The way you might squeeze juice from an orange, Laura Dearborn Stearns squeezes value from data. In one of her roles as a supply chain business analyst in Cisco's Global Manufacturing Operations, she builds reports that show how well components flow from suppliers to the partners that manufacture Cisco's products.
Do deliveries arrive on time? If demand for a part exceeds supply, do the supplier and manufacturer work together well to solve the problem? Stearns' tools extract the answers from a business intelligence (BI) system. Then she presents the information in ways that quickly tell users all they need to know.
"I make sure the data is available, accurate, and displayed in a usable format," she says. "Reports have to be useful to internal users, partners, and suppliers—people with a variety of roles and priorities."
The most impressive aspect of Stearns' BI work is that she leads the effort on her own, says nominator John Hutton. "She does not have co-workers or internal IT support to lean on for assistance." Instead, Stearns works directly with the software vendor to customize the BI platform for Cisco's particular needs. Stearns had no formal training to prepare her to work with this IT tool. "It was all on-the-job learning," she says.
She continues to create new reports, metrics, and dashboards, each one helping her team work a little smarter. "This effort is driving innovation, and creating more efficient ways to share information and collaborate," Hutton says.
Stearns also uses the BI system herself, to keep an eye on how suppliers and manufacturers collaborate to avert component shortages. She ensures that everyone sticks to established processes, and sounds the alarm when things seem to be veering off course. "For example, a lot of shortages could indicate that things aren't going well industry-wide or for a certain commodity," Stearns says. "So I make sure management is notified."
"I enjoy telling a story with data to give people new insights," Stearns says. "Then they can use that information to do a better job for the business."
Keeping tabs on a highly complex supply chain with many moving parts isn't easy. Stearns succeeds because she knows how to focus on the big picture and on a project's smallest elements. "I'm detail-oriented," she says. "I have an organized approach. And I like to look at the quality of the impact I'm having. I don't want to do something just to get it done. I want to get it done right."
HOMETOWN: Visalia, California
ALMA MATER: California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo
CURRENT POSITION: Supply Chain Business Analyst, Cisco Systems, San Jose, California
NOMINATED BY: John Hutton, Manager, Supply Chain Operations, Cisco Systems
Managing the complexity inherent in the supply chain, and the needs of all stakeholders in a given project or process.
Leading the business intelligence for our supply collaboration platform. I pioneered the development and implementation of reports and dashboards that enable stakeholders to gain new information and drive action for increased efficiency.