so happy it’s thursday

Many years ago, My mom worked for Racal/Vadic…  they were (are?) a maker of modems and did a pretty brisk business…  As a matter of fact, we even had an old Racal box around here at work…  So even though she hasn’t worked for them for years and they never made much of a dent in the “home user” market – unlike Hayes and … what was that other brand? … Anyway, it was interesting to see – at least for Me – a Racal modem in use.

At the particular location she worked for – they did a 4-day work week.  Monday through Thursday, 40 hours a week, off on Friday and the rest of the weekend.  Now, mind you, this was in the late 70s and early 80s – not too long after a fairly famous – and campy – movie called “Thank God It’s Friday”.  A little disco-era flick starring Jeff Goldblum, Debra Winger, Donna Summer, The Commodores, and a few other faces from the Funk and Disco era of pop music.  Even a girl known as Terri Nunn – soon to become famous as a singer for the “alternative” – New Wave – group BERLIN – best known for the ballad “Take My Breath Away” from the Tom Cruise flick – Top Gun.  I think it may actually have been Jeff Goldblum’s first BIG role….

The movie gave rise to a quick and fun little acronym – TGIF – Thank God (goodness, whatever!) It’s Friday – meaning you had the weekend to go and have fun!  It was Friday night, you could go out to a disco and dance your stress away or drink yourself into a stupor or do whatever else it was you wanted to do on a fun and potentially fun Friday night.

Back to Racal/Vadic.  Since they only worked 4 days a week, their Thursday was a lot like everybody else’s Friday…  So they came up with a great concept – “Let’s get a slogan and put it on a shirt!”

So they did.

So Happy It’s Thursday.  S H I T …  Ooops!

Of course, it was known that the acronym would be … well … just that.  And it was a big joke and a great laugh for the manager that approved and had the shirts made and given out and sold to the employees…  Big letters down the front of the shirt:

So
Happy
It’s
Thursday

Ah, yes.

OK, now the reason for this tale of fun with words…?  Well, it kind of goes back to My previous blog about TOOLS and using them, and how we can give people these great tools and show them the fantastic benefits of those tools, but if they don’t use them, we’re lost.

This morning, on My commute, I was annoyed…  And that is an understatement.  I was nearly hit by a woman with her cell phone to her ear.  Then there was the erratic driver – also with the cell phone pasted to their ear.  And then at least 3 more people with cell phones attached to their ears!  Yet, in that other blog, I’d talked about those wonderful tools – that Bluetooth or headset – and how those tools can make life so much better…  Easier…  Safer.

And now you’re asking yourself – what the heck is this guy going on and on and on about…?  What does a blog about TOOLS have to do with an acronym that sounds like a “dirty word”…?  What is it all about, Alfie…?

And I’ll tell you…  It’s all about making lives easier and better – through the use of TOOLS – and giving up the “old” and embracing the new.

These days, so many people still stick to the old way of doing things – kind of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” line of thought.  No need to make a better mousetrap, because the original works so well.  Everything old is new again.  Blah, blah, blah.

As you’ve maybe read in the past, I’ve been working on the 810 spec for our accounting department.  It’s been … a struggle … and I think I can finally see some light at the end of that tunnel.  Of course, it’s been interesting to see how some of the attitudes and concepts have changed in the accounting department; one of the first supporters of the concept has now turned into one of the hurdles and roadblocks we need to overcome.  This accounting manager was all gung-ho for the concept and yet now is throwing up new requests and changes to a report that has already been finalized.  Or at least HAD been finalized…

And then there’s the flip side – the accounting clerk that was happy with the “old way” of inputting invoices and didn’t want to change, but is now a major proponent of the NEW way.  “Oh, my job is so much easier now!” is a regular comment…

Then I can go back to the cell phone users I talked about earlier – they’re still clinging to the “old way” – having that little electronic box in their hand, at their ear, yakking away.  But it could be SO MUCH EASIER if they just did a headset.  The NEW way IS better.  And safer; and easier.

“But I don’t want to change!”

Same can be said of any new concept that comes along to make life better; easier; more efficient.  Over on the EDI-L Yahoo! group, one of the posters mentioned – or rather asked – if anybody had a kind of “EDI FOR DUMMIES” presentation or similar that she could use to explain the concepts of EDI to a sales director.  She was looking for a way to explain – what can be – a fairly technical concept to a completely non-technical person.  Something that could show the sales director what value existed in EDI.  But in his terms and in a way he could understand.

