Is Bench Strength a Valid Differentiator ?

By Karen Gildea , Managing Partner, Amick Brown

Just over five years ago, with four of my long-time colleagues, we started an IT consulting firm specializing in SAP and Business Intelligence.  Together we had led teams that designed and built an integrated BI solution for AT&T’s SAP implementation before being outsourced to a large consulting firm.  Over a 10 year period, we had developed and supported a system that served and was secured to hundreds of thousands of people.  This was no easy task and we learned a great deal along the way as building anything that serves a population that large with the varying security and usability requirements that go with it requires an enormous effort on many levels.  We knew and still know….that we have unique experience that other companies implementing large SAP BI solutions would benefit from.

So we left the large consulting firm and created Amick Brown – a certified small business, woman-owned business and minority-owned business.

We decided we would try to expand our business in the government sector.  The government has small business programs and set-asides for small business.  It is a lot of work to respond to a Request for Proposal with the government, but each time we respond we get better at representing what we have done and what we can do.  We are achieving success, but we are still sometimes questioned about our “bench strength” – in other words, the number of consultants we have employed. 

Because we have been the big company client and we have also been one of the big box resource providers as well, we have a perspective on bench strength that some others may not.

While many big companies or government agencies may feel that bench strength is an indicator of a company’s ability to provide resources when needed, what they really need to know is – can a company provide the specific expertise needed for their unique situation.  In order to truly gain the outcome desired from any new project, the specific expertise or experience of each consultant should be the focus. 

All consulting firms, big and small respond to the unique requirements of a company or agency similarly.  They determine the specific expertise and experience that is required, they look at their available resource pool to determine if that expertise is there and available, and if not they begin their search for that expertise in the market.  The resource pools of big and small consulting firms alike are also very similar in makeup – the respective pools invariably contain partner consultants as well as employees.

So – is bench strength really meaningful?  I say no.  A firm’s ability to evaluate and understand the project requirements and challenges, determine the expertise and experience required and then to identify the most qualified candidates to successfully respond is key.  As well, the firm should be vested in the long term success of their client.

A question we often get is “is your consultant an employee”?  Again I believe the question should be – who is the best candidate for the position?  We have found that the very best and most experienced consultants may be interested in coming on board to work on a project, but aren’t necessarily interested in changing “employment”.

There are numerous reasons why a consultant may not want or be able to be hired as an employee. Perhaps they are tied to their current company through an H1B visa, or personal relationship. It may be due to wanting the freedom to grow at the pace which they prefer.  It might even be about not wanting to lose accrued vacation at their current company.  If all federal and state requirements regarding payroll and payroll taxes are being adhered to, and if insurance and contracts are in place – does it really matter?

For every engagement, we assemble a team of the best experts with the most relevant experience for the unique requirements presented.  We hire consultants as permanent employees when it makes sense for all and subcontract when it does not.  Regardless of employee or subcontractor designation, the placement is done only after thorough cultural matching and a vested commitment to long term success.

Over the past 15+ years, we have worked with  many consultants and small business consulting companies.  We continue our relationships with only the best and through those relationships we are introduced to others of the same caliber.  For each consulting partner we ensure agreements are in place, insurance verified, and background checks done, and for those we are new to, full due diligence is completed. We work with only the verified best consultants and have developed long standing relationships for the ongoing success of all.  We provide a team that can rival any big box organization.

A consolidated bench of consultants with the specific expertise required is what will provide a successful project team – regardless of where the individual consultants come from.

bench strength

The reality is that the big box firms call smaller consulting firms on a regular basis to provide the expertise they need for their client projects.

After all, it really is all about gathering the best people to tackle the project.

bowl of goldfish


How can Employers Increase Employee Engagement?

By Jenna Rosdahl, Human Resources Manager at Amick Brown

When you think employee engagement, you probably think of employees who are involved, committed to the organization and satisfied. But what many people don’t understand is what employers can do to create employee engagement and maintain it companywide. Below are four key drivers that can be utilized to create, increase and maintain employee engagement which can positively influence both individual and business level performance.

Meaningful Work

In order for employees to be engaged, the work performed must be meaningful. This can be accomplished by creating a connection between work and organizational strategy. This shows employees how important their jobs are to the success of the organization. Employees want to feel that the work performed is valued and can open up doors for more opportunities.  Opportunities for career development are extremely important to keep employees involved and headed in the right direction. Managers play an important role here because they are in direct contact with employees on a daily basis and are able to accurately evaluate employee potential. They should take time to ensure employees enjoy their work and help to keep employees on the right path to success.


