The Research Difference

Before I start this blog, you need to know that I am a self-confessed research snob. I take it seriously and have high standards.

I have been doing supply chain research for the past nine years. It sounds easier than it is. I have learned a lot on this journey. There are a lot of nuances. I am fortunate to have learned from Pros. I have experienced the research methodologies of three analyst firms (Gartner, AMR Research and Altimeter Group). Each have taught me very different lessons.

I am an avid student; and, anyone that knows me knows that I am passionate about it. When I founded Supply Chain Insights six months ago, my first hire was to staff research with what I consider to be top-notch talent. My second move was to build a database, a peer group of supply chain professionals, to enable me to do research with people who I know and respect. For a little company, this was not cheap or easy. However, I have made a conscious choice to build the Supply Chain Insights core products on what I believe is research excellence.

What is Research?

The research agenda is our roadmap. The delivery mechanism is either quantitative or qualitative research augmented by 25 years of financial balance sheet data. Embedded in the design of each study is a maturity model that is tested based on an objective function. These hypotheses are designed behind the scene to try to determine the “so what and why you should care.” In the design of this new company, I wanted the foundation to be built on a research methodology to build research surveys, panel groups and analyze data.

In the industry, the term “research” is used often with very different meanings. At Supply Chain Insights we are an analyst firm, not a consulting company. It is our goal to distinguish ourselves through delivering thought-leading research.  As I have worked with companies to discuss the Supply Chain Insights business model, I have found that this is not clear and needs explanation. It is for this reason that I have written this blog post. Here I share the Supply Chain Insights Research Difference.

Great research is an input to our work. It is foundational. Great writing and speaking is only made possible by research insights. In 2012, I’ve attended eighty-five conferences, and I heard the term “research” frequently. A little TOO frequently. You will find me sitting on the back row at conferences. I am usually bored and you may find me shaking my head in disbelief. Most of the pieces that are published are “self-serving” or “shallow.” They infuriate me. They just are not based on “research.” I find most of the pieces are a waste of time. As a self-professed research snob, I have little patience for people who are not willing to do the “hard work.” Let me explain the difference.

The Research Difference

True research is hard work. Supply chain management practices are emerging and no two companies define their supply chain the same way. Companies empirically know that supply chain excellence matters, but they are struggling to understand future impacts and to quantify the impact of the changes on business performance.  This is where I think our research makes a difference. I think that there are seven elements that drive the Supply Chain Insights research difference:

  • The Team. We have invested in a research team. Heather Hart, Research Director, has over fifteen years of experience in designing and fielding research surveys; and Abby Mayer, a recent M.S. in International Supply Chain Management graduate, is busy mining financial data. We only outsource research survey coding and tabulation. And, we are supported by Marie LaCour our freelance artist who gives each research study a special look and feel. We are trying to make research fun.
  • Research Methodology.  Each research project, whether qualitative or quantitative, starts with a design. It has an objective, a hypothesis, and an objective function to test the hypothesis against. In addition, each research survey has an embedded research maturity model. This is designed either through client experience or based on qualitative discovery with experts.  This is quite different than what I see in the industry. In most publications, I just do not find the rigor that I think true research requires.
  • Research Instrument Design.  We try to standardize the demographics of each study so that we can see overall organizational perspectives. When a person answers our surveys, we track the answers of respondents by company. Over time, we are growing a database that helps us to understand how different functions within different companies define supply chain excellence. We will mine this database and use it to help us better understand the evolution of supply chain practices. The standardization of research studies will help us to see research trends faster.
  • Known Peer Groups. While many industry analyst groups outsource the development of research panels to third-parties, we are actively building our own peer groups based on industry relationships. The difference is that we “know” who answers our surveys and we protect their answers through aggregate reporting.  Our database now contains 6000 names. We will reward people in the upcoming community that help us by answering our surveys. In contrast to other firms that I have worked at, when the data is shipped to a third-party research panel and outsourced, the analyst firm is “blind” to who answered the survey, or survey demographics (how many from each company answered the survey or the frequency with which the same person answers a survey). This makes it impossible to do financial data correlation and enrichment.
  • Correlation with Financial Data. Up until now, I have never had the luxury of augmenting supply chain research studies with financial data. I do now. I am so EXCITED to be able to do this. Based on investments that we made in building the company, we are sitting on twenty-five years of supply chain financial ratios. It is our goal to tie the research maturity models in quantitative research to this financial data to better understand which supply chain practices and technologies make a difference.
  • Open Research. We disclose the source of funding for each research project. We are open. Each report will start with a statement like, “This independent research was 100% funded by Supply Chain Insights and is published using the principle of Open Content research.” Or, if it is commissioned research for a third-party, it will state, “This research was funded by company XYZ.”  To date, we have fielded eleven research studies. Two of the studies were funded by a third-party, and we have presented the findings of four research projects on seven sponsored webinars. We are not, and will never be, pay-for-play.
  • Quality Reports. Each research report is based on many hours of writing, editing and copy refinement. To ensure that we are on target, we share drafts of the reports with people that we trust, and respect. We ask them for feedback. We then incorporate that feedback and try to hone it into hard-hitting recommendations. While there are lots of supply chain materials in the market, we want to give you actionable insights. We currently post all of the research reports on slideshare to enable sharing and downloads, and we encourage you to share the report documents, and the report study powerpoints, freely within your organization.

We are committed to the Open Content research model. We share all of the research openly through SlideShare, on our website and soon in our community. We do not place it behind a “paywall.”  Each report states that “It is intended for you to read, share, and use. When you use it, all we ask for in return is attribution. We publish under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States Creative Commons License and Supply Chain Insights’ citation policy.”  We want everyone to use the research.

This is our committment. Please let us know how we are doing.

While these are our goals, we need feedback from you as a reader to judge the impact.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Lora Cecere, Founder of Supply Chain Insights


Featured Image