Dan Bentzinger, Chief Information Officer, MIQ Logistics
The Impact of Cloud
It has been our long standing belief that software should be provided through a browser or mobile device. The savings are undeniable. Unlike the old days, each participant is no longer required to purchase, configure, and host expensive hardware. They do not have to install and configure the complex software or provide the routine maintenance to the environment. CFO’s tend to enjoy the model. We trade lumpy capital expenditures for a predictable stream of rental payments where the cash is used in the same period as the benefit. CIO’s love the model because we are not responsible for the large projects that will collide with other pressing corporate initiatives. Most importantly, operational leaders benefit from the fact that they do not have to justify a gigantic capital expenditure with a multi-year payback. It is truly a win-win-win situation. Other advantages include the fact that the services can be turned on in shorter timeframe. Everyone can start realizing a return on investment in a much shorter period of time.
The Next Big Thing
Integration has always been the key to a successful supply chain. Without the reliable exchange of data, optimized logistics is just a theory. The move towards cloud is just another step in that ongoing evolution. The “internet of everything” is a gigantic step that enables people and devices to be connected to information in real-time all of the time. I believe that major companies will always be integrating their large ERP systems with the eco-system of their suppliers and providers. The cloud evolution has lowered the barrier to entry and companies of all sizes and capabilities can now seamlessly participate in the process. It levels the playing field for everyone.
Going Green to Save Money
I like to say that we have been supporting “green initiatives” for quite some time and “being green” really means saving money. Selecting the best carrier for the transportation of your cargo is very important. Picking a carrier with a fair price and a reliable quality standard of service will save you money. It is also really important to select the proper mode of transportation. Shipments with a common destination and delivery timeframe should always be grouped together for the best use of resources. Latest technologies let you plan your supply chain, organize all of your orders, and reduce your transportation spend.
Data analytics cannot be an afterthought. You have to thoughtfully design the processes to capture the correct data. Reports have to be designed into the solution. You cannot report on information when the source data does not exist. The biggest challenge we face is data quality. Data will always come from a wide variety of sources. We have to work with our customers to ensure that we get the correct data as early as possible in the cycle of the order. In addition, we work to get updates as things change. It is a dynamic world and the rate of change is mind boggling. Our systems, reports, and analysis are only as good as the source data. Accurate weights and dimensions are really important for the optimization of our routing. Promised delivery dates and commodity classification are really critical to meet service requirements that allow our carrier partners to safely handle the cargo.
Fostering a Hunger for Invention
My personal story is somewhat unique. I was raised on our family farm where I learned to enjoy solving problems. My dad and grandfather were practical engineers. They never stopped trying to make a process cheaper, faster, and better. I enjoyed the little inventions that they created to keep the equipment on the farm in working order. Our farm is a museum of invention. That led me to get a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nebraska. Actual engineering projects in big corporations were too slow. I missed the design-it-then-build-it aspect of the family farm. The technology field was emerging at the same time and a match was made. Cycle times in technology were faster. You could find a problem and program a solution in very short order. Like my dad and grandfather, I could be an inventor.
"Our systems, reports,and analysis are only as good as the source data"
As CIOs, we have to constantly be looking to make things cheaper, faster, and better. That is our job. If we view our jobs as being experts in technology, the world will pass us by and we won’t be aligned with the needs of our business units. The core technologies have all changed and will continue to change. We need to be entrepreneurs with a hunger for invention and improving a process. If you pay attention, you can learn a lot sitting next to your dad from the fender of a tractor.
Effective Communication is Vital
One aspect that has remained constant is the need for effective communication. Technologists can hide behind acronyms and jargon. To make themselves feel important or smart, they use big words to impress the audience. The reality is that most of the time, they confuse or lose the audience. At that time, the business leaders lose confidence in the technology team and the spiral begins.
Effective communication is the most important aspect of the job. For most audiences, a term such as “city plan for our technology” is a far better descriptor than “strategic architecture for process enablement.” That is just one example. Stop trying to impress each other. Make sure you are simply getting your point across.
CIOs are investment advisors. We need to understand our businesses and know where the investments will drive the correct results. Some of the projects are exciting and glamorous. Some of the projects are required to mitigate a business risk. Some are just maintenance that are needed to simply keep the lights on. All of them are important. It is our job to know the difference and to be able to communicate that investment advice to companies.