Global Firm Improves Its Digital Supply Chain

By Eileen McCooey Print this article Print
Monitoring global supply chain

Executive search firm Odgers Berndtson deploys a monitoring system to identify the voice of the customer and gain transparency across the digital supply chain.

Living up to customer expectations is never easy—especially when your customers are located in 50 offices around the world, and you're delivering all the digital services they depend on, from WANs to networked apps, firewalls, and even phones and desktops.

Adam Gibson was facing precisely that challenge as CIO of Odgers Berndtson, a London-based executive search company. His mandate was to drive innovation to enhance both business performance and the experience of his 1,200 internal customers. Like many users of technology, these customers had high expectations and sometimes felt that their digital services could be delivered more efficiently.

But their perceptions weren't always well-founded. "When you're frustrated with technology, your first reaction is emotional," Gibson says. "You want to throw something across the room."

However, it was difficult to zero in on legitimate issues in an increasingly complex supply chain. "The framework is much more complex and has more moving parts than ever," he explains. "Even some of our outside suppliers outsource parts of their work that are more specialized. It's much harder to manage."

Seeking Transparency Across the Supplier Chain

Gibson was determined to find a solution. Existing tools—which he describes as "a mishmash of traditional services and system admin monitoring tools"—weren't up to the task. They indicated lights on/lights off status, but couldn't identify either subpar performance or the root of a problem.

"We wanted transparency across the supplier chain," he says. "When service degraded or failed, we wanted to know which supplier, network element or application was causing the issue. People tend to get defensive and point fingers when problems arise, and we wanted to strip out emotion and be able to say our analytics show otherwise."

The company considered but ruled out several systems from what Gibson calls "tier-one suppliers" because of their cost and complexity. Former colleagues and industry peers suggested a new company called Actual Experience.

The company's Actual Work system monitors and analyzes every step in the digital supply chain from the end user's perspective, providing the "voice of the customer" that Gibson was seeking. Due diligence indicated that the system would answer Odgers Berndtson's needs, so the company signed on.

One of the first applications has been to monitor and baseline the quality of the company's core digital services at far-flung locations. The system quickly proved its worth.

"At one of our offices in India, connectivity is not the best, and the level of service is under par compared to the rest of the world," Gibson reports. "One of my team noticed their quality score dropping and called them to say, 'We see you have a problem, and we are already resolving the issue.' They didn't have to contact us with a complaint, and they were surprised and pleased that we were looking out for them."

Benchmarks Allow Comparisons of Services

Actual Work also assists in proof-of-concept work, comparing existing services to possible upgrades or new services.

"In one instance, our preferred supplier scored lower than some others," Gibson says. "Using our analytics, we worked with them to pinpoint the problem: European-based transactions were being authenticated in the U.S., which was causing a delay. They moved authentication to Europe, their scores rose and we were able to continue using a product we loved."

The technology team is sold on Actual Work, Gibson says. "It gives them a sense of empowerment and the ability to push back—very gently, of course—when an internal consumer complains about something that isn't actually a problem," he says. "Now we have the analytics to prove our point."

Besides using the product to react to problems, Gibson intends to use it proactively, building it into service-level agreements with third-party manufacturers. A typical agreement includes the vendor's parameters of work, but no measure of quality. By including benchmarks, he says, "you can evaluate the quality of the service being delivered, articulate where a problem lies and arbitrate the issue."

Overall, Gibson sees one of the biggest benefits as the elimination of guesswork. "The ability to focus resources where they're most needed is invaluable," he says.

This article was originally published on 2016-08-04
Eileen McCooey, a New York-based consultant and Baseline contributor, has extensive experience covering a wide range of business and consumer topics, including digital technologies and consumer electronics of all kinds.
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