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The fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.
Barry Schwartz, “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less”

 

I find it fascinating that today, in our personal lives or in business, we need so many things that we did not have before. I personally never thought I needed that much, but when I look back at when I started my career, I realize that today compared to then, I do.

 

Lately, with the advances that have been made around internet shopping, it gets even worse. I have never been a big shopper, but now I find myself buying all kinds of neat things that I (most of the time) really don’t need. Why is that?


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There is a famous anecdote about Volvo car dealers heavily discounting green models because consumers preferred other colors. Volvo’s manufacturing plant, seeing the resulting spike in demand for green models, perceived it as consumer interest and upped the production. That’s right…even more green cars! Ouch!!

 

It’s a sad story that’s often repeated, and a story that begins with a demand-shaping strategy to offload unwanted inventory. It’s a prime example of how a dealer’s {read distributor’s} behavior can create confusion and lead to unnecessary increases in a manufacturer’s inventory holdings and, by extension, the stock of its suppliers, too.  


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“No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.”

 

This quote is attributed to Harry J. Gray, an iconic business manager and philanthropist who, through acquisition, assembled one of America’s largest manufacturing corporations. During his career, he received numerous recognitions and honors and was inducted into the Junior Achievement National Business Hall of Fame. My guess is that Mr. Gray was an expert at risk assessment and containment.

 

Wikipedia defines risk as a consequence of action taken in spite of uncertainty. Given that uncertainty is a fact of life in business, risk management is not only unavoidable but essential. In the context of inventory management, the most common risk strategy against stock-outs is to purchase extra inventory as safety stock.


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A lot of focus has been placed on advanced and predictive analytics, and rightfully so. I have written many posts and have spoken publically on the merits of advanced analytics for several years now.

 

What I find disorienting and misleading are marketers harping on how important it is to adopt advanced analytics right now. The thing that they just don’t get (or maybe they don’t want to get?) is that an organization will need to transcend a series of analytical maturity levels before they can truly capitalize on the benefits of advanced and predictive analytics.


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Good relationships are good for business. Building a relationship with a vendor takes time. It’s not uncommon for a buyer to work with the same rep for many years. They become friends, share stories and have a routine. That’s all good, right? Turns out the answer may be “not so much”.

 

Would a vendor take advantage of a friendly relationship? Probably not, but when was the last time you actually reviewed a vendor’s performance? Is your vendor still bringing good value? Are you challenging the status quo?


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Previously in this series I wrote that the principles of agile software development are more important than the development process (see Agile Software Development: It’s not a process). Consequently there isn’t just one correct way to do software development – the approach must be based on a careful examination of the needs of each project.


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Source: MIT Sloan Management Review

In my last post, I introduced the longitudinal study that MIT Sloan Management Review has been conducting over the past five years. From 2010 to 2012 they indicated that 67% of those surveyed believed that analytics gave their organizations a competitive edge. In 2013, that figure stabilized at 66% revealing the so called ‘Moneyball Effect’ where leaders lost their competitive edge that they once enjoyed because followers matured and made analytics core competencies. In 2014, that trend continued, falling to 61%.

 

But why?


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When supply chain professionals plan for future demand, their thoughts gravitate to meeting customer service levels while minimizing the amount of capital tied up in inventory.  Demand planning is about having the right product in the right place at the right time … right? Four occurrences of the same word would cause my old English teacher to shudder at this excessive use of a word in a single sentence. However, let us return to the important business of meeting consumer demand without incurring the cost of excess inventory.


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If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything!

 

That was one of my Dad’s favorite expressions and I think it’s wise; I try to live by it every day. It applies nicely to software development too where I put it in the following terms:

 

If you don’t have a vision for your product you’ll clutter it with lots of unnecessary features!

 

I’m sure that makes you think of some bad examples, eh? Me too!


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Once upon a time, agile software development was revolutionary and cellphones were for making cellphone calls, but those times are long gone. Agile is a mainstream best-practice and if you aren’t applying it then I must brand you a laggard. But agile has changed in the last decade, and not always for the better.

 

Back in 2001 it was generally recognized that the principles behind agile were its most important characteristic, but nowadays there is an unhelpful emphasis on its mechanics. The phrase “an agile process” is often heard even though one of those principles states that agile values “individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.

 

Or to put it another way:

 


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