit of the year! My head is spinning…it’s been quite a year. But it’s the crazy ride we call the Summit that has me thinking it’s time to write another blog.
The Summit is a time that we at SIG always look forward to with (to be honest) mixed feelings. The event itself gives us a high like no other. It is the time when we get to see all of our members face-to-face. We hear the latest innovations and ideas from world class thought leaders. We meet new SIG members…and we reconnect with our work colleagues whom we know better by voice than face. But preparing for it is a LOT of work. I’m not sure I emphasized that enough. It is A LOT of work. There are literally thousands of little details that go into making this the world-class event you have all come to expect. From the speakers to the signage…from the cups to the cocktail napkins…from the app to the entertainment…the list is LONG. We put the effort into making it a flawless event so you can come prepared to just absorb, learn, network and enjoy. But if you want a few more tips for making the week the best it can possibly be, consider these three things:
SIG Summits are known for having amazing keynote speakers…and at our Summit in Denver last fall we had a speaker who took it to a whole new peak…so to speak. In fact, our keynote Alison Levine gave us a new appreciation for the word "Summit" as she shared her experiences in climbing Mt. Everest. At first glance, one wouldn't immediately think this tiny woman had the physical stamina or grit required for this incredible journey...which is exactly why making quick judgments isn't ever a great idea. Not only did she lead a team up that most arduous of climbs, but she did it twice. TWICE. Facing extremely dangerous and life-threatening conditions within 300 feet of the Summit, she made the painful decision to turn back her first time up...but both journeys provided lessons anyone can apply as a leader. She had so many great takeaways that I'm not sure I can adequately sum them up...but my attempt and interpretation are below:
On effective teams, everyone is a leader at some point. There may be only one person with a designated leader title, but allowing people to have a voice builds trust and loyalty. And if you do, your team is more likely to look out for the people on either side of them and make sure they are moving in the right direction as well. We once had a speaker whose mantra was that you don't have to have a title to be a leader...truer words were never spoken. Think about the word "leadership" as more of a mindset than a title and you empower everyone with the ability to own it. When you give people not just room...but permission to take something and run with it, you might be surprised by the result.
There. I said it...I am officially addicted to Twitter. How can that be, when just a year ago I didn't even know how to log in? At that time I thought it was only for celebrities who used it to "tweet" about their exciting lives. How could anything meaningful come out of 140 characters? I thought it really wasn't going to catch on in business. Well, I decided I was acting like a fuddy duddy (yes, that tells my age) and would give it a month. Much to my surprise, after the month flew by, I knew I was addicted. Now I am going to tell you why you should consider having a twitter account. I don't care if you tweet (send out messages), but if you want to learn, you do need to follow (receive tweets) others. I started following some really interesting, talented, well read, educated people and by reading their tweets and their bit.ly (shortened) links to articles and other things they post, I am blown away by how much I have learned! How? Well, I follow people in sourcing, outsourcing, logistics, supply chain, economics, news feeds, research, member companies, technology etc. From each of the 500+ people I follow, I glance at their tweets on a daily basis and when it catches my eye I click on the article/whitepaper/video that they linked to and start reading and learning. I can only skim a handful of sites and periodicals myself...what my twitter network has done is opened the world of knowledge to me by having 500+ sets of eyes covering the news we should be hearing and bringing it directly to me. If each of my 500+ follow another 500+ interesting twitter links I have exponentially exposed myself to people all around the world interested in the same topics I am. I am seriously astounded by all that I am able to read/learn/consume about topics that may have taken months or years to bubble to the top of my knowledge base. I am now able to see cutting edge ideas as they emerge and can plan on how they apply to SIG, sourcing and outsourcing.
I had a completely different blog ready to go today, but realized that we are on the cusp of Member Appreciation Week, so my "New Years Resolution" blog is just going to have to wait (and how apropos...putting off those resolutions just a little longer)... As we get ready to celebrate our members next week with tokens of appreciation, phone calls and a drawing for a Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet, I'd like to say what I personally appreciate most about our fabulous SIG members:
With many of the world's leaders gathered in South Africa to honor Nobel Prize winner and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, it seemed only apropos to acknowledge the many leadership lessons that he imparted. To say he was a great man would be an understatement. How he spent 27 years in prison and walked away with an attitude and spirit that allowed him to rise above the experience and become one of the names most associated with peace and forgiveness is beyond understanding. When he spoke, many listened. Below are a few of his words of wisdom, and my take on how we can use them wisely.
"It always seems impossible until it's done." How many times have you looked at a project — either business or personal — and thought you could never get it done? Not enough time, not enough resources, not enough support...and yet somehow you find a way to do it. Most people celebrate the big successes but overlook the little ones. Yet sometimes breaking big projects into little steps is exactly what you or your team needs to make the impossible possible. Don't wait until you cross the chasm to enjoy your successes. Celebrate the little victories too.
"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again." It's a little hard to imagine judging Nelson Mandela given the magnitude of what he was able to overcome and accomplish, but the message is a good one. You can't succeed if you don't try...and the fact is that many of us are afraid to try because we are afraid to fail. Failing isn't a requisite for succeeding...but it sure can be helpful you when you're trying to anticipate all the things that could go wrong in any given situation. Think back to some of the greatest innovators of our generation. Take Steve Jobs, for example. He left Apple in the '80s because of a series of failures, only to come back and create some of the most revolutionary technologies our world has ever seen.