Purpose in Practicality

I’m inspired by the number of companies that prioritize Purpose as part of their missions. On the first day of its Ariba Live event in Las Vegas this year, SAP Ariba dedicated its entire General Session to Purpose. They shared how companies can impact humanity, economy, and the environment, while mitigating their own risk exposure, through Purpose-driven procurement. Alexandra Lopez, CPO of Cisco, declared, “What’s good for the world is good for business.” But how do we know this?

Padmini Ranganathan of SAP Ariba advises that Purpose is revenue enabling: “When companies operate with their heart, brain and soul together, they also improve their bottom lines.” A Deloitte study found that “organizations that focus beyond profits and instill a culture of purpose are more likely to find long-term success.” That focusing on Purpose, rather than profits, builds business confidence and drives investment. EY Beacon Institute research shows that Purpose results in increased engagement, stronger culture, more agility, resilience, broader vision and an improved learning environment.

While I’m an eternal optimist, whose heart wants to believe in the significant impact a “Culture of Purpose” can play, I am too logical to take this on its surface. The heart alone will not drive enough change, if the head does not have a logical reason to act. What follows are some thoughts on the practicality of Purpose in today’s enterprises and some tangible ways for an organization to focus on it.

The Pessimistic Perspective

In his latest book, Balancing Green, Yossi Sheffi challenges the assumption that consumers will pay more for sustainable products. Without business reasons to act, such as efficiency, risk mitigation and segmentation, he argues that Purpose alone will not be enough to influence change. Sheffi doesn’t pit “profits versus planet” – he asserts that sustainability is a “more subtle issue of (some) people versus (other) people —those looking for jobs and inexpensive goods versus others who seek a pristine environment.”

Companies like Patagonia and Seventh Generation deliberately link their brands to a higher purpose, and are able to command a higher premium as a result. But a notable gap exists between the percentage of consumers wanting more eco-friendly products (26%) and those who say they purchased them (10%). Many businesses, whether or not they admit it publicly, are only willing to pursue initiatives that influence their bottom line. Purpose still has an impact here; irresponsible companies suffer commercial consequences such as reduced investment, inability to attract top talent, and lost sales.

Optimists point to a 2015 global study by Nielsen which indicated that almost three-quarters of millennials are willing to pay extra for sustainable products. But we can’t just rely on Millennials to save the day. The most sustainably minded generation, who can crowdsource by consumerism, can also be one of the least likely to participate in simple daily actions that promote sustainability. Today’s young shopper who orders three pairs of shoes online, knowing he will return two, is uninfluenced by environmental impacts such as packaging and fuel consumption.

A Platform for Change

People begin to pay attention to Purpose when a platform is created which goes beyond cost, quality and efficiency.

In his inspirational book, A Selfish Plan to Change the World, Justin Dillon tells his story of finding purpose. Dillon and his company Made in a Free World have created a platform to arm companies with data to identify the risk of human trafficking in their supply chains.

Dillon points out the difference between saving the world and changing it. Instead of just funding charities to ‘save’ the world – we should challenge ourselves to ‘go upstream’ to influence real change. “Saving can be performed over and over, but changing a system requires risk and innovation.”

Dillon encourages the match between those with a poverty of means, and those with a poverty of meaning, to drive real change. That instead of “giving back”, if people “give in” to pursue their own self-interest, they can alter the dynamics of the world’s most challenging problems.

Management Innovation eXchange founders Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini remind us that “today’s organizations were never designed to change proactively and deeply — they were built for discipline and efficiency, enforced through hierarchy and routinization.” The creation of change platforms – a real-time, socially constructed approach to change – allows anyone to hack current processes, suggest solutions, and launch experiments.

When will the Consumer Care Enough to Change Behavior?

Customers must first trust an organization’s commitment to purpose. Brand trust influences purchasing for nearly 2/3 of consumers, globally, according to Nielsen. Organizations that simply pursue random acts of sustainability rather than having a discerning strategy and purpose will not influence real change.

Businesses and consumers should leverage the following three components to shift their outlook towards purpose.


“If you can’t see it, you can’t solve it.” – Kofi Annan

The answer may once again be found in the data. Companies which make sustainability and purpose measurable need to hold themselves and everyone in their supply chains accountable. Sustainability indexes, reporting initiatives, regulations, coalitions and councils take important steps in the right direction. Businesses need to hold their contractors, suppliers, and partners accountable to the same sustainability standards they adopt. Companies are going beyond Codes of Conduct and contracts, to redefine sustainable methodologies and participate in co-development.

Japen Hollist, Director of the Digital Transformation Organization of SAP Ariba, encourages employees to “tap into what is important to the leadership.” Instead of looking only at cost reduction, a procurement leader could show her management other positive impacts that Purpose can have on revenue. For example, by using measurements such as Supplier Diversity Spend, a company could generate more interest from public sector customers, which could lead to more opportunity.

Measurements that compare how to ‘do good better’ will help consumers assess their options. Using the fundamentals of Effective Altruism, William MacAskill challenges how we define value, benefits and effectiveness when evaluating how to make the world better. Separating intentions, assumptions and emotions, MacAskill uses a data-driven approach to analyze the impact of good deeds. For example, he shows data on the inefficiency and limitations of donating towards noticeable natural disasters or cancer research, as compared to broader, more effectual but less salient services such as malaria treatment and prevention.

