Archive for January, 2013

Are you anti-Social Networks and Tools?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Absolutely!

For those of you that do not think that all types of social networks have a place in the business world or in our procurement world in general, just remember that these are the tools of choice of our younger generations. That would be those that are coming after those of us with more than a few years of experience. By the way, that includes the use of these tools in their work lives and BYOD to access them. Want to know where the best place to look for procurement talent is? Give up? It’s LINKEDIN.

The blogosphere is crowed with any number of opinions on any number of subjects and feeding the engines of big data. As a medium it has evolved from on line dictionaries in the early to mid 1990’s. Blogs are a form of Social Media just as Wiki’s are. Forums have been around for thousands of years (I think there’s one in Greece), it is only natural that as technology evolved to include more people that offerings such as Facebook would evolve to include many of these tool types as well. It is only a matter of time before they evolve to help us solve complex problems in all areas of life and that includes the procurement space.

If you visit the SafeSourcing Sourcebook™ and become a member you can host forums on anything you wish to learn about in the procurement space and post that forum to thousands of other members. It may be something as simple as a question like this. Can anyone tell me how they are presently planning to source paper products based on the rumors of an up pulp market? How might you plan on mitigating price increases?

Job specific social communities are not the way of the future, they are here today. Visit Sourcebook™ and create your forum.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Is understanding the language within your contracts frustrating you?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Quite often the lengthier the contract the more legalese there is to try and interpret and almost every one you ask will in fact interpret it differently.   Most contracts begin with a section called definitions which is where most companies and associates get lost to begin with. This section is just exactly what it says, all terms used within the following clauses of the contract refer back to this section for their specific explanations of a terms meaning within that clause. You are probably finding this confusing already.

The simple way to begin is by focusing on the definitions as if it were a separate document and then set it aside and read through the clauses. Most of the time this will clear up some of the confusion.

Most contracts have a pretty good flow to them and will include a format that covers most if not all of the following.

1.  Definitions

2.  Merger and Integration

3.  Choice of Law

4.  Statute of Limitations

5.  Indemnification Language

6.  Time of Performance

7.  Arbitration

8.  Severability

9.  Fee’s

10. General Provisions

11. Non-Waiver

12. Liquidated Damages

If you need some help trying to interpret the flow of these documents, please contact a SafeSourcing customer services account manager to learn more about how SafeContract™ services can help you.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments

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The Pros and Cons of a Virtual Data Center

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Sr. Vice President of Operations and CTO at SafeSourcing.

Companies all over the world, including SafeSourcing, are making big decisions on moving their physical on-site data centers into a hosted virtual environment.  To quickly define what this means, it is the concept of creating virtual servers in a safe environment that act exactly like a physical server costing tens of thousands of dollars.  Each instance can be expanded or scaled back at a moment’s notice without the expense of shutting a server down and installing expensive hardware peripherals. In some cases the move can remove the use of dozens of servers consolidating them into the same number (or more) virtual instances that run on just a few pieces of computer hardware.

Obviously there are some advantages to going virtual as well as cost, performance, scalability, standardization and ease of use factors that should be considered when making these decisions.  Today we will look at a few of the benefits from moving to a virtual data center environment.

Cost Change – The first question many people ask in a switch like this is “how much does it cost?” or more importantly, “how much will I save?”  Answering this question depends a lot of the environment(s) you are looking to convert.  Converting one or two servers to a virtual instance will not see nearly as good of a return as those that are converting larger numbers.  The savings is present in both, however.  Virtual instances can be upgraded through the years with software, as the cost to upgrade the hardware is usually held by the ISP managing the virtual instances.  This cost occurs for many companies every 2-5 years at $10,000+ a physical server can mean big savings.  Besides those hardware costs there are also the reduction of costs normally associated with scaling servers up or down as seen below.

Scalability – Another problem with physical servers, apart from the cost aspect, is that they are difficult to scale easily.  This means adding more memory, more bandwidth, more hard disk space to increase speed or to add capabilities.  These typically require a technician to physically access the machine, usually power it down, invest time to install the new hardware and bring it back up all in a way that they hope will come with no issues.  There are several cost, productivity and security issues with this scenario that are eliminated in a virtual server environment.  Because the virtual servers are actually software only, they can have more hard drive space, or processing power or network bandwidth allocated to them with a click of mouse from thousands of miles away if need be.  This allows fast growing companies to adjust their environments as quickly as they are expanding the business at a greatly reduced cost.

