Now that the case for a digital transformation has been made and the go ahead given, it’s time for your supply chain software implementation...but don’t think it will be a walk in the park. It’s common to have a bit of friction between company departments – especially during transformations. Stamp out ‘turf battles’ early and map out a plan right away, so you can easily course correct when issues or delays inevitably arise. How you define success will also play a significant role throughout the process – don’t overpromise but strive to overdeliver.
We’ve discussed how Maslow’s personal growth paradigm applies to industry leadership, as well as how it translates to a digital transformation strategy and reach those heights. Within the step-by-step journey we’ve mapped, your business may be well on its way to self-actualization, propelled to leadership by strategically leveraging some of the most innovative technologies. But, in the grand scheme of things, what does it all mean, and where are we ultimately headed?
Here we place the industry’s ambitions into context, taking a brief look at how digitization shook the paradigm, where new innovations are taking us, and what it means for the ever-evolving supply chain to be growing toward its own state of ‘actualization.’
With a promising software provider determined and the backing of your network, it’s time to pull together your resources, construct a business case for the digital transformation, and make a strong and informed recommendation.
If you’re in a larger or public company, you will likely have a predetermined format for presenting a business case. Since this involves an investment decision, your finance organization should have a structured, formulaic template to use. Smaller or private companies will usually have a handful of people making the decision, with a greater focus on a “why and how much?” rationale.
Having sat through countless board and executive committee meetings in many different companies, and in a range of such scenarios, I’ve seen my fair share of both compelling and derailed presentations. Without getting overly prescriptive, here are some observations on the best ways to fully prepare, expect the unexpected, and make an effective business case.
We began discussing the industry’s most popular jargon: the ‘buzzwords’ you see and hear everywhere, proselytized as a panacea for all, and the staple of everyone’s brand – though often defined quite differently depending on who you talk to.
Running a supply chain business is harder and more complex than ever, and with customer standards soaring, it’s easy to want a quick and simple answer to overcoming your greatest challenges.
Your time is valuable, so we’ve done the legwork for you. Let’s continue our journey through the fluff to mine the nuggets of truth in a few more buzzy promises.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve noticed that the industry is saturated with certain jargon. These ‘buzzwords’ soar to fashionable stardom and contain a certain, undeniable ring that excites hope the way a Pavlovian bell triggers hungry pups to salivate. These words are plastered everywhere: proselytized as a panacea for all, and they’re quick to become the staple of everyone’s brand – though everyone seems to define them differently.
If you’ve been buying into them, fear not. You’re not a dilettante and you’re far from alone. Hope and utopia are powerful platforms to run on, and in this increasingly complex and pressure-filled moment that’s glutted with choice, it’s absolutely understandable to want an easy, shiny answer to your biggest problems.
While not all answers are necessarily easy, getting down to the root of where buzzwords have gone astray can be. Here are a few of the most salient examples of jargon-gone-awry and how to see through the fluff.
It’s often been said that business process changes precede technology and software. Companies would first define their frameworks and then seek out software to support those established practices. However, much has changed in the 21st century. The rapid evolution of supply chain software and technology has transformed the industry landscape into a far more complex, fast-paced, demanding, global, and networked ecosystem. To keep up with these changes and to seize upon new opportunities, practitioners have begun shifting their approach to acquiring and implementing emerging supply chain software and technology. Rather than apply new technologies and other innovations to existing frameworks, successful and far-sighted practitioners are increasingly thinking about what new possibilities these innovations hold and how their use might help them pivot to more effective processes.
Digital transformations are hard work and require more than just technology to be successful. In the countless times I’ve managed multi-party setups, the greatest obstacle was consistently the most intangible one: Trust. Companies today are networks, so if your partners aren’t on board with your vision, the solution you choose – no matter how robust – will ultimately fail. As you define your priorities, also use this process as an opportunity to consult your network about how your needs align.
Mention ‘supply chain Control Tower’ to anyone in the industry and they’ll nod in recognition. Ask anyone to define it and you’re likely to get a slightly different answer from nearly every person you ask. Why is that?
