Now, It's Time

Competitive organizations know it's about getting to the finish line first to get the gold. And if e-procurement and supply chain enablement supports their efforts to improve cycle-time, well, it's a no brainer: They're going to try it on.

[From iSource Business, December 2000] Our e-business experts tell us that competitive business cannot operate too fast. The faster, the better. In a real-time world, a premium is set on instant, accurate and adaptive response.

Speed. Record-breaking time. The fastest man or woman alive. We live and breathe this stuff. This stuff is more often related to sports, and no better analogy comes to my mind than what the U.S. Swim Team did this year at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. It's a sport that lives for speed.

As in business, each Olympic swimmer knows that the one who gets there first gets the gold. The 2000 Games witnessed some of the best world-class swimming on record, not only from the Americans, but from the rest of the international field. According to my count, the U.S. Swim Team alone set 26 World, Olympic and American records during a week of incredible, competitive swimming in Sydney. Commentators are still discussing the brilliant speed of these world-class swimmers and continue to assess what made them smash long-standing records.

I suggest it was a combination of things in concert with the will to win. As the business world has already discovered, a mix of strategies to improve usually creates a recipe for success. At the Aquatics Center in Sydney, viewers witnessed a fast pool (technically perfect), streamlined suits, sophisticated training regimes, modernized swim strokes and raw, unbridled talent. Some might scoff at swimmers wearing new, full-body suits chasing after the gold. However, when one considers that one tenth of a second is often all that separates the gold and silver medalist, if the champion's suit made the difference, then bless 'em for being willing to try something new.

In many instances, new technologies and mechanics of the sport are adapted to fit the individual. Plus, as swimming has evolved and strokes have improved, speed has, too. My last competitive race in swimming was 15 years ago. To compete today, I'd have to relearn every stroke's advanced techniques  but to get back in the race I'd do it. This was nearly the case for Olympian medallist Dara Torres, who only had a seven-year hiatus, yet had to relearn advanced techniques of the four basic strokes. She did and she went on to win gold in the relays and even to medal in the individual races in Sydney.

Business should take a lesson from the U.S. Swim Team: trash the old, learn the new and improved, adapt to your environment, develop new business methods, set new records and beat the competition to the finish line. In the end you'll get the gold.

Customers to your business count speed of service as a key reason why they do business with certain companies. Is your company on their top choice list? Do they come back time and time again? The idea behind today's technology innovations is to get better at what you do, just like the swimmer willing to try on a new suit. If it makes them faster they're going to wear it. iSource Business' cover story on page 64 is a testament to a few companies' willingness to try on a new suit to improve their cycle-time  business at light speed. For many of them, their new suit is e-procurement and supply chain enablement. One of the profiled organizations, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, says it this way: "We are an Old Economy company now moving at Internet speed." They know that now, it's all about time.