A Conversation with Calyptus Consulting’s George Harris

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Cross-posted from the Calyptus Consulting Group (CCG) Blog, with permission:

The Calyptus Consulting team has been deployed far and wide over the past several months, during which time new members have joined the Calyptus team. So when we recently had a chance to sit down as a team and catch our collective breaths, we took the opportunity to have a conversation with George Harris, C.P.M., CPCM, Calyptus Consulting’s President, and to pose some questions that we thought would be of interest.

What should we know about George Harris? Could you share some of your background and experience?

George Harris [GH:]: After some experience working in the high-tech industry procurement sector for a number of years I found myself in the consulting industry, with stints at both Arthur D. Little, and five years as a senior consultant with Harbridge House, Inc. There I did quite a bit work in the training area, and this remains a core competency of what we do at Calyptus Consulting. I have also spent quite a bit of time in multiple Buyer and Purchasing Manager roles in government contracting/subcontracting, electronics, printing and professional services, and so have built up considerable expertise in the area of supply chain management over the course of some 30 years.

In 1992, I started up Calyptus Consulting, and Calyptus has developed core competencies around Procurement, Strategic Sourcing, and Supply Chain Management, and training in these areas, among other things. We have delivered a lot of client value in the general areas of supply management training and consulting, working in virtually every industry sector.

Our work at Calyptus Consulting has included work in the public sector, contracting, industrial, software, consumer products, oil/gas, food & beverage, electronics, metal fabrication, financial services, mining, capital equipment, and service and manufacturing industries. As just a few examples, we have done quite a bit of work with Procurement System Reviews of federally financed state and local transit agencies; acquisition planning for the private and public agencies; supply management performance assessment for the large multinational companies and federal agencies; completed more than 500 strategic sourcing projects for clients; and conducted training for more than 15,000 different participants in the areas of procurement, quality, project management, supply chain management, and general management.

I have authored or co-authored several articles and books on procurement and sourcing, including, among others, “Negotiations: Six Steps to Success,” and self-study coursework for the American Management Association: “Strategic Supply Management”, and “Fundamentals of Purchasing”. I am a Fellow with the National Contract Management Association, and have presented at NAPM/ISM National Conferences on a variety of topics.

How would you describe Calyptus – mission, culture, core competencies, target market / client?

[GH:] Our culture is one of team orientation, working and performing as a team, and complementing each other’s capabilities and expertise. We focus on delivering the solid fact-based results to our clients which enable our clients to execute better. We focus more on target opportunities than we do on “target market”. We have many public sector clients; our clients in the private sector are often $250M+ in revenues. Ideal opportunities for us are enterprises looking for assistance in Strategic Sourcing, Supply Chain, Sourcing and Procurement, or training in these areas. We think of our capabilities as encompassing strategy to execution, and, particularly, supplying the enterprise with the knowledge, training and tools that it needs to execute better. So, for example, we have a lean management tool, a supply chain management assessment, and a procurement system tool, among other things. We also have a maturity model comprising 50+ items. So clients will use these tools to help them assess gaps toward reaching world-class status.

George, rumor has it that your consulting work has taken you far and wide. What have been some of your more interesting client engagements?

[GH:] Interviewing staff in mines in the Saudi Arabia desert was certainly an interesting experience. Also, negotiating contracts with Chinese suppliers was pretty unique due to their lack of familiarity at the time with the process and lack of knowledge about their costs. Teaching quality to staff at OTIS Japan was very rewarding.

Congratulations on Calyptus Consulting’s 20th anniversary.  What has been the key to Calyptus’ success and longevity?

[GH:] I think that everyone would agree that a devotion to customer service, hard work, continuous knowledge improvement, and a competitive spirit are keys to success. For Calyptus, it has been more than this. We have not been afraid to take on challenging assignments, and we have been privileged to work with terrific clients who have given us opportunities to deliver our expertise as well as to grow our capabilities. We are a smaller team, and we have tried to use all of the advantages of this to be very collaborative internally, and be more responsive and agile with clients. So we have found it possible to leverage the advantages of being a smaller consulting firm, without letting this limit us in what we can do for clients.

