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Altria - Supplier Dashboard MBA 541 | Spring 2019

Altria's challenge

After expanding into several new consumer goods categories, Altria had sustained substantial effects to its global supply chain. This warranted a new approach to monitoring performance, including a need to evaluate its relationships with suppliers more closely and efficiently.

The assignment

A team of NC State Jenkins MBA students was tasked with creating a dashboard for Altria that would provide visibility to key supplier metrics and a central repository for managing strategic supplier information, enabling the company's procurement team to make quicker and more informed decisions.

The students' approach

First, the team researched and created detailed profiles for Altria's 30 suppliers.

Each profile included relevant information from various credible sources to provide a snapshot of each supplier and identify information most relevant to key stakeholders.

Next, they created an Excel spreadsheet to track the suppliers by various categories of quantitative and qualitative data.

Data categories included manufacturing location, financial risk rating, stock performance, and supply chain risk.

The team then used feedback from Altria to research data visualization tools and choose which one they would use to build the dashboard.

Tableau was determined to be the best fit.

They moved forward with building the tool, using the spreadsheet they had created as its data warehouse.

Once the dashboard was complete, the team prepared a manual to help Altria's employees use it effectively and to ensure business continuity in the event of staff exits or transfers.

Outcomes

The NC State team provided the Altria team with a dashboard that would allow it to evaluate its suppliers more efficiently by providing visibility to key supplier metrics and serving as a central repository for managing strategic supplier information.

The dashboard requires minimal manual input, allows for automatic live updates and gives Altria the flexibility to add and update fields as information needs change.

As part of their final report, the NC State team also recommended that Altria:

  • Designate an employee as the dashboard's owner (ideally someone who understands how it was built and can answer questions from other employees)
  • Add additional fields to the dashboard as needed and avoid adding new fields that need to be manually updated
  • Conduct reviews of the dashboard at yearly or bi-yearly intervals to evaluate its value and to assess if any optimizations need to be made
"Our team had many different skill sets coming into the project, both technical and strategic. Being able to see those skills come out during each phase was great, and being able to learn what to do from the SME's became a very valuable experience. I was able to gain more perspective on techniques within reporting and platform advantages, while also providing some feedback on what would be most valuable for the client and how it could be represented in the best light." — Greg Stryker, Jenkins MBA alumnus
Greg Stryker, Jenkins MBA alumnus
"Working on this project allowed me to dive into different tools and network with procurement professionals that were happy to share their perspective. Open communication and frequent touchpoints enabled our team to clarify issues very quickly and to really capture what the procurement team needed in their dashboard. Having close communications with the Altria team also facilitated our team in providing various options for the client to consider based on their current visualization tool subscriptions and employee comfort with those tools." — Amanda Lee, Jenkins MBA alumna

The team won second place at the Poole College of Management's Leadership & Innovation Showcase.

"Altria has been a strong partner of the SCRC for many years and the client sponsor was closely involved in working with the students. This allowed for a free and open flow of communication and led to clear objectives and a quality end result. The students were focused and client oriented which allowed them to listen closely, clarify objectives and execute. Each member was focused on playing their role and providing value. The combination of these attributes allowed the team to execute seamlessly and provide a useful tool for Altria." — Tom Donahue, SCRC Executive Advisor
Tom Donahue, SCRC Executive Advisor

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The NC State team

Amanda Lee

Adenike Adeyemi

Ashish Burugpalli

Dilip Raju

Greg Stryker

Nikki Hensley

Prerana Rao

Tom Donahue (faculty advisor)

The Altria team

Jodie Clarke, VP of Procurement

Jennifer Holzberg, Associate Manager Direct Procurement