First of all I want to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to work on research with you because that was a significant selling point when I interviewed for my current job in consulting. To answer your student’s question – consulting is a great choice immediately after graduation. It’s not for everyone, but if any of your students are curious about consulting, I recommend that they look into it.
I have been working in consulting for almost a year, and in my personal experience it has been well worth it. Our team and leadership is awesome, and there is no micro-managing to speak of. Depending on the project and client, I either make my own schedule or take loose guidance from leadership. There are no micro managers looking over your shoulder, which is one of my favorite aspects. It may be different at some firms, but this is not the case where I work.
Another great aspect of consulting is the diversity of industries and people to work with. I do ERP consulting for automotive and industrial equipment companies, but our team has had clients in food & beverage, pharma, and many more. It’s a great way to accelerate professional growth and education early in your career. For my first project, I worked with two other consultants to lead an ERP implementation over the course of six months. This meant interacting with everyone from shop floor employees, all the way to the C-suite (the highest levels of the organization). I regularly interface with CFO’s, CTO’s and Presidents. Not to disparage anyone’s job choice after graduation, but this is something that you simply don’t get as an entry level buyer, production scheduler, analyst, etc.
As a fresh consultant you are thrown into the arena with little experience, so you must learn fast and think on your feet. This is very daunting at first, but after three months I started to feel comfortable and confident. While it is important to have good analytical and problem-solving skills, soft skills trump everything in consulting. Most of what we do comes down to guiding conversations in the right direction and instilling confidence in the minds of our clients.
There is also the travel question. Yes, traveling for work does get old pretty fast. Yes, it is draining at times. I drove 3.5 hours to Ohio every Monday morning at 6:00 AM and stayed until Thursday, for 6 months straight. This took a toll on me mentally, physically and emotionally. But for the past 2-3 months I have been doing remote work for different clients, or traveling locally in the Detroit metro area. Traveling is part of what you sign up for – some get lucky and have minimal travel or breaks in between projects, some do not get as lucky.
I hope this helps answer your student’s question. Feel free to share this with anyone who asks about consulting. I would also like to throw out the idea of myself and/or others from xxxxxxx to visit WMU and speak in one of your classes. If this idea sounds appealing, please let me know and we can work on putting a plan together.
Thanks, Sime. Hope all is well with you and your family.
Would you find a consulting job after graduation appealing?
Whether you realize it or not, future Supply Chain managers will need to become consultants to their own organization…
The WMU ISM curriculum develops strategic skill sets (rather than tactical) combined with soft skills (i.e., problem solving, leadership, negotiation, project management, etc.).
Other skills include: 1) Gather & organize information about the problem to be solved or the procedure to be improved. 2) Interview personnel & conduct onsite observations to determine the methods, equipment, & personnel that will be needed. 3) Analyze financial and other data, including revenue, expenditure, & employment reports. 4) Develop solutions or alternative practices. 5) Recommend new systems, procedures, or organizational changes 6) Make recommendations to management through presentations or written reports. 7) Confer with managers to ensure changes are working. Do you think technology will one day do the strategic skill sets in this email? Or, will you need technology to do these strategic things better, faster, and cheaper?
Employment of SCM analysts is projected to grow 14 percent from 2020 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent. The median annual wage for these types of skill sets was $83,610 in 2019. The median annual wage for all workers was $38,640.
Our students also learn: big data/analytics, database management, data mining, project management, SQL, Python, PMO, Tableau, Power BI.
Classic example of a SCM job posting where the company (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) says the job requires that you be a consultant to their organization (they are not mincing words in the job title – Senior Consultant). If you look at the description, there is nothing here that can be outsourced and/or be replaced by technology. However, it does require major use of technology.
Sr. Consultant GPO Operations
The senior consultant will lead projects and portions of other projects to help develop operational improvements to enhance the systems, processes, functions and reporting of the Group Purchasing Organization (GPO). Through automation, data collection and analysis, integration, team interaction and project management the senior consultant is responsible for assisting in structuring the operational efficiency of our business. The emphasis is placed on systems and process. While the role will be focused on the Operations and Reporting area, it will also support the rest of the GPO that includes and is not limited to system administration, developing and running reports, implementing new systems and working directly with Finance, IT and other internal stakeholders.
Responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- Designing and running ad-hoc and scheduled reports through excel, tableau and other systems, with responsibility for reporting quality and integrity. Includes time sensitive leadership requests for data and information..
- Acquire, organize and synthesize financial data and other information to identify and communicate key findings.
- Manage the Contingent Worker portal processes.
- Identify and lead the implementation of best practices and process improvements (e.g., Supplier onboarding, RFx, Process, Plan communication)
- Assist in implementation and administration of systems (e.g., procurement management system, contract management system, e-sourcing, vendor management) for the GPO team in their day-to-day work.
- Engage with GPO and other functional stakeholders on creating new business processes and improving the operational functionality within the group.
- Manage the day-to-day operations of GPO Salesforce CRM environment and assist with supplier questions regarding accessing supplier-facing platforms.
Required Basic Qualifications:
- Bachelor degree or experience in related discipline (Supply Chain Management, Finance, Economics, Business Administration, Data & Analytics)
- Five years related business experience
- Demonstrate ability to work independently and take ownership of assigned projects
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office products required (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
- Proficiency in data analytics solutions (e.g. R, R Studio, Python, Tableau, SQL, Salesforce)
Preferred Basic Qualifications:
- Master’s degree in related discipline (Supply Chain Management, Finance, Economics, Business Administration, Data & Analytics)
- Experience in sourcing or procurement
- Experience integrating disparate systems into seamless experience for end user
Again, my perspective on jobs that too many supply chain students do not give enough serious consideration to…
More kind of related material:
Have you heard of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? That is basically software that makes use of ML and AI to do routine manual SCM activities like process a Purchase Order. The process is manual, tactical, and clerically driven. However, that RPA software is learning from itself on how to do things better, faster, and cheaper. For example, RPA could start saying things like: I think we are paying too much, I think we should be using a different supplier, I think we are ordering in the wrong quantities, etc. The RPA software might actually decide to reopen the contract and have suppliers rebid on the business and the RPA might actually pick the new supplier. Yes, there will likely be human intervention for any activities that are “strategic”.
For me, tactical means all the day to day operational grunt work. Strategic to me means the decisions that have to be made with longer term implications and consequences. For example, if the RPA wants to switch suppliers, that to me is strategic because it has long term consequences. Maybe one day the RPA will change suppliers without human intervention and actually negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract with a new supplier. Well, for non strategic stuff like office supplies it is already happening.
I have a former student who went on to become a technology consultant and I asked him: if a company wanted to get started with using RPA, where and how should they begin in general? See his response below. Let’s just say the student has become the teacher.
Hi Sime: I do not have hands-on experience with RPA but here are some points on how to approach a new technology investment, based on what I have seen in software and professional services:
1. Have a very specific use case for implementing RPA. This requires research on behalf of your company. If you approach it with a general attitude that says, “Let’s have robots do all the work”, you will end up paying a consulting firm loads of money to evaluate your business for RPA opportunities, only to hear them tell you what you could have figured out on your own.
2. It would be better to research industry peers to see what they are doing with RPA, THEN engage a consulting firm to help you implement an RPA solution that is focused on specific business processes.
If you are looking for general help with where to start on RPA, I would advise against outsourcing the research to consulting/tech firms. It would be best to engage a consulting/tech firm for the implementation of an RPA solution, but not for general advisement on where to start. Most high-level assessments are a rip-off in my experience and do not add much value. RPA is a cool technology but I have seen limited adoption with the mid-market companies I work with. It seems more popular with Fortune 500 because they can afford the investment. In my opinion, companies of ALL sizes would get more value investing in integration solutions rather than RPA. Integrating disparate systems is a problem that all companies face, and I believe it’s a problem of greater importance than automating repetitive tasks.
Please contact me for more material. Thank you. Sime
Dr. Sime (Sheema) Curkovic, Ph.D., Professor, Operations/Supply Chain
Western Michigan University, Haworth College of Business
“WMU Integrated Supply Management (ISM)…Nation’s best undergraduate SCM program (Gartner); 2nd in SCM technology (SoftwareAdvice); 2nd in top global SCM talent (SCM World)”