Why did we launch ShowSourcing?

Why did we launch ShowSourcing?

 

A post written by the founders

 

In January, 2015, we were just a bunch of enthusiasts – always excited about the great new products coming out all the time. We were always judging products – not just on what they could do, but on their design, the foresight of the developers, and even those small things you can’t live without but never consider. We followed Apple’s newest releases religiously, scrutinized new fashion trends, devoured industry news… we loved seeing how products could make life more enjoyable for people in ways we hadn’t considered.

 

But we could never understand why some companies seemed to take so much longer than others to release their new products. Didn’t they have a process that helped them keep things moving faster than THIS?

 

And that’s what we were discussing one day when Lionel, CEO of Plastoria and one of our future crew of fearless founders, made a very simple statement. “You know product development is a completely chaotic process, don’t you?”

 

Well that set us off. We spent the next hours, days, weeks, and months getting to the bottom of the real reason that sourcing was such a mess. The real thing it was missing.

 

So we started speaking to everyone we could find. We wanted to know what their biggest issues were. What problems needed fixing, and what inefficiencies were hampering them the most. After hundreds of these interviews we started to crack the door on the problem: Big companies have saddled their employees with rigid processes and overly complicated systems. So, instead of doing what they were born to do – create incredible products – most of the time employees were filling in data sheets.

 

But that was just the smallest epiphany. The real moment of awe came when we got hands on. We went to Canton Fair – the biggest trade fair in the world – just to watch buyers interact.

 

It was a catastrophe.

 

Notebooks, trolleys, piles of catalogues … what a mess.

 

And this is the point that our love for products and our obsession with tech combined into the perfect storm. We walked away from Canton that year completely set on changing this surprisingly archaic industry for the better.

 

ShowSourcing was born out of necessity. People were still going to trade fairs the way they did 20 years ago. And in a world that’s changing rapidly – one that’s trending toward the death of traditional sourcing – this style of work was completely unsustainable.

 

So we dug in deeper.

 

We developed the first ShowSourcing app to help buyers take better and faster notes. Then we started showing it off, and buyers loved it. Every person we showed our app to at the next trade fair had the same moment of epiphany. The same “this is going to change my life” reaction. And the same thing to say – “I wish I thought of that!”

 

So, end of story, right? The hero gets the customer and rides off into the sunset, doesn’t he? Absolutely not. Taking better notes at fairs was just step one. We wanted to do more.

 

So we dug in deeper.

 

We noticed that, even though our customers were already far more efficient at fairs, they still didn’t collaborate the way we thought they should. Many still needed 6 months or a year to develop a new product. But how were companies like Inditex going through this whole development cycle in TWO WEEKS? The answer was easy – simplified processes. And we wanted to make that possible for our customers as well. That was the answer we were looking for.

 

So to improve those processes, we integrated workflows, improved team communication, and simplified task management. That blew the doors open. By simply having a visual overview of their products’ respective statuses, customers instantly reported improved processes.

 

They weren’t just moving faster, they were moving smarter.

 

But, I have to admit, we still weren’t satisfied. Sure, now we have thousands of merchandising teams using ShowSourcing and drastically improving their own processes. But something was still missing.

 

So we dug in deeper.

 

We saw it almost instantly. We needed to include one more vital part of the sourcing process. Possibly the most important person outside a buyer’s organisation: the supplier. We realized that merchandising teams could be buying year round by staying connected with their suppliers. And that’s when we included supplier connect.

 

With supplier connect, our customers have been able to communicate directly with their suppliers, send and review RFQs, and reach agreements, directly through ShowSourcing. No more email blitzes. Just results.

 

And that’s not even the most amazing part of this journey. The best part? Our first launch was in 2017. In less than two years, We’ve improved lead times by 50%, reduced costs, and helped thousands of buyers get products to market faster than they thought possible.

 

So now after all that – after the incredible lead times, and the massive growth, and the smooth, easy to use technology – NOW are we done?

 

No. We’re going to dig in deeper.

 

Antoine, Gauthier, Lionel and Gatien
Working relentlessly to help teams develop great products faster.

Why Your Sourcing Team Is Bigger Than You Think

Why Your Sourcing Team Is Bigger Than You Think

 

6 minute read time

 

This is part two in our four part series on sourcing in modern times.  To read the other parts in the series, go here.