MacAskill sets aside the heart almost entirely, teaching an important lesson on how data could be used to drive ethical choices. As businesses discover ways to share data and the impacts of their missions towards Purpose, consumers will make more informed decisions.


“Transparency is arguably one of the hottest currencies in the world, transforming the way people produce, communicate and access digital information.” – Benjamin Herzberg, World Bank Institute

Transparency should enable greater accountability. This requires credible, comprehensive and comparable public disclosure of information about supply chains, business practices and the impacts of these practices on workers, communities and the environment. Going beyond the existence of data alone, transparency opens up the hyper-connected world to become more responsible and responsive.

Fragmented supply chains obscure who is responsible for various behaviors. Consumers and businesses need to be curious – asking questions about how and why outcomes are achieved. Transparency provides consumers with more decision-making power and enables companies to drive continuous improvement across their value chains. As an example, Sedex Global has partnered with the World Bank Institute to pilot the Open Supply Chain Platform. This collaborative platform shares responsible sourcing data on supply chains and is used by more than 50,000 members in over 150 countries to manage performance around labor rights, health and safety, the environment and business ethics.

Carry Somers, founder and Global Operations Director of Fashion Revolution, agrees that transparency is power. “The brands that are still sitting in the armchairs in their fifth floor apartments, who haven’t yet learnt how to sail on the tide of transparency, will be drowned by it. The wave is coming; now is the time to get ahead of the curve.”

“Blockchain technology has been used to combat slave labour within fishing industries in Thailand. It works by improving transparency and tracking the fish from “catch to consumer.” – Tania Seary, founding chairman of Procurious

Technology will transform not only the bottom line but will truly enable real change. Elephants, Rhinos & People (ERP) protects Southern Africa’s wild elephants and rhinos using SAP HANA, GPS, drones and predictive machine learning. Emerging technology innovations have the potential to create more inclusive and sustainable food systems. Wearable technology, smart contracts, and trackable payments to laborers across the globe are disrupting the supplier landscape. As companies go beyond corporate purpose in their day-to-day activities, they will find innovative ways to transform the systems of the future.

But technology is only as good as the value it generates. Padmini Ranganathan from SAP Ariba reminds us of the importance of driving real incremental change, not just disrupting an existing framework. “It’s not just about taking a child out of a slave labor situation. That takes food away from the family, and that is not sustainable.” By applying technology to connect the stakeholders that are needed to solve the bigger picture, these children will be enabled to improve their circumstances over time.

Businesses with a purpose matter to their partners, consumers, and employees. Per Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global CEO: “A culture of purpose guides behavior, influences strategy, transcends leaders – and endures.” Change needs to go well beyond the creation of a Purpose Statement. Sustainability programs or initiatives from top management are only a step in the right direction. By leveraging data, transparency and technology, you may be able to move the needle towards Purpose, in your businesses and in your lives.

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Integrating Workday and SAP

Integrating and enabling connectivity between HCM applications and an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a common challenge for most businesses. From recruiting employee(s) to tracking applications, the information should be synchronized with ERP systems, E.g.  SAP. Workday can be integrated with SAP by leveraging Oracle Integration Cloud Services. The integration covers, the user provisioning business use case, where new employee(s) get on-boarded and approved in Workday HR system. The respective user and related contact information gets synced to SAP as an example of integration. We can use Business Application Programming Interface (BAPI) to create new users and SAP as the ERP system to streamline processes and ensure efficiency. Enterprise Interface Builder (EIB) is leveraged to extract and transform data from Workday and deliver it to other business users.

Create Connections

Follow these steps to ensure both applications are connected:

1. Login to ICS and navigate to the Connection page.

  • Create connections for Workday by providing host name, tenant name, WD Drive Hostname, Username and Password to connect to the Workday instance.
  • Create SOAP connection with SAP endpoint which is used to create a SAP user.

2. Test and Save connections.
3. Navigate to the Integration page.

Create Integration Flow

Create Scheduled Orchestration Integration in ICS by selecting the Schedule option as the ‘trigger’. Provide the Integration name. Click the Create button.

Launch an EIB Integration: Drag and Drop a Workday connection. Provide endpoint name. Click Next. Select ‘Reporting Service’ as Workday Module. Select Asynchronous Raas. Click Next. Select ‘Launch an EIB integration’ as Integration Operation. Search for the EIB integration as per requirement. Click Next. The selected EIB is displayed in the Summary page.

Assign Activity (1): Drag Assign Cctivity from Actions tab and add a variable.

While Activity: Drag While Activity, define a value for variable created in Assign activity (1).

In the while loop:

Wait Activity: Drag a Wait Activity to keep Monitor EIB Integration progress in sleepmode for a definite time period.

Monitor EIB Integration Progress: Drag and Drop a Workday connection in the same sequence. Provide endpoint name. Click Next. Select ‘Reporting Service’ as Workday Module. Select Asynchronous Raas. Click Next. Select ‘Monitor EIB integration progress’ as Integration operation. Click Next. This operation also generates a mapper. In the mapper, map Integration_Event_Reference element from Launch_EIB response to get Integrations event.

Assign Activity (2): Drag Assign after Monitor EIB to update the variable which is created at Assign (1).