Separation of applications – Virtually any IT professional will tell you that if it were up to them they would have each server running only an application or two in their data center.  Doing so would remove performance bottlenecks, more easily control security and would allow them to troubleshoot any situation quicker because the culprit would be coming from a smaller group of applications.  As any CFO will tell you the cost of being able to achieve that with physical servers is an impossibility.  Having your data center in a virtual environment may not be able to achieve the IT professional’s dream, but it can get them most of the way there as virtual server instances can easily be created at a fraction of the cost of physical servers.  Web servers, database servers, application servers, test servers, development servers can now be located in their own unique server instance allowing heavily used applications to grow in their own instance without having to upgrade hardware for every other application.

To understand more about how we can help you begin to layout the sourcing aspects of a move to a virtual data center, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.

We look forward to your comments.

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Blood Pressure Accuracy-It Could Save a Life

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Today’s post is by Sarah Kouse an account manager in our procurement center of expertise at SafeSourcing.

When checking your blood pressure in your local grocery store, pharmacy, etc. you may not always be getting an accurate reading. If the size of the arm cuff is too small or too large, it can either over-estimate or under-estimate your blood pressure reading. The same would go with having your blood pressure checked at a healthcare facility.

If you were to receive an inaccurate blood pressure reading, and the error was not caught, you could be putting your life in danger by either not getting the proper dose of medicine for the medical condition, not being prescribed medication when it is needed, or getting prescribed medication for a medical condition that is not even present.

Knowing the facts and all the information related can ensure accuracy and, in this case, potentially save lives. Having the right product in your business is extremely important too. Not only to ensure you are providing a product that provides a customer that accuracy to help them get in control of their health, but to make sure the product meets all of the health requirements and certifications, while getting the best price possible.

Many suppliers will offer better pricing on Blood Pressure Machines for companies that sign a contract of a longer duration. For example, the pricing would be lower for a contract of eight years opposed to four years. After weighing out all of the options, it could save you money and be more cost effective in the longer run to have a product for a longer duration.

There are many details involved in making sure you offer your customers the right product while paying the best prices possible when selecting a product in this industry. Please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative to assistance you with your sourcing needs today.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments

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IT Hiring Growth for 2013

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Sr. Vice President of Operations and CTO at SafeSourcing

After a very strong 2012 IT hiring trend, 2013 is looking to equal if not better that trend as companies grow and new technologies require non-IT companies to augment their staff to keep up, especially the in the areas of mobile devices and cloud computing which seem to be mentioned with every blog and magazine written.

Most IT departments have already completed their budgeting for 2013 and know where their needs lie but they may not yet have decided the best way to bring that talent in.  Today we will go over a few things to consider as you prepare to increase you IT staffs.

Temp VS Permanent – One of the biggest dilemmas IT departments have faced for the past 15 years is whether to hire temporary or permanent help.  There can be a financial upside to a permanent employee even with taxes and benefits over higher priced temporary employees but only if there is enough work and there is a management staff in place to ensure quality work gets done.  These are some of the biggest reasons why companies are moving toward augmenting some of their staff with contract employees especially for projects that have a definite end of life.  Having a healthy mix of internal and external resources is where most companies will find themselves this year.

Geek + Business is a Must – It has always been very important for IT professionals to be equipped with the technical expertise and knowledge for doing their job.  In years past, it didn’t really matter what other strange behavior, appearance or presentation came with the IT professional as long as they could do the tasks they were hired for.  With IT professionals today, interacting with and, more importantly, understanding the business they are in and how their customers use their products in order to make a better product will be crucial.   Companies will look to hire IT professionals who can understand dollars and cents as well as bits and bytes.

DIY or Third Party – One of the other areas companies struggle with is whether they should try and find the resources themselves or seek help from a third party.  The answer for this for many companies boils down to whether there are internal resources that understand enough of what they are looking for in order to make a determination of whether a candidate is a quality on or not.  Many recruiting agencies can charge a hefty price to find good talent but they are generally extremely well-equipped to evaluate the customer’s needs and the talent against those needs saving the company time and huge headaches down the road if they hire only ONE wrong resource let alone many.