How did the name ‘Calyptus’ originate?

[GH:] It started as a contest. Someone suggested “Eucalyptus” since we could say that our training results improved things. But this name was copyrighted and trademarked so I dropped the “eu”, and came up with Calyptus Consulting. Believe it or not, clients haven’t had problems spelling or remembering the name, and as a side benefit [laughing] everyone asks us where the name came from, so it has proven to be a good conversation starter.

Are there companies or organizations which are stand-out “benchmark” companies in Sourcing / procurement?

[GH:] General Electric has been top-notch in sourcing and procurement, but I see them as maybe having lost a bit of their edge, mostly due to bureaucracy. Proctor & Gamble and Mars continue to be great companies to benchmark. United Technologies has been a leader, but another firm that may not be the benchmark they have been. In training, Microsoft is exceptional, as is Mars. These are two great benchmarks because they are passionate in ensuring that their worldwide staff has the tools in real-time to contribute to satisfying customer needs.

What is the biggest mistake that you see sourcing organizations making from an organizational standpoint?

[GH:] They don’t continue with training and process improvement. Large firms still do things the way they have been doing for decades. And they are very inefficient and they don’t know that whether the prices paid are good enough. Training, in particular, is still an area of poor focus and lack of devoted resources. Firms are “hiring in” experts and they think that is all they need to do. The body of knowledge is changing so fast that even the most knowledgeable staff member lacks skills, particularly, for instance, in market analysis and cost/price analysis.

What is the biggest mistake that you see sourcing organizations making from a process standpoint?

[GH:] One of the biggest mistakes that we see is Sourcing not keeping their policies and procedures updated to reflect best practices. This is especially true in the areas of eProcurement, ePayables, supplier performance systems, best value procurement, insourcing, supply chain management, and metrics. Also, too many procurement groups have poor overall strategies that aren’t tied to the overall goals of the enterprise.

Companies have obviously been paying a lot of attention to eProcurement for a long time. Where do you see the maturity of these processes now, and what do you see as the next step for many companies?

[GH:] The large ERP firms are still struggling as their product offering is missing key pieces such as performance measurement, total costs, and market analysis. Some of the smaller firms have great products but they have to be linked via middle-ware. There isn’t a fully working model out there yet. We recently conducted a study of 29 providers and we couldn’t find a true full-service provider.

What advice, then, do you have for public and private sourcing organizations for 2012?

[GH:] Develop a fresh strategic statement that tracks with the organization’s strategy. Build metrics and objectives to track to each of the organization’s objectives. Develop implementation plans in the areas of systems, process, and people; ensure that they include training and development activities.

We give up: What is the difference between Single Source and Sole Source? Why do people need to know the difference, and will knowing this make us popular at parties?

[GH:] A sole source is a supplier that is the only firm that can meet the buyer’s specification and time constraints. A single source is a supplier that is chosen from all that submitted a bid or proposal as the only firm that will supply the product or service. In public sector procurement, a single source can be the only firm that submitted a bid or proposal in response to a solicitation. And no, I would not particularly encourage you to use this at parties.

What can we expect to see from Calyptus in the near-term and longer term?

[GH:] We are continually looking at complementary strategic enhancements or build-outs to our core capabilities, whether that is an alliance, or a homegrown extension to our present services. We are looking at some innovative new approaches to several of our capabilities. We are developing new and value-added products to offer our clients in the areas of quality, organizational review, procurement maturity, and benchmarking/best practices. We are also evaluating some possible new services. eLearning is getting some focus, and we will be updating our IT infrastructure to keep pace with large private sector clients. We are taking a clean-sheet approach to updating our website, and putting up fresh content on the Calyptus Consulting Blog. So you should see a growing presence and visibility for Calyptus Consulting in our blogspace and in the social media. This is a work-in-progress for us. And, well, we may have a few other surprises up our sleeves that we are not yet ready to talk about.

- Robert Eastman, with George Harris