Switch Activity: Drag Switch Activity to Apply If condition.

4. Download File Generated by EIB Integration: Drag and Drop a Workday connection following the same sequence. Provide endpoint name. Click Next. Select ‘Reporting Service’ as Workday Module. Select Asynchronous Raas. Click Next. Select ‘Download file generated by EIB’ as Integration operation. A mapper is generated along with it. Map Document_ID from Get_Integration_Events_Response to Workday_file_location. The file gets downloaded once the specified time in wait activity is complete. The file containing the data of selected EIB can also be downloaded from the server’s .vfs location in .csv format. Once the file is downloaded, configure stage file action to read the downloaded file from. vfs location.

5. Stage File Action: You can choose the Drag and Drop ‘stage file’ action from Actions:

  • Stage file operation
  • Specify the file name
  • Specify directory to read from

Click Next. Create new schema from a selected .csv file by giving file name (.csv), record name, record set name, field delimiter, and character set. You can also create some optional fields, Click Next. Check the description in the summary page. Click Done.

6. Drag and Drop SOAP connection configured with SAP endpoint to create user in SAP.
A mapper is generated, map the mandatory fields for the user to get created in SAP. Save and Close the integration. Activate the integration, and click Submit Now on by clicking the Action button.

Integration process flow of fetching user from Workday and creating it in SAP is as shown below:

  • This completes the Integration. Now, generate tracking with ‘Start time’.
  • Activate Integration, while activating ensure that Enable tracking button is checked.
  • After activation, click the horizontal lines symbol. Click Submit Now to submit the Integration.


In the above integration, select ‘EIB’ as a Workday API to trigger a Workday Enterprise Integration system. The EIB can generate Workday data output in .csv format. Use the stage to read the .csv file. The user data after monitoring for a specified time period can be downloaded from the .vfs location. Configure Monitor Activity Retrial Interval based on the average time taken by EIB to execute the best outcome. Check the loop carefully and make sure it does not run for long and set some threshold for retrial count, if EIB takes a longer time to execute.

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Integrate Workday with Salesforce based on the business use case. The user provisioning business use case in which a new employee(s) is on-boarded and approved in Workday HR system. The respective user, and related contact information gets created in the Salesforce.com. This blog covers general instructions to integrate Workday with Salesforce by leveraging Oracle Integration Cloud.


Create the integration between the Workday and Salesforce to create user with contact or required information at salesforce.com which are on-boarded and approved in the Workday HR system. In this integration, select ‘EIB’ as a Workday API if the enterprise system supports file based approach. The EIB supports CSV data extract out from the Workday. The user’s data after monitoring for a time specified can be downloaded in .vfs location. The stage action reads the CSV file from the downloaded location by taking a reference of a sample .csv format. And then appropriate users gets created in the salesforce by using salesforce adapter which exists in Workday and next time it will create the user who is entered as new in Workday by avoiding the existing users.

The following steps need to be completed to have both applications connected.
1. Log in using credentials to the Integration Cloud Service and navigate to the Connection page.

  • Create connections for Workday by providing host name, tenant name, WD Drive Hostname, user name and password to connect to the Workday instance.
  • Create connections for Salesforce by uploading Salesforce WSDL, user name, and password to connect to the Salesforce organization.

2. After saving connections, navigate to the Integration page.

3. Create New Integration with Orchestration as an integration style in ICS and select schedule as a trigger option. Provide the name for integration flow and click CREATE button.

Create Integration Flow

After creating integration, Workday services need to be invoked inside integration in sequence.

Launch an EIB Integration: Drag and drop a Workday connection. Provide endpoint name, click NEXT, and then select ‘Reporting Service’ as Workday Module. Select Asynchronous Raas , Click NEXT. Select ‘Launch an EIB integration’ as Integration Operation, search for the EIB integration as per requirement, and then click NEXT. Selected EIB displays on the summary page.

Assign Activity (1): Drag assign activity from Actions tab and add a variable.

While Activity: Drag while activity, define a value for variable which is created in Assign activity (1).

In the while loop:

Wait Activity: Drag a wait activity to keep Monitor EIB Integration progress in sleep for a span of time.

Monitor EIB Integration Progress: Drag and drop a Workday connection in the same sequence. Provide endpoint name, click NEXT, and then select ‘Reporting Service’ as Workday Module. Select Asynchronous Raas, Click NEXT. Select ‘Monitor EIB integration progress’ as Integration operation, and then click NEXT. This operation generates mapper along with it. In the mapper, map Integration_Event_Reference element from Launch_EIB response to get integrations event.

This operation generates mapper along with it. In the mapper, map Launch EIB response to Monitor EIB integration progress Event request, map ID, type from integration event reference element (Source) to ID, and type of Get integration event request element(Target). Validate mappings, and then close the mapper.

Assign Activity (2): Drag assign after Monitor EIB to update the variable which is created at Assign (1).

Switch Activity: Drag switch activity to apply IF condition.

Download File Generated by EIB Integration: Drag and drop Workday connection following the same sequence. Select ‘Download file generated by EIB’ as Integration operation. A mapper is generated along with it. Map Document_ID Get_Integration_Events_Response to workday_file_location. The file gets downloaded under base_domain after the specified time in wait activity gets completed.