To understand more about how we can help you build the best strategy to source your IT Labor needs or to provide you with alternative methods for reviewing those options, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.

We look forward to your comments.

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As procurement professionals, each and every one of us should accept personal responsibility for protecting the environment.

Friday, January 18th, 2013

I recently reread an old survey conducted in 2008 by the Disney Family of eight thousand (8,000) adults. When asked who should enforce environmentally sound practices?  Forty percent of respondents indicated that it should be the government; thirty nine percent indicated that it should be individuals; thirteen percent indicated that it should be businesses and nine percent indicated that it should be the schools. That forty percent of individuals surveyed defaulted to this being a government responsibility is an issue or a cop out dependant on your own beliefs.

This author doesn’t believe that government can do it alone without guidance from the people. I don’t believe that businesses can do it alone without guidance from the government in the form of standards. I don’t believe that people can do it alone without taking it to the work place. And, unless we focus on it in the home and the workplace there is not much schools can do to enforce their environmental educational content. If parents don’t support it, children will not participate. In fact without all of us working together towards a common goal success is questionable.

At SafeSourcing there are many things that we are passionate about. However, three drive our daily thinking and actions.

1.   Reducing the costs of goods and services for our customers.

2.   Supporting the global community through the sourcing of safe goods and services.

3.   Supporting the environment through eco friendly sourcing practices that we hold suppliers accountable to that provide those goods and services.

Through these beliefs, we try to pay it forward every day where the environment is concerned. Can you or your company boil your environmentally focused CSR initiatives down to three distinct points that can be measured? If you can, your customers will notice. Ours do.

It would be interesting to see the statistics today (5 years later). Would they be better or worse. If you’d like to learn more about how to incorporate environmental best practices into your sourcing, please contact a SafeSourcing customer servvices account manager.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

 

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How Do Product Codes Work?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Please enjoy another post by SafeSourcing Account Manager Michael Figueroa

Here’s a quick little guide to get you started!

The first thing you need to know, is that in 1977 an organization was started called GS1 who’s purpose was to standardize data formats to facilitate trade throughout global supply chains. The GS1 standard is the most widely used in the world.

One of the standards GS1 developed is called “Global Trade Item Number” or GTIN. These numbers are meant to serve as globally recognized, unique identifiers to represent information about a particular product. Within this GTIN standard, there are also multiple sub-formats, some of which are GTIN-14, GTIN-13, GTIN-12 , and GTIN-8 and so forth, the suffix eluding to the number of digits the code uses. These GTIN formats can be further sub-categorized into some other widely accepted formats, though for simplicities sake we can just think of them as different languages whose use is grouped by regions or organizations that have found that particular language to be the most fitting for their business needs.

-Universal Product Codes (UPC) are the most widely used barcoding standard in North America. The most common sub-formats are UPC-A, and UPC-E, though there are others.

-European Article Numbers  (EAN) are used most commonly in Europe, and were developed as a superset to the UPC format. Of the UPC  formats however, the greatest number of digits is 12, whereas some EAN formats can have up to 17. Due to the ever increasing number of unique global products it is thought that the technical constraints of the UPC format will likely soon become obsolete and force users to move to the EAN format.

There can be different meanings behind the different prefixes and suffixes of these codes to designate a manufacturer, company, or item. However, for the casual user the important thing to know is that when you are referred to a GTIN code it can refer to any one of a number of formats, and if it is followed by a prefix of zeros it is likely a sub-group format.

(i.e.  a UPC  012345678905 is the same as GTIN  00012345678905)

When trying to find specific product information, a GTIN number is essential to making correct comparisons. Private Label contracting for instance, when informing your formulation specifications, will need to have more narrow definitions than just a National Brand Equivalent’s name. This is one area that SafeSourcing excels in, is making sure your procurement projects are making correct comparisons by managing the data within the project correctly.

Please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Services account manager for further information

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

 

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Create Small wins for buy-in.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Today’s post is from Mike Figueroa a SafeSourcing Account Manager.

