Driving Research Excellence

Pumpkin lattes. Colored leaves lining the streets. Frost on the car windows in the morning. No doubt about it, fall is here. I love the crisp air and blue skies of fall. For me, the fall season is a good time to reflect and start new things.  The rhythm of starting new things in September started for me in my school days. I was always excited when it was time to go back to school. I am stimulated by learning. I love the smell of new books, writing with a new sharp pencil, and beginning to learn something new.

As I sit here with my coffee on this September morning,  I think back to my goal to build this company. Four years ago I was not sure. I was unclear if there was a market for a company focused on supply chain research. I am pleased to say that we are slowly finding our way. While many companies tag themselves as a research firm, we mean it. Research—qualitative, quantitative, and mining financial patterns—is in our DNA. It is our business model and mission.

We offer a different voice, and often a contrarian view. You will find what we do to be different than other sources. It is independent. We call it like we see it. In the words of one person last week, “It is honest. A refreshing breath of fresh air. Supply Chain Insights says what is known, but is not expressed openly. However, they not only say it, they prove it.”

I speak at over 50 conferences a year, where I am often introduced as a consultant. When this happens I smile and softly shake my head. I say, “I am not a consultant. I am a researcher.” People in the audience always look confused. So I laugh and remark, ”Some would call me a critic, a curmudgeon of sorts, or a fortune-teller trying to forecast the future. My focus is to drive insights. I want to understand how supply chain leaders can drive greater value for their corporations. Supply Chain Insights is a small bootstrapped startup focused on this goal. I manage a research team. While you can hire us for insights and advice, please remember that we are not consultants. We do not implement software or tell you of best practices. Instead, we help you understand the research of how to drive value.“  The group will politely nod their head, but I find most people do not understand the term “research.” It is an ongoing challenge. Research is overused term. There are many  studies in the market masquerading as research—funded by consulting firms and technology vendors—which are really marketing. There are other industry analyst firms who claim they do research, but when you ask what they mean by the term “research”  I find the distilled answer to be, “We are smart folks with opinions.”

Defining a new business model and launching a bootstrapped startup  is not for the faint of heart. Let me admit, it has been hard. In February, Supply Chain Insights will be four years old. In many ways it doesn’t seem possible. Time passed quickly. As can be seen by the statistics in Figure 1, the team of six has not been idle.  At the first of August, we had completed over 4,700 survey responses collected through over 58 quantitative studies and published 76 reports. Our research base continues to grow. We now have over 5,500 responses in 60 studies. Research is our mission. You give to us. We give to you. At Supply Chain Insights, we have consistently invested 20% of our revenues in building thought-leading research, and publishing Open Content research for the supply chain leader.

Figure 1. Supply Chain Insights by the Numbers

Supply Chain Insights by the Numbers after 3.5 Years

Where are we headed? Over the course of the next six months, we will be mining this body of research to better understand cross-study industry trends and insights on supply chain excellence. We will share all of this research openly through our websites and blogs. As we mine the data, you will see infographics, reports and webinars. We want to use it to be the centerpiece of a new discussion for supply chain leaders. To that end, in the middle of October, we will launch our new community, Beet Fusion.  Now in Closed Beta, we are excited about the new community.

Why a community? We tried a community in 2013 when we launched the company. The effort failed. While the goal was right, we launched on the wrong software before having a sufficient library of content to get it started. Stubbing a toe, or two, is part of a scrappy startup. We try to learn from our mistakes. Failure is the genesis of inspiration. It is now time to do it again. We remain steadfast on Open Content sharing and want everyone to share the research. However, we think that sharing is not sufficient. We think that it takes dialogue. This is our goal. We want to drive two-way discussions on important topics. Our goal is to change thinking and to help leaders improve value in their corporations. The community will not be used for advertisements. It is an open community allowing anyone around the world to post openly and freely with no cost. There are three rules of order—no profanity, obscenity, or in your face marketing. We hope to see you there! Look for the launch in October. It is a time for a new beginning. Help us in launching  the new supply chain community.

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