After downloading file, configure stage file action to read the downloaded file.

Stage File Action: Drag and drop ‘stage file’ action from Actions tab, choose

  • Stage file operation:
  • Specify the file name:
  • Specify directory to read from:

and then click NEXT. Create new schema from CSV file by giving file name (.csv file), record name, record set name, field delimiter, and character set. You can make some fields optional if required, click NEXT, find description, and then click Done.

Salesforce Adapter: After stage File Action is completed, invoke ‘Salesforce adapter’ using Salesforce connection that we created in earlier step, into the flow, and then set below parameters.

  • Select an operation type: create
  • Select Business object: user and contacts

Click NEXT, uncheck AllOrNoneHeader (Specifies whether a call rolls back all the changes unless all records are processed successfully) checkbox. Click NEXT, and then click Done.

  • It creates mapper along with it. In the mapper, map required fields to create user in Salesforce like Username, Alias, Email, EmailEncodingKey, LanguageLocaleKey, Lastname, LocalSidKey, ProfileId, and TimezoneSidKey. Validate mappings, and then close the mapper.

(Note: ProfileId is generated from salesforce.com by creating a sample user with license CHATTER FREE).

The process flow displays the integration process.

Integrate Workday with Salesforce

Now this completes the integration part, and then generate the tracking with ‘Start time’.

Activate integration, while activating ensure that Enable tracking button is checked in.

After activation, in the right corner of your integration window, search and click icon, and then click Submit Now to submit the created integration.


The user can make use of filters in Workday. An Inbox filter enables you to limit the action items, user can create a personal Inbox filter for all business processes that is available only to the user in Inbox.  The user can edit, copy, review, and delete the filter using the Actions tab. You can make use of XSLT to transform the result document data in the required form.

By using the integration between Workday and salesforce, whenever the new employee joined in the organization. The system creates a user in the Workday HR system, post approval in the Workday HR system a user is created in the salesforce.com. The user can login into the salesforce.com with their credentials and make changes accordingly.

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Blockchain: My Two Bitcents

One of the many things I love about working in supply chain is the exposure to new technologies. I/T companies and consultants evaluate a range of solutions, such as IoT, AI, 3D printing, robotics and blockchain. We try to identify where value can be added to the supply chain, and ideally, we leverage these technologies to drive customer value. Typically, my family and friends who are not in supply chain don’t ask me much about the industry; I’ve seen eyes glaze over the moment I mention those two words. But it’s been different with blockchain.

With all of the hype around Bitcoin and blockchain, I continue to receive questions about this concept. What is it? Will it matter? And, of course, where should I invest? (Sorry, I won’t be answering the latter question today.) Not only have I educated work colleagues on blockchain; I’ve sent my mother-in-law a link to an explanatory video, taught my kids the basic approach and shared content with my neighbors.

And while I’m no expert on blockchain – I’ll leave that to my colleagues in higher education, research labs, and high tech – I wanted to comment on a few of the concepts about what blockchain is and is not.

It’s not just a new technology.

Blockchain is not just a new widget, app or database. “It is a mechanism by which society can deal with how it arrives at truth,” explains Michael Casey, Senior Advisor of the MIT Digital Currency Initiative.

Most technology is based around institutions, such as governments and banks. Blockchain – a decentralized, distributed ledger – is complicated because it needs human beings to come together to optimize it. It requires trust.

Just ask Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, why humans control the world: “Money is probably the most successful story ever told.” Cybercurrencies like Bitcoin further this story by agreeing on digital value. Harari’s position that money “is the most pluralistic system of mutual trust ever devised” is furthered by the decentralized trust mechanism of the blockchain.

It’s not just hype.

I’m not talking about crazy stock market behavior, which we’ve seen lately. Yes, cryptocurrencies are pervading Wall Street, and Bitcoin futures contracts are real – but don’t discount blockchain technology because of instability in the Bitcoin world. The concept and the impacts are substantive.

Cryptocurrencies are assets. They cannot be double spent. The currencies are “permission-less”, trusting a nebulous arbiter of truth; an open consensus mechanism. And while there isn’t currently an overarching methodology across all technologies, enough companies – and banks – are developing their own cryptocurrencies to take this seriously.

It is truly disruptive.

The global financial system is the most obvious example of disruption by digital currencies, from disintermediation of stock exchanges and trading houses to the institutionalization of ledgers. Consider, as Antony Jenkins has suggested, the friction and cost that the world would remove with a single global digital currency (although of course this still has risk and comes with complexity).

The significance and the range of use of blockchain should not be underestimated. It will stabilize currencies, eradicate corruption, provide visibility to voting and decentralize energy. And I didn’t even mention supply chain!! With added visibility and efficiency come provenance, smart contracts, unique identification, and registry of assets and transactions. This liquidates the supply chain, freeing up assets and enabling businesses to better respond to their customer needs.

It will take time.

While Bitcoin was created almost a decade ago, awareness of blockchain has skyrocketed over the past year. Opinions will vacillate as understanding improves and the hype reduces. But we still need to overcome a number of hurdles before we truly leverage the profound benefits of blockchain.

Scalability and cost are obvious issues, though these are exaggerated by critics. Issues with trust will continue to permeate. Legal and regulatory obstacles will interfere. The definition of quality standards for devices and processes will be essential for long-term success. But great strides are already being made on all of these fronts, and will continue to progress.