Whether the focus is believing in a leader, a boss (there’s a difference 😉 a spouse, a product, or even themselves, there is a threshold at which a number of perceived failures will begin to cause people to stop believing in certain proposed possibilities. For some people their threshold is very low; all it takes is one setback, one negative comment, one harsh statement from the boss, to get them to lack belief in the viability of a positive outcome. While we can’t pander to everyone’s insecurities, there are ways to start rebuilding confidence, and expanding the perceived realm of possibility for your team.

One such way is to create small wins. A series of small accomplishments for an individual can be a huge bolster to Buy-in. A boss that follows through with his promises is more likely to be trusted when he asks the impossible of his employees. When a leader consistently demonstrates that greater things can be accomplished than what others thought was possible, co-workers will start increasing their self-expectations.

This is one of the greatest differences between incentivizing productivity through negative consequences and positive expectations. You can get people to scramble through fear, but you can’t get them to believe that what you’re proposing is achievable. And study after study has shown that a workforce that believes in a common purpose is always more effective than one that would rather see the project fail because they resent the fear tactics.

Learning what the threshold of buy in is, and consistently exceeding those expectations one step, one “win” at a time, is essential to managing a buy-in paradigm shift. Creating buy- in is what keeps clients patronizing your business; your employee’s following your vision, and your self-confidence high enough to accomplish your goals.

If you’d like to discuss getting your e-procurement program off to a quick start with focused small wins, please contact a SafeSourcing Account Manager.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

 

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Are you anti Social Networks? Be careful how you define yourself.

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

For those of you that do not think that social networks have a place in the business world or in procurement in general, just remember that they are the tool of choice of the younger generations. That would be those that are coming after those of us with a few with more than a few years of experience. By the way, that includes the use of these tools in their work lives.

The blogosphere is crowed with any number of opinions on any number of subjects. As a medium it has evolved from on line dictionaries in the early to mid 1990’s. Blogs are a form of Social Media just as Wiki’s are. Forums have been around for thousands of years, it is only natural that as technology evolved to include more people that offerings such as Facebook would evolve to include many of these tool types. It is only a matter of time before the evolve to help us solve complex problems in all areas of life and that include procurement.

If you visit the SafeSourcing Sourcebook™ and become a member you can host forums on anything you wish to learn about in the procurement space and post that forum to thousands of other members. It may be something as simple as a question like this. Can anyone tell me how they are presently planning to source paper products based on the rumors of an up pulp market? How might you plan on mitigating price increases?

Job specific social communities are not the way of the future, they are here today. Visit Sourcebook™ and create your forum.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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Have you developed lean procurement practices?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The term “lean” as it applies to our subject was coined to describe Toyota’s business during the late 1980s by a research team headed by Jim Womack, Ph.D., at MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program. According to lean.org; the idea behind lean organizations is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply, lean means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.

In Lean Thinking, by Jim Womack and Dan Jones, the authors suggest that companies or organizations think about three fundamental business issues.

1.  Purpose: What customer problems will the enterprise solve to achieve its own purpose of prospering?

2.  Process: How will the organization assess each major value stream to make sure each step is valuable, capable, available, adequate, flexible, and that all the steps are linked by flow, pull, and leveling?

3.  People: How can the organization insure that every important process has someone responsible for continually evaluating that value stream in terms of business purpose and lean process? How can everyone touching the value stream be actively engaged in operating it correctly and continually improving it?

So, how does this apply to the procurement process? A typical misconception is that lean is suited only for the manufacturing process.  This is not true. Lean applies in any and all businesses for any and all processes. Some areas you might consider relative to a lean procurement process would certainly include but not be limited to the following.

1.  How many internal resources are dedicated and at what cost to procuring products and services for resale or internal use.

2.  How much time do these resources spend to review and renew contracts?

3.  How many new sources of supply are vetted regularly to insure you are receiving the best possible product at the best possible price?

4.  How long have you been doing businesses with existing suppliers in every category?

5.  What are your Procurement Key Performance Indicators and how often do you review them?

6.  your Procurement KPI’s link directly with your corporate KPI’s

Ultimately a lean organization understands both internal and external customer value and focuses its key processes to continuously improve both. Your solutions provider should have tools to help you evaluate your current process and suggestions as to how to reduce cost and infrastructure to support a lean procurement organization.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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