It is essential for employees to have trust and confidence in their leadership. Leadership should demonstrate honesty and integrity while encouraging employees to be successful. This can be done by creating a good reputation within the organization, demonstrating passion to succeed and building a relationship with employees based on trust. Without that, it is likely that employee engagement will not exist. When employees feel the support of leadership and are provided the tools necessary to be successful, the potential for employee engagement is vast.


It is human nature to enjoy being recognized and rewarded, especially in one’s career. One way to increase employee engagement is by having management and employees work together on setting goals and by management providing the necessary tools to meet the goals. Then management must recognize and reward those individuals who reach their goals. Regardless of how large or small the goal is, it is beneficial for management to give positive and constructive feedback and offer praise and rewards of work well done because it motivates employees to stay engaged and keep succeeding.


All great relationships are built on communication, and the employee employer relationship is no different. One way to increase employee engagement is to communicate in a timely and orderly manner. This means discussing issues when they arise, communicating respectfully and listening to one another. Employers and employees should provide constant feedback, clarify expectations and promote open communication. This communication will result in employees feeling respected and valued which will increase employee engagement.

Having strong employee engagement companywide is crucial and can prove to be extremely beneficial for both the employer and the employee.  It is a good idea to keep these drivers in mind when planning your employee engagement strategy.

“Passionate on Analytics” , new book available

from Iver van de Zand

My book “Passionate On Analytics” is available now

Driven by a deep believe of the value of business analytics and business intelligence in the era of Digital Transformation, the book explains and comments with insights, best practices and strategic advices on how to apply analytics in the best possible way. 25 Years of analytics hands-on experience come together in one format that allows any analytics userHow proud can one be?

My first book titled “Passionate on Analytics” is now available from the Apple iBooks Store via this link.

Since I am evangelizing on interactive analytics every single day, I decided to create aninteractive ePub book. It contains over 60 best practice and tutorial videos, tons of valuable links and galleries and 33 extended articles providing insights on various analytics related topics.

Passionate on Analytics (206p) has 4 sections:

  1. Insights: 13 deep dive articles on various aspects of business analytics like industry specific approaches, embedded analytics and many more
  2. Strategy: 13 chapters talking analytics strategy related subjects and topics like defining your BI roadmap or the closed loop portfolio
  3. Best Practices: 10 expert sessions showing and demonstrating best practices in business analytics like using Hitherto charts, how to make a Pareto or visualization techniques
  4. Resources: a wealth (!) of resources on analytics

Please find below some screenshots.

I am very happy with the book with has brought up the best in me. Everything I learned, experienced or discussed during my 25 years tenure in business analytics, is expressed in this book. The book is fully interactive meaning you can tap pictures for background, swipe through galleries or start an tutorial video.

Special thanks goto Ty Miller, Timo Elliott, Patrick Vandeven and Waldemar Adams who I all admire a lot.



How Real a Problem is Supply Chain Risk?

by Matthew Liotine, PHD

Operations Management and Planning Expert

 Professor at University of Illinois

 Amick Brown Strategic Advisor

Risk is a pervasive force in business, and consequently, in the supply chain operations that are necessary to support business. Supply chains will always be exposed to some level of risk, and thus firms must have the ability to manage and live with continuous risk. Despite the plethora of adverse events that have occurred around the world in the past ten years, the nature of supply chain risk has not really changed. Such risk can be very complex in nature, but invariably, most risk is linked to the possibility of some level of disruption in the supply chain. A disruption is created when some kind of interruption occurs and ends when operations are restored as they were prior to the disruption. Depending on the type of disruption, effects can be usually interpreted in many ways such as time, cost, unserved demand, financial and reputational damages.

Supply chain disruptions indicate that there is a problem and that existing plans and operations require some kind of improvement. To specify any kind of improvement, a firm must understand the root causes of disruption and develop measures to reduce either the likelihood of the disruption or its impact. In this article, we will explore the extent of the problem of risk in today’s supply chain. This article is the first of a series of articles in supply chain risk – in future articles we will explore the definition and sources of risk in the supply chain, the current best practices that deal with this problem, the process of analyzing risk in the supply chain, and forward looking approaches on identifying and controlling such risk.

supply chain icons

How big is the problem?

The supply chain risk problem is widespread.