What does this mean to you?

Blockchain and its underlying fundamental concepts are the real deal. Some companies in this space will accelerate while others will collapse. I/T firms will grasp at how to derive real value in the short term. My advice? Don’t worry about abrupt ups and downs and anecdotes. It’s time to embrace blockchain and the fundamental transformation it will bring.

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Developer Showcase Series

What advice would you offer other technologists or developers interested in getting started working on blockchain?

One needs to be open minded – It is very new technology and many are interested in it due to its popularity. Many don’t know what it does. Also, there are many platforms claiming to be blockchain frameworks, but real frameworks that offer end to end blockchain needs ranging from membership service to smart contracts are rare, so developer needs to be well versed with knowledge and open minded for selecting a technology and implementing it.

Platform – Permissionless or permissioned – It is very important to identify which type of network is suitable for your needs. Like enterprise level networks where each member has some role and is known can leverage a permissioned network, also known as a private network.

Identify use case and problem solution – Identifying use case and finding a value prop for each participant on network is significant before making a solution. It may work for one party, but since the network needs participation from all members who are required on network, it is important to have use case which serve purpose to everyone.

Give back – contribute to open source – This is very important for every developer, consuming open source platforms or making solutions around it. Open source platforms rely on contributions and an active community. Answering questions, being active on forums is a must if you really want to explore, learn and master a framework.

Give a bit of background on what you’re working on, and let us know what was it that made you want to get into blockchain?

At my organisation, Bristlecone Labs, I work as a blockchain engineer and prosper innovative solutions to serve supply chain specific use-cases. We have developed IOE + Blockchain solution based on Hyperledger Fabric 0.6 while 1.0 was still in its alpha phase. The solution is aimed at logging real time sensors data in its immutable ledgers and executing smart contracts on sensor data.

One of the use cases being smart contracts which execute on every sensor reading and checks if sensor crossed specific threshold, which may mean perishables are exposed to unsuitable conditions and have spoiled due to this. The system can help not only record such breach of contracts in immutable ledgers but can also identify responsible shipper and take corrective actions in real time. There is avoidance of any conflict with system in place and real time sensory data, optimisation and efficiency can be achieved by identifying rough routes and avoiding them, by having shock detecting sensors on shipping trucks transporting delicate or fragile shipments.

As blockchain is key to achieving the above scenarios where distributed participants can agree upon consensus, and benefit on big picture out of this system.

As there is a high interest from various big players as well as small players, plus the nature of blockchain platforms (being distributed, open source) also makes it available to everyone, by everyone, there is no “single owner” of these platforms and this technology but all of us working on blockchain are. This is one important fact which motivated me to jump into blockchain engineering and learn, contribute and innovate passionately for the better of the world.

What project in Hyperledger are you working on? Any new developments to share? Can you sum up your experience with Hyperledger?

Currently, I am developing a business network on Hyperledger Composer, although it’s in early stage of its development, it will be mostly a network of networks that will have suppliers identify an optimised supply path as well as have competitive advantage for being on a network than suppliers playing alone.

Hyperledger has been constantly evolving and has a very active community. Availability of production ready system that has high security and scalability in such early stages of blockchain technology is a bliss for developers. Availability of high quality documents and tutorials makes it easy for developers to jump into complex world of blockchain. As I started my Blockchain journey with Hyperlegder, after making some solutions, I have never felt short changed of features and possibilities that the framework offers. Having an active community with regular meetups and weekly updates keeps us flowing with recent changes and recommended coding guidelines.

What do you think is most important for Hyperledger to focus on in the next year?

I think, tools that make achieving end to end solutions faster and easier will definitely attract lots of audience and developers around the globe. Blockchain can be a complex topic for people from different backgrounds and giving tools for rapid development like Hyperledger Composer is a great value prop for people to adopt a simple and fast solution.

Keeping focus in improving such tools will really drive a large base towards Hyperledger framework. It is incredible what Hyperledger is doing and especially keeping it open source and public driven complements technology like blockchain, which at a core is – “there is no central authority.” Offering a framework which is contributed by the developer community around the globe, there is no way it can go wrong with great mediators and helpful, passionate organisers.

Blockchain is really going to have a big impact on how things function as of now (hence disruptive), and when business realizes true potentials of it, that’s when early adopters are going to really benefit.

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The Process of Process Improvement

Streamlining and optimizing a business process leads to increased efficiency and greater customer satisfaction which further leads to a successful business. Everyone who has ever worked in any organization, be it a service provider, a software development firm, a manufacturing plant or a government outfit, can vouch for this.

What is the reason then that processes are not streamlined in every organization?

What keeps the organization from implementing and practicing the most efficient processes possible?

Let’s try and find out.

Somewhere in the organization, an inefficiency in terms of cost, timelines or resources is detected in one way or the other. The organization decides to improve the process related to the business unit and thus the whole project begins!

The first mistake that an organization often commits is to not think of process improvement as a project. When a project begins, the most important aspect of it that helps in guiding the whole process improvement initiative is the scope. Without scope, there is a high probability of the initiative diverting from the main objective.

