Sarmento Silva, director of purchasing system development and re-engineering at AstraZeneca, views it this way: "Any business requirement starts off as a competitive advantage. But when businesses see a competitor that has caught up and started to pass them by implementing some technology, then they have to implement that technology, too. Then it becomes a matter not of competitive advantage to have those technologies, but of a competitive disadvantage not to have those technologies."
David Camp, chief marketing officer at Tigris Consulting, a strategic sourcing and SCM consultancy, puts it more bluntly: "All the enterprise software packages merely represent a cost of entry for every organization. They're no longer competitive weapons." His colleague, John Fontana, a principal at the company, adds: "No one implemented SAP and used it to drive out of business another company using Oracle and another competitor using PeopleSoft. They all got better."
15 Tips to Tone up Your Enterprise
iSource Business asked a group of supply chain practitioners, business consultants and solution providers for their best tips on how companies can use e-business technologies to prepare for the competitive race. Here's what our experts came up with:
1. Focus on the strategic. "Let technology do the tactical work so that purchasing people can do the strategic work," says Sarmento Silva, director of purchasing system development and re-engineering at AstraZeneca. "Move people away from tactical process and into strategic thinking."
2. Don't forget the change management. "You have to work with your internal customers to make sure that they are very secure that you're not changing something in a way that will reduce the quality of what you're buying." — Sarmento Silva, AstraZeneca
3. Make sure your people are up to the job. "We can implement the best technologies and have the best processes. Those are given, right? So then it comes down to people. You've got to verify that your people can do the creative stuff, and that takes training, education and brutal evaluation." — Sarmento Silva, AstraZeneca
4. Don't get so caught up in managing data that you forget to leverage your information. "You need to be agile with your information. You need to be able to get information in and out of your organization, and get the right information to the right place at the right time, at the lowest possible cost, so that you can make business decisions based on the correct underlying documentation." — Tom Velema, Deloitte Consulting
5. Communicate and motivate internally. "The secret sauce is how well we communicate within the company, how well we motivate participants in projects, especially when the projects cross different divisions of the company," says Richard Jones, managing director and chief information officer at Countrywide Financial Corp. "The secret sauce is getting everyone excited about what this means for the enterprise, and getting people motivated and energized to make the project a success. When you're dealing with projects that bring the enterprise together, 90 percent of every problem is communications."
6. Whenever possible, hire a professional to run an e-business initiative. Ed Williams, vice president of corporate supply chain at Johns Manville, hired an e-sourcing veteran to manage the company's implementation of FreeMarkets' QS sourcing platform. "Getting the right person to lead the effort is critical, because inside this company, we're touching HR, we're touching IT, we're touching engineering, we're touching manufacturing," explains Williams. "You need someone to engage these people, give them a comfort factor that this is something that is proven, that we can follow some simple rules to avoid the pitfalls, and that we'll be very successful."
7. Use the e-business tools strategically rather than purely tactically. Christa Degnan, research director with Aberdeen Group, says that while many companies are using travel and expense management solutions to get a handle on how much they are spending, reign in dollars and make sure people are complying with contracts already in place, the most creative companies are using the information to understand where their T&E dollars are going and then employing strategic sourcing processes and tools to negotiate new contracts. " Those companies are seeing dramatic hard-dollar cost drops in a lot of service category areas because they are being aggressive with the information that they have," Degnan says.