To the sales director, the concept is outside of his bubble – his sphere of knowledge and understanding.  And it’s not really something he’s interested in.  And the only reason he’s probably asking about it is because some possible new client is asking about it.  And he wants to look smart and with-it and in-the-loop and not appear to be a dolt.

And it’s something new and different.  At least it is to him.

The concept of the 4 day work-week is “new and different”, too.  Or at least, it was.  But it was shown to have a benefit.  And it worked.  And it made people’s lives better.  Telecommuting is “new and different” to some people’s ways of thinking, too.  But it can make things better and easier. 

Think of all of the things that have changed in just the past – 10 years?  20 years?  Think of where we were before the advent of the cell phone; before DSL; before iPod.  We did things the “old way”.  We used pay phones, we walked next door to talk to a neighbor; we used dial up or didn’t even have “the Net”.  We read books, listened to portable radios, bought CDs.

Things HAVE changed.  In many ways, things HAVE gotten better.  But things have also gotten more complex and not always easier.  We’ve advanced as a society and as a world with some of our technologies and our changes.

All that it took was a brave soul (or two or two-thousand!) to make and accept the change and go with it; to use those tools and to better their lives.  To understand what benefits could be had by using the 4-day workweek, the telecommuting, by using EDI.

And sure, there have been some … pitfalls … with those advances.  People’s attention spans seem shorter; driving can be more dangerous; EDI communications can fail.  Some of those advances can seem to have made us take a step back; or at least a step on a wrong track or in a seemingly wrong direction.  But if we stay that course – follow through, use those tools and keep looking to the future and watching out for those pitfalls – imagine what can happen.

Shi…  Um… I mean So Happy It’s Thursday.  At least the weekend is almost here.

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator
Read more about Craig here:
http://editalk.com/contributors/

Tim, the Tool Man says – “MORE POWER!”

If you were alive and watching TV through the 90s, you probably saw – or at least heard of – ABC’s long running “Home Improvement” – starring Tim Allen – and giving a start to Pamela Anderson (Lee) – whose career nearly EVERYBODY should know.  It was a show about “Tim ‘the tool man’ Taylor” and his family.  Tim was the “host” of a TV Show called “TOOL TIME” – a fictitious handyman show that was sponsored by the equally fictitious Binford Tools.

But one of the things that Tim was ALWAYS looking for was “MORE POWER!” from his tools – and just about everything else in his life.  Tim’s tinkering with tools would often lead to disastrous results – with an over-powered tool that did far more than it should and was usually pretty destructive.

The other day, I wrote a bit about the power of DETAILS in our EDI world.  But this morning, I was reminded that – even with all the details in the world – we’re nothing without the tools to use them.  And how our actions and all the details we can monitor and provide, how they’re for nothing if the users don’t use the tools we provide them.

This concept of TOOLS and how we should use them was pushed to the forefront of My head this morning, on My drive in to work.  Here in California, we have a newly enacted law that requires the use of “hands free” devices for your cell phone when you’re driving.  Doesn’t matter if you use the phone’s built-in speakerphone abilities (if applicable), a wired headset that plugs in or one of the wonderful Bluetooth devices – whether an ear piece, a clip-on speaker or the one installed in your car (if you’ve got it).  I know that a lot of the “high-end” car companies offer this option in their models.  Lexus, Mercedes, Jaguar, BMW and more have a Bluetooth “kit” built into many of their cars.

Well, this morning, driving on I-10, making My way from Rancho Mirage (home) to Riverside (work) – about a 50 mile trip – I was being passed by a recent generation Lexus LS – the top of the line sedan.  After the Lexus passed Me, I noticed that she started slowing down and … jiggling … a bit in her lane.  When I pulled alongside (she’d slowed by about 5 to 10 MPH), I could see that she was doing something with her arms – moving them around quickly.  Then, a half-second later, into her hand comes her cell phone.

Now, we all know that cell phones are tools – and can be very good tools; very useful when used properly and to our benefit.  Of course, like a 3 year old with a hammer, sometimes tools are abused – like when some … youthful … person is texting messages to their pals – all the while driving down the road at some speed and (obviously) not paying attention to the details of driving. 

But here’s a great instance of a wonderful tool that’s not being used.  The Bluetooth (or other hands-free device).  If that driver in the Lexus had used the device she’s got – and chances are, she’s got SOMETHING to use her phone hands-free – she wouldn’t have had to fish around in her purse or a pocket or wherever her phone was and her attention to the details of her driving wouldn’t have suffered.  She wouldn’t have nearly swerved into My lane.