Once the project is planned, the next obvious step is that of process mapping. When it comes to procurement, this step is referred to as procurement diagnostics. An accurate representation of current processes is the key in finding improvement scopes in any process. One temptation that the process mapping team needs to abstain from is that of improving a process while mapping the same. While it is true that low hanging fruits need to be targeted first for various reasons, it is not advisable to make changes to a process before fully understanding the same. It may reap some short-term results, but it will surely hamper the overall objective of process mapping.

The next steps in the project are that of improving the process, implementing it and then sustaining the same. While improving any process, the core project team who are the experts in process improvements tend to act condescendingly. The team, having worked in various projects, knows the nuances of the improvements to be made. But a top down approach in improvement suggestion does not essentially help in meeting the final objective. The simple reason is that in the tedious paperwork of process mapping and issue finding, the most important part of process is seldom taken care of: People.

A process is made of people, and if the people don’t accept the change, there is but a little scope of reaping the long-term benefits. How then do we take care of people while improving the process?

The first and the foremost step is communication. The idea of the process improvement project should be communicated well in advance to all the people involved. The communication does happen in all the projects, but in most of them, it is limited to the managers and team leaders. Communication needs to be identified as a key driving factor in successful project implementation. It is as important to listen to the concerns and suggestions of the people involved in the process as it is to convince everyone of the importance of the whole project.

Once the processes are mapped, and the suggestions taken from everyone involved, next step is to finalize an improved process. For a process to qualify as being improved, there must be a measurement metrics. These metrics are defined while deciding the scope of the project. Usually, these metrics include: ‘time taken for individual steps, ‘time taken for the whole process’, ‘cost of the process’, ‘SLAs’, ‘People involved’, ‘Automation level’, ‘Process Complexity’, etc.

There is one more way to measure a process performance which is often miscalculated by organizations. That is the measure of customer satisfaction. The word customer here does not necessarily mean the end customer of the organization. Any person, department or business unit which is dependent on the process should be considered as the customer. For example, in a procurement process, the requesting business unit becomes the customer and in some cases, the supplier needs to be considered as a customer.

Many a times, for internal processes, managers, team leaders and internal stake holders become the focus for all improvements. But unless and until the customer feels the difference, the process improvement project will not be a truly value adding activity.

All this may sound a little confusing and overwhelming, but once the process of process improvement is mastered, everything else surely does fall in line.

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Why companies need to benchmark and how consulting companies help

In today’s competitive supply chain world, it is always recommended to use best practices in your respective working areas/tasks to have best results within given timeframe.

This can be only achieved by following Benchmarking practices.


Benchmarking allows companies to compare themselves with similar companies working in the same area of business or geographies.

Studying best practices provides the greatest opportunity for gaining a strategic, operational, and financial benefits.

Benchmarking is not equal to copying as conditions are never identical. You can create a system, define critical values, and apply them. Benchmarking is a tool for Total Quality Management.

Benchmarking gives us the following-

  • Better Awareness of Ourselves (Us).
  • Better Awareness of the Best (Them).

One of the reason of doing Benchmarking is to create a firm that is more adaptable to change.

Benchmarking Process-


In Benchmarking process, as shown above in Fig2, structured and systematic steps are required to be followed to identify gap between actual performance and the desired best practices/results.

Benefit-Benchmarking process provides opportunities for staff to learn new skills and be involved in the transformation process from the outset.

Benchmarking can be done at different stages of Sourcing, i.e. in automotive sector while doing category management, benchmarking can be done at Costing Stage, best practice Implementation Stage and even in the Packaging Stage.

Bristlecone realized the value of Benchmarking for a client by recently doing a Cost Benchmarking for one of the OEM Automobile giants based in India. It covered the best practices of Benchmarking as well. We covered three OEMs in this Benchmarking exercise. Detailed Benchmarking of various elements of different costs in a Costing Process was done and best solutions were recommended to the client. This also included alignment of best practices of Costings in SAP from manual Excel spreadsheets.

Continuous and breakthrough improvement is possible through Benchmarking. See the graph below which shows how Benchmarking accelerates Innovation and Change, and the situation is highly competitive at that point.


Also, below mentioned are the six principles of Benchmarking:

  • Comprehensive
  • Credible
  • Comparative
  • Performance Oriented
  • Confidential
  • Continuous assessment

Most businesses are not willing to do multistep benchmarking as it takes too long—from six to nine months; it is also a costly and cumbersome process to complete.

Here comes the role of consulting firms that can perform Benchmarking for different organizations at competitive prices. Consulting firms do detailed research and do extensive data collection to provide the best Benchmarking solution. A pool of consultants from different domains study the existing process, identify gaps, and develop action plans to find the best benchmarking solution.

Consulting firms do benchmarking by following a step by step procedure. The benefits which can be obtained are streamlined work flow, opportunities for improvements by identification of gap between actual and desired best practices/result and thus making a competitive strategy to achieve best results.

Thus, consulting firms act as an extended arm for doing Benchmarking.

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Are you ready for Disruptive Innovation?

Can disruption and innovation go hand-in-hand? I often wonder about this, as I hear the word ‘disruption’ quite often. Over time, I have come to understand that disruptive innovation is characterized by two attributes. One, the new innovation is a new way of doing business within an established industry. Two, this new way of doing business is in direct conflict with traditional methods. The advent of internet banking and cab aggregators are a few common examples of disruptive innovation: for instance, cab aggregation is not just a novel way of doing the business of taking people places but is a new business model that is in direct conflict with existing modes of road transport across the world.

