by Sean Elliffe
Common traits in golf and SAP supply chain optimization: Why getting to golf perfection and the perfect extended supply chain are similar in nature!
The Basic Hypothesis
Our high-performance ERP system has taken a sizeable investment to implement. It is designed to take our business where it needs to go, has been / should be set up to get optimal results and requires every-day users to be the drivers utilizing the enterprise application functionality. When all these dynamics are in balance, we have a finely tuned business system, and our people are able to use it effectively in delivering business processes that ensure success and add value. When these dynamics are not in balance, the pressure to improve performance oftentimes pushes into throwing more into technology investment in the hope that it will improve the results.
Our high-performance golf game has taken a sizeable (personal) investment in equipment, balls and designer gear. It includes numerous visits to the driving range to set up our game, learn techniques and groove the swing. It culminates in our drivers taking us down the first tee to a hopefully glorious round in the low 70s or less. When all the planets are aligned and our finely tuned swing engages with the great technology that we have, our day is simply bliss; it is time and money well spent. When they are not and we end up with a score of 100-plus, our poor performance oftentimes pushes off to the pro shop where we throw more into technology investment in the hope that it will improve results.
Sound familiar? Has throwing more technology at the problem solved the fundamental issue? I think not.
In both cases, technology is an important requirement, but so too are the people and process dynamics. The reason that golf professionals are on the tour while we languish in front of the television has more to do with their relentless striving for perfection in execution than it does on the technology. They have the technology, some even retain specific favorite items in the bag for many years past what might be considered a sell-by date simply because it works and drives confidence. So execution becomes the key.
Execution means having a sound knowledge and understanding of swing dynamics and playing conditions, as well as being able to adapt, react and shift gears based in changing circumstances. It means really knowing when to apply which techniques and how to manage pressure from competitors and the external environment as it unfolds. All these words ring true for our business environment. Fundamentally, we need to be able to effectively execute and make better decisions based on our ability to use system functionality and tools in following business processes.
If you complain to the technology manufacturer that your game is bad, he will sell you the latest set of golf clubs before trying to educate you on how to use what you have better. This same situation oftentimes happens within our business and ERP environments as well.
Useful Advice from the Golfing Greats
We have all heard the adage that “practice will make perfect.” This proverb has some truth to it, but in golfing terms, simply flaying away at bucket after bucket of golf balls, not really knowing how to fix shortcomings effectively and practicing like this for hours will do nothing to really improve your game. On the contrary, a certain Ben Hogan said quite the opposite: “Practice doesn’t make perfect.” He argued rather that “perfect practice makes perfect.” Perfect practice means practicing with purpose. In supply chain lingo, best practice perfectly executed is what is needed to deliver astounding results.
Another golfing superstar of our time, Gary Player, said: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” His resume would support the notion of perfect practice as the kind of practice that leads to success. His results over decades have shown this to be as true as the greatness of Ben Hogan and others who have made history in the sport. They are legends in their own right, and their recipe is emulated by all current top-echelon players in this highly competitive battle on the links (the oldest style of golf course). That is because the perfect-practice approach ensures that they build the ability to execute effectively, even under the most pressing of circumstances.
Continuing the golfing analogy, we note that the lesser mortals of the game, i.e. we the hackers and the average players, more often than not turn to our equipment providers for answers. We do this ahead of seeking good coaching advice as we struggle on the road to perfection. The reality is that it is not the equipment that is at fault, but rather our inability to execute with the tools we have and receive the returns we richly desire. We seriously need to consider ways to optimize our game with the tools that we have and then as we mature move on to the next generation of technology to support the journey of continuous improvement.
Business Readiness for Additional Technology
Our strategy at Reveal is to drive an integrated approach to supply chain management that encompasses people, process and the SMART use of technology — meaning first and foremost optimally using the functionality and applications that you already have in the smartest way possible. Then determine the SMART introduction of new technology, based on strategy, customer service delivery requirements and organizational need. These are measured against the maturity of the organization in terms of a continuum that drives the business to optimal business value in an integrated way.
The diagram below attempts to put this golfing analogy and the relationship to the readiness of business for additional technology into perspective.
The Final Word
At Reveal, we transform SAP-centric supply chain-driven businesses to run better. Our focus is to challenge the traditional thinking of the modern supply chain to ensure sustainable and successful businesses. We change the way people think and operate by deploying the smart use of the SAP technology.
Our story is well defined, so it is not repeated here. But to conclude the golfing analogy, suffice to say, that real change in the business, much like the golf swing, is to focus our efforts to, among other things, drive REAL change following the principles defined below.
Tags: ERP technology, smart use of technology, supply chain management, Supply Chain Optimization