 

The rise of Amazon has left the Sourcing industry in a panic. Cries are heard from every direction of “sourcing is dying!” and “retail is a thing of the past!” These bombastic statements conjure images of the trampling hordes from Genghis Khan’s army, or a proverbial hurricane, just off the coast, about to make landfall. But sourcing itself isn’t dying, it’s undergoing a massive and rapid change.  And with it, the way you source must change as well. Your process has to become less about finding products, and more about finding the resources you need to create unique products. You already have a bigger product team than you think you do, you just need to figure out how to best restructure your process to include internal and external players. This leaves us with two distinct, and equally difficult, questions to answer:

 

  1. How big is my product team really, and how can I leverage them to get the most out of their individual expertise?
  2. If I include everybody, as you say, how can I make sure that I’ll actually be productive? This could turn into a disorganized mess!

 

Your Giant Sourcing Team

 

You may have several people in your organization that refer to themselves as merchandisers, or whose job specifically includes visiting trade fairs and making purchasing decisions, but just because they are on the front lines does not mean they make the decisions alone. Nor does it mean that a transition to creating products is a burden only they bear.  Marketing has to ensure product-market fit, sales is on the front lines of user feedback, and even finance can advise whether the budget is on target or not. The fact that all these different groups are involved so heavily in every purchase should already help you see that the merchandising department isn’t a lone wolf.

 

Sourcing in the new world is a strategic function, more than ever.  There is a real competitive element to proper sourcing, and your business can float or fall depending on how well you do it.  This means that, much like marketing, sales, and finance, it needs to be seen as an integral part of the strategy of your business, and synergies need to exist between the merchandising department and every other vital area of the business. And lucky for you, there is an easy solution: Acceptance is the first step toward healing.

 

Once you have accepted the state of things and elevated the importance of sourcing in your industry, the next step is to bring every other department into the sourcing process.  Each different voice will provide a different perspective for how to improve your products, and by extension, your business. Use your marketing department to understand the latest trends, and to predict where your industry is going in the future.  Use sales to tell you what clients have said in the past about your products, and use that as inspiration for your newest creations. Use IT to talk about the technical feats that might be necessary to accomplish your goals, and the feasibility of them.  

 

While you consolidate internally, consider also strengthening your supplier network.  Moving toward creating your own products does not mean eliminating your suppliers. To the contrary, it means strengthening your relationships with a core group of them.  Your supply needs will certainly change, and it is going to be important to have a great relationship with the suppliers you really need, rather than intermittent purchasing from hundreds of different groups.

 

These two elements taken together, greater involvement in the sourcing process by your entire team, and stronger supplier networks, become the single most important way to ensure that any product you create is the best it can be, so that it hits the market in the best possible shape.  Which leads us to our next question: How in the world does this not become a “too many cooks in the kitchen” style problem?

 

Keeping Yourself Organized

 

The first thing you can do to quickly adjust to this new management style is a simple exercise in slashing fat.  Draw out your sourcing process on a sheet of paper. Make sure to include every detail of the way that a potential product moves through your company.  Then look for redundancies. Do you need two separate teams to review the product at two separate times, or can that be done together? Can you combine any sessions? Any testing that takes too long?  Make your sourcing process as lean as possible, and you can have as much feedback as possible with the least time needed to get your product to market.

 

Ok, so now that you know your strengths and weaknesses, how do you keep everything organized? There are hundreds of PLMs out there, but they all cost a fortune, take far too long to implement, and have a lot of bells and whistles you will never use. If you’re approaching this problem holistically, you know that slapping some expensive service on the top of your current process will only make things worse.  Lucky for you, you’re educated enough at this point to know how to assess any tool presented to you. So let’s talk about the strengths and weaknesses of some of the industry’s top performers

 

Slack. No denying this is a communications giant for the business world.  But at the end of the day, that’s all it is. Slack is great for keeping up to date with your colleagues, exchanging information, and staying on top of your work.  But there’s no way to streamline any processes, or even build out tasks through the service.

 

Trello. Trello is a kanban in its purest form.  You build to do items, assign team members, and move your items between columns.  But Trello, while overall a great tool, can sometime become a jumbled mess – difficult to keep track of information.  And with so much information in the sourcing world, you just can’t afford the time it would take to search.

 

ShowSourcing. This solution resolves every sourcing problem you commonly have. Products that you can easily find, update, and enter information about seamlessly? Got it. A way to easily collaborate with your entire workforce about the status of products in the pipeline, get feedback and vote? Got it. A robust supplier network, so you can get quotes and build out your sourcing processes? Got it!  ShowSourcing really checks all the boxes.

 

You can leverage the knowledge and skills of your entire company, but you have to do so intentionally with a plan to simplify and the right tools to help guide your way.  This sourcing revolution means big changes for the industry, but it certainly does not mean sourcing offices are going the way of the dinosaur. They are still going strong.  And we will tell you in the next article why things are going to stay that way.