Extending the example to procurement, the emergence of blockchain creates a situation where every single supply transaction can be protected by the ‘influence of the many’. In other words, for any changes to be made to the data stored via this medium, consensus must be obtained. Examples of transactions include the issuance of a purchase order as a legal contract and the transfer of asset ownership.

This can be compared to the way nuclear codes work – a launch can happen only when everyone with the secret code enters it accurately.

It is perhaps safe to say that disruption in all traditional industries in general, and in procurement, in particular, is not just inevitable and something to be dealt with, but even desirable. Disruptive innovation using technology has the ability to transform the Supply Chain as we know it, be it through increased transaction security or by increased accountability at each step of the way.

“Thus, businesses will find that using innovation, they can reduce the cost of doing business, do it more efficiently and build a more sustainable solution that doesn’t bleed money and also provides long-term results.”

Are you ready? This is what disruption in procurement looks like, and we’re only skimming the surface here. Do note that most of these advancements already exist in the market.

Spend Analytics: Can you use AI to classify spend data? Products like Spend360 allows you to pinpoint every single spend on suppliers, understand why one method costs more than another and allocate spending so as to make most business sense.

Risk Management: By analyzing data from a company’s own portfolio of suppliers, as well as historical data from the industry, some products can predict the type and level of risk in procurement at each stage of product development. Such a solution can enable you to attach a premium to the risk, or to find ways to remove the risk from the system entirely.

Supply Intelligence: Churning data from millions of market sources enables products to accurately predict the price of most common supply commodities, including metals.

If this is already happening, you’d want to know what can be expected. Outrageous as the ideas themselves may be, no one ever thought blockchain could find such widespread acceptance. We can expect data to help us attach value to each sourcing operation, down to the molecular level. This can save businesses huge amounts of capital. IoT will also have a role to play in offering granular visibility across the procurement and manufacturing process by accounting for every single component digitally.

Research shows that in as less time as the next three years, traditional industry practices need to find a way to become complementary to disruptive innovation. Innovation would become the new norm around which traditional models work. Is your business disruption-ready? Here’s how to find out.

  • Do you accept that the face of the industry is about to change and that change is already underway? Every leader must look as far as ten years ahead into the future and be able to anticipate the realities of that time. Only then will the business have enough time to accept or challenge the disruption in their domain.
  • Do you have a personal impact matrix? Such analysis can help identify one or two key disruptors that would impact the business most severely. These aspects can then serve as the starting point for internal review and innovation.
  • Does your value proposition hold value down the line? Remember, disruption can make people go out of business overnight. With the advent of retail management systems and e-commerce, we are already seeing a reduction in the need for manpower. Evaluate your value proposition across a broad time period.
  • Can you disrupt the industry? If you have a revolutionary idea, it is best that you put it into practice first. This can give you an edge in the current market and put you first in the race in the future as well.
  • Are your departments integrated? Business intelligence is sourced from every single department in the business. While most manufacturers look at investment vs. output, it is time to measure the output against marketing spend, Supply Chain delays, product satisfaction and other KPIs independently and also as a consolidated result.
  • Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone? Some procurement companies find that they need to step into other industries, including but not limited to information technology and software development, in order to be able to cause a disruption or survive it. Business leaders with a pan-industry perspective are more likely to succeed in this endeavor.
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Digitizing the Supply Chain

Many Supply Chain executives still operate their Supply Chain processes as if they were linear processes that can be broken down into independent functional silos. In today’s world, an enterprise is intricately connected to a network of customers, suppliers, competitors and supply chains. The right goods and services still need to be delivered to the customer at the right time, the right place, the right price and with the right quality. To stay competitive in today’s complex world, businesses need to change the focus of the supply chain process to be outside-in, i.e., centered on the customer’s customer and focusing on the right key metrics. Being profitable while delivering on this focus requires harnessing information deeper in the enterprise’s internal supply chain and information outside the four walls of the enterprise.

Enormous amounts of such information, many being near real-time, is now available to businesses via Sensors, Third-party sources, Supply Chain partners, and mobile and social platforms. There is lot of buzz in the market about Digital Supply Chain (DSC) being the Swiss knife to harness the above information sources – touting that the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, 3D printing, e-commerce platforms and many such technologies, will help achieve DSC maturity.

In my opinion, DSC is less about the blind adoption of technology and more about the focus on delighting the customer, and adopting an “outside-in” approach, so that [relevant] information and tools can be mashed up with internal data, to create customer delight. Leveraging this information to better sense and understand customer demands, manage the supply chain, and deliver customer delight is going to be essential to a business that needs to adjust quickly to changes in market demands, technology and, most importantly, customer expectations.

What is a Digital Supply Chain?

A Digital Supply Chain (DSC) enables a customer-centric networked ecosystem that can capture and utilize customer data, sometimes in near real-time, to enable demand sensing, demand management and demand matching while adhering to strict compliance and security guidelines, and optimizing performance and risk.