There are a lot of other tools we can use in our EDI daily lives, too.  And there are great tools we can provide to our users – those accounting clerks and supervisors, those buyers, those warehouse receivers, and all the others.  We can provide them with EDI Invoices, EDI Purchase Orders, EDI Shipment Notices.  We can provide them with records and forms and documents and other forms of data that can be used by them to help make their jobs just a little easier…

We have other tools in the shed that can be used to great benefits by us, our users and even our trading partners, vendors and suppliers.  We can offer solutions for nearly any question or problem – from changing a PO automatically in the system (the 860 in X12-world), provide activity/sales information (the 852), and more.  All of these tools can help us – and our users – to make work easier, better, and – very importantly – more accurate and with less errors.

We can use the 832 – Vendor Catalog – or one of the outsourced catalog website (Inovis and SPS Commerce both have them) to download and – even – automatically update our product management system with the latest and greatest information from our vendors and suppliers – size runs, color availability, UPCs, style numbers and more.  We can keep our systems up to date with product information and changes.

Another example is that it’s often important for a retailer to provide some kind of reporting to their suppliers and vendors as to how a certain product or line is doing in their stores.  These days, it’s become even more important for a buyer and a seller to work more closely together and “fine tune” the product mix in the stores and carried on the shelves and stored in the warehouse.  Retailers are having to pay more attention to their bottom line and the big picture and keep inventories to a more controlled size so they’re not saddled with left-overs come the end of a selling season.

In house, we have a reporting system (called The Eye) that can help our buyers look at trends and see how products are doing, based on sales history and comparisons of different sales periods – whether weekly, monthly, yearly or for a specific advertised sale.  However, because of the large number of products we carry – over 10000 active SKUs and many thousands more that may no longer be carried and in stock – and the large number of stores – over 400 in 10 states – tracking all of that history creates some VERY large databases for The Eye to keep track of.  So we limit some of the levels of detail available to be viewed – we don’t track each item, for example, to the store level, but keep track of the classes.  Or at the Style level of merchandise, we only can see how well that style is doing over the entire chain.

Kind of limited tools.  These tools need “MORE POWER!”

Additionally, our buyers may want to work more closely with a vendor rep on some products or lines and need to provide them with the information on how Widget X is doing in our chain and what we can do to maximize sales and limit overstock levels and all the rest.  And there are many ways that we can get that information – tools we can use – to share that with our suppliers.

If we want to do just the EDI route, we can use the 852 Product Activity document.  By creating this document and trading it with our suppliers, we can provide them with a snapshot of how well the product(s) are doing in our stores and provide them with the appropriate data that they need – and data that we can see, too – so that we can come to a better understanding of our needs and how they can help us to meet those needs.

We could also just send paper reports – or e-mails – to the rep and do it that way, as well.

There are also a number of 3rd party sources that we can use to give access to that data.  Tools that we can provide to our suppliers and that we can use with them to better understand how well a product is doing.

We recently started using Edifice as a 3rd party provider for POS Activity data reporting to our vendor community.  Every week, we compile reports on how well products are selling – or not! – in our stores and the stock levels we have and send the information – via FTP – to Edifice.  They then work with that data and create reporting that our vendors and suppliers can access (if they subscribe) to view that very same information.  Additionally, we can view that same reporting that they’re viewing, so that our buyer and the company rep can be looking at the exact same numbers and data.  They can be comparing apples to apples instead of grapes.

It’s a great tool.  And it’s got “MORE POWER” than our in-house system because Edifice can give the detail down to the size and color – the individual item or SKU – and also down to EACH store in our chain.  And the reporting compares this year to last year, and can also compare seasons and months and a lot of other points of interest.

Right now, about 2 dozen of our suppliers are subscribed to this reporting from Edifice.  And our buying department can see that exact same data.  But here’s where it all falls down – like a house of cards in a strong breeze.

Remember My tale about the Lexus driver and how she didn’t use a great tool – her Bluetooth (or similar)…?  Well, it was a case of not using a tool that can make life better.  Well, the same can hold true for this kind of Activity Data reporting – it’s a great tool – but only if the buyer – and the supplier – can open up that tool box and pull it out!  And, of course, they have to use that tool, too.

That’s really something we all can relate to in the world of EDI.  As I’d mentioned earlier, we have some great tools in our shed that we can provide to our users.  We’ve got some great ways of trading data back and forth with our vendors and suppliers – some great tools – but it’s getting our users to actually use those tools that will suddenly reap the benefit and the rewards from that hard work.

MORE POWER, indeed.

Author: Craig Dunham – EDI Coordinator
Read more about Craig here: http://editalk.com/contributors/