Software providers often latch the term onto different capabilities, depending on what sector or area of the supply chain they’re intending to address. Moreover, most control towers simply provide visibility and leave much to be desired about control, or actionability. They show users what’s going on (often in a limited scope of the supply chain) and if any corrective actions need to be taken, users tend to have to log in elsewhere to execute them. This also means that your corrective actions are only as good, timely, informed, and comprehensive as the system through which you’re mediating.
With all the technology being promoted, it’s incredibly challenging for companies to effectively weed through the noise and find a robust solution that will actually help with its full range of needs. Here’s a quick and practical guide to simplify the process.
While today’s supply chain is exceedingly complex, one’s approach to managing it need not be. Unfortunately, as tools and so-called best practices evolve, they often propagate silos, redundancies, and failure points in the supply chain, further complicating it.
When thinking about rigidity in the supply chain, it’s common to call out the usual suspects – ahem, spreadsheets – that are routinely blamed for making management less flexible. Less noticeable, however, are the historical boundaries that restrict even the most modern, cloud-based, digital solutions.
Cloud and SaaS technologies have made extraordinary strides toward breaking the systemic and spatial boundaries that otherwise limit effective, networked collaboration. And yet, many of the most progressive platforms and software are draped over the stiff bones of outdated frameworks.
The modern supply chain is capable of so much more than these constricting scaffoldings allow. Here are a few of the secret places where silos and rigidity linger.
Up until now, the process of choosing software providers has been all talk. As thorough as your due diligence may be, there’s always the possibility that what a prospective vender claims they can do does not ultimately align with what you’ve imagined. Moreover, if you’re hedging your bets on innovators, you want to do everything you can to minimize risk and go into the partnership confident that you’ve made a sound choice.
There are two ways to accomplish that: by checking references and conducting a live demo stress test.
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. The big-player disruptors (you know who they are) have set lofty goalposts and acclimated consumers to a kind of good life they’ve happily claimed as the new norm. For businesses, last mile logistics marks the end of a transaction. However, much like the Olympic vault, the total sum of a company’s fulfillment efforts means little if they can’t stick the landing.
Customers want timely service (aka get it when they want it) and cost-effective delivery (aka free). Additionally, a significant part of the brand experience is reliability and communication. These last two sound like simple bars to set, and still so many businesses deliver to the wrong address or with delays and then provide poor communication regarding cause, status, and responsibility.
Considering how much of a cornerstone last mile logistics is to brand loyalty and profitability, why are so few getting it right – and what can be done about it.
First introduced to the auto industry in the early 1990s, the philosophy of lean manufacturing centers around a kind of “less is more paradigm.” Though the principles were originally meant to perfect production logistics, the greater automotive supply chain gains tremendous value by reducing superfluous processes and orchestrating smooth, synchronous flows throughout the supply chain.
As supply chain processes continue to go global, businesses face unprecedented levels of complexity. However, by adopting a methodology centered around efficiency, consolidation, collaboration, and continuous improvement, they can leverage opportunities to reach new levels of business potential.
We recently discussed how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (the psychological stages of human growth) applied to the supply chain (business growth within the industry). This evolution is closely linked with a digital transformation, which itself can be mapped according to a similar journey of fulfillment.
The guiding principles are the same: growth requires building one fundamental layer at a time in order to achieve full potential. Just as businesses must build their capabilities and networks one stage at a time, so too does a digital transformation strategy require various upgrades in technology and innovation to enable new business models through previously unimaginable functionality.
Both the digital transformation and each software provider are multi-faceted, so think of these next stages of the discovery process as ‘peeling back layers of the onion.’ The surface layers involve understanding each vendor’s capabilities and bid components. Slightly deeper are the back-end particulars of the transformation; your team will be focusing on everything from the platform to the financial and commercial terms to ensure the products and services you choose align well with your priorities and that the rollout will be feasible and smooth.