DSC is often confused with adoption of technology. However, in reality, a DSC is one that has realized the benefits from the massive amounts of information available via emerging technologies; Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT and Robotics are just enablers. In addition, none of this data and consequent analysis is useful/actionable without meaningful collaboration between various functions in the organization – from sales to development, manufacturing, delivery services as well as external stakeholders–suppliers, partners and customers.

How can digitizing Supply Chains help your business?

“The Digital Supply Chain holds the promise of real- time data to sense demand, drive innovation, reduce cost and deliver the customer the right product at the right time and price.”—Bill McDermott, CEO, SAP (Germany)

According to a survey conducted The Center for Global Enterprise (CGE) as part of the Digital Supply Chain Initiative (DSCi), digital supply chains can reduce procurement costs for all purchases of goods and services by 20% and reduce supply chain process costs by 50%. In addition to decreased costs, improvements in the DSC have the ability to increase revenue by 10%. *


DSC Networks are more agile and resilient

The DSC is no longer the traditional linear system from manufacturing to delivery. Rather, it functions like a completely transparent network of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, partners and customers, aided by integrated systems, smart procurement, warehousing, and digitized logistics management. Whether it’s raw material at below the acceptable inventory levels, a spike in customer demand or a machine failure – all of these become visible, in near real-time, to stakeholders in the network. This enables the players “foresee” potential disruptions, giving them the ability to move quickly to fix issues. Customers get the benefit of efficient and transparent service.

DSC facilitates flexible and collaborative businesses

Rather than each function operating in its own silo, the outside-in DSC offers a transparent view to all stakeholders. Traditional supply chains have not been able to solve the problem of collaboration, largely because each stakeholder has a different set of goals. Buyers want rock-bottom prices, suppliers want to maximize their profits and keep their inventory costs and levels under check, and sales wants highest amount of products. Having technology and applications in place is not going to change any of this. However, measuring the right business metrics, for example, operational risks, inventory levels, on-time delivery, etc., and making it visible to all stakeholders can improve operational efficiency.

DSC makes the supply chain cognitive

DSCs harmonize internal and external data, near-real-time big data from IoT, sensors, mobile and social platforms. Application of automated data mining, predictive analytics and optimizations let many decisions to be taken by this smart Supply Chain, thus making the business become more proactive and efficient.

Consistent customer experience

Omni channel marketing helps companies deliver products and services in a consistent manner across all channels. This provides competitive advantage to businesses that have adopted outside-in Supply Chains. Analytical tools combined with Supply Chain strategies for demand stimulation and management will help companies deliver customer delight.

Improved risk mitigation

Early warnings from near real-time big data can help companies avoid potentially disruptive situations, set up mechanisms to handle risks and be more proactive. Predictive analytics help mitigate business performance risks, which can reduce significantly in a DSC. At the same time, this needs to be balanced out by driving compliance requirements by collaborating with various groups.

With governments across the world passing new legislations and regulations, compliance has become one of the major requirements for most companies.

The collaborative and transparent nature of DSC makes it easier for companies to communicate with stakeholders and see to it that compliance requirements are satisfied. Business contracts can be structured into pre-contract, contract and post-contract performance. Mining this data across various suppliers to evaluate performance and risk versus actual contract terms will help businesses decide which suppliers are a no-no, predict problems, and improve contract terms.

Accelerate your Digital Supply Chain journey with Bristlecone

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Bristlecone-Pulse, October 2017: Mapping the Future of Supply Chains

And it’s back! The third Bristlecone Pulse Conference is being brought to you at the world-renowned MIT campus in Cambridge, MA. Scheduled for October 25th to 27th, Pulse 2017 on the East Coast will be about ‘Your Roadmap to Antifragility’. Antifragility is the radical concept introduced by philosopher-author-financial analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book, ‘Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder’, that talks about systems that grow and even thrive in disruption.

What does antifragility have to do with Supply Chains? Join us at Pulse to listen to our distinguished and eminent thought-leaders speak on an assortment of topics such as Enabling Antifragility in Supply Chains and How Machine Learning Impacts the IoT network.

We’re very pleased and honored to host Prof. David Simchi-Levi, renowned Operations and Supply Chain expert and Engineering Systems Professor at MIT as well as Chairman of OPS Rules. Dr. Simchi-Levi will speak on Delivering Customer Value through Digitization, Analytics and Automation.

Dr. Federico Casalegno, Associate Professor of the Practice, is the Founder and Director of the MIT Mobile Experience Lab at MIT. He will focus on Designing Networked Digital Technologies to Foster Connections in his address.

We’re excited that Dr. Abel Sanchez, Executive Director of MIT’s Geospatial Data Center and Architect of “The Internet of Things” global network will bring Connected Intelligence for Pulse attendees.

Dr. Leonardo Bonanni is the Founder CEO of Sourcemap, a MIT start-up specializing in Supply Chain mapping and transparency. His talk will be about Transparency and Sustainability in Supply Chain.

Our President and CEO, Irfan A Khan shall deliver the keynote address. Mr. Khan will also be featured among many others in our panel of business leaders from the consumer goods industry who will talk about the huge changes sweeping across our industry and enabling the digital transformation of Supply Chains.

This prestigious event is your chance to network with the movers and shakers creating futuristic Supply Chain technologies. Be there to get your ringside view of tomorrow’s Supply Chains. Take back learnings to make your Supply Chain future-ready.

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