  • More than 80% of companies are now concerned about supply chain resilience (World Economic Forum 2013).
  • 76% of companies surveyed had experienced a supply chain incident that caused disruption to their organization (The Business Continuity Institute 2014).
  • In 23% of the organizations, the cost of a disruption was more than $1.4 million
  •  80% of the respondents reported at least one supply chain disruption in a single year, while 42% experienced 1 to 5 disruptions per year (Alacantra 2015).
  • 52% of organizations reported having at least 21 key suppliers and 50% of the disruptions involved a supplier below Tier 1.
  • 75% of the firms studied do not have full supply chain visibility and 34% did not even record supply chain disruptions in 2014.
  • 32% of the firms showed little or no commitment towards improving supply chain resilience and 53% did not even validate supplier assurance.
  • 72% of participants did not even bother to assess supply chain vulnerabilities (IBM 2012).

The reason for this kind of neglect is rooted in the traditional clash between profitability and the costs of preparedness. In one study, 47% of procurement decision makers identified the most important key process indicators (KPIs) as being all cost related, with realized cost savings as the most important  (Xchanging 2015). The respondents also reported that preparedness and resiliency to manage risks and disruption can constitute about 20% of costs. In general, most firms will try to manage risk from two distinct perspectives, using either strategic risk management or more tactical, field level practices, or both. Larger companies with greater revenues are more sensitive to risk and liability, and invest in more sophisticated enterprise-wide risk governance programs to manage risk from a strategic perspective. Some of the available approaches used for strategic risk management include using an executive level risk board to govern enterprise risk, a shared risk registry or online database, a real time dashboard or control mechanism, or a supply chain risk management plan (University of Maryland 2010). While about half of major firms employ these approaches, less than 20% of smaller companies use them. Studies have shown that only 50% of companies have written business continuity plans and only 41% have a recovery plan to rebound after a major disaster (Travelers May 2015).

Where are the deficiencies?

A key deficiency highlighted in the aforementioned studies was a lack of collaboration between firms and key suppliers (University of Maryland 2010). Nearly half of the companies surveyed did not use any collaborative platforms and less than a third did not joint monitor disruptions. In fact, the study showed that firms tend to collaborate more with their customers than suppliers in regards to monitoring and reporting disruptions. While part of the problem are time and costs, as alluded to earlier, enterprise risk management also involves risk identification and quantification, which requires the use of empirical data. It is evident that many firms will favor information sharing with customers versus suppliers. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems can provide a foundation for obtaining operational data that can be utilized to gauge supplier risk. However, even with such data, the ability to utilize it for the purposes of strategic risk management is lacking. There has been much research into the nature of supply chain risk, but little in evaluating strategic risk in complex supply chains, since supply chains have grown increasingly complex and dynamic due to product variety and complexity, technology, e-business, globalized outsourcing, among other factors. Altogether, there is still a need for methodologies and tools to aid firms in evaluating and managing strategic supply chain risk.

supply chain light bulb


It has been established that concerns about supply chain risk not only still persist, but are ever growing due to the changing nature of supply chains. Several industry studies have made the following evident:

  • Supply chain risk is a major concern for most companies, large and small;
  • Most companies experience one or a few supply chain disruptions annually, each with a significant loss;
  • Many disruptions involve key suppliers or those below Tier 1;
  • Many firms still lack commitment to controlling supply chain risk for the reasons of the costs and complexity involved;
  • Larger firms will manage risk more strategically using a combination of executive governance and/or data driven approaches;
  • While operational data is increasingly becoming available, there is yet much work to be done in leveraging such data for strategic risk management.

In the next article, we will discover what supply chain risk really means, and the leading threats giving rise to supply chain vulnerability.

Please Join the Discussion by Replying Below


Alacantra, Patrick. Supply Chain Trends: Past, Present and Future. The Business Continuity Institute, 2015.

IBM. IBM Index Reveals Key Indicators of Business Continuity Exposure and Maturity. IBM Global Technology Services, 2012.

The Business Continuity Institute. Supply Chain Resilience 2014 – 6th Annual Survey. The Business Continuity Institute, 2014.

Travelers. Travelers 2015 Business Risk Index: Findings from a Survey of U.S. Business Risk Decision Makers. Travelers Insurance, May 2015.

University of Maryland. Assessing SCRM Capabilities and Perspectives of the IT Vendor Community: Toward a Cyber Supply Chain Code of Practice. University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business, 2010.

World Economic Forum. Buidling Resilience in Supply Chains. World Economic Forum, 2013.

Xchanging. Xchanging 2015 Global Procurment Study. Xchanging, Inc., 2015.