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.
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.
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.
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.
The Gartner Supply Chain Executive conference continues to evolve in both scale and content. This recent one, as Gartner noted, was the biggest one to date. So much so, that Gartner will now be converting the supply chain summit to its larger symposium format starting in 2020.
For seasoned attendees who might recall when this used to be the AMR Research Supply Chain Executive conference, it may feel strange to venture anywhere other than Phoenix in May. But if this event was a testament of what’s to come, Orlando 2020 will be something to look forward to.
Fans of Star Wars are familiar with the concept of the Force: an energy field that can be tapped into, that gives a Jedi their power. In the supply chain universe, the Force is like the inevitable progress of technology. A seemingly limitless pool of potential we tap into and are empowered by to not only better handle the pressures and challenges of the ever-evolving industry, but to pioneer that very change and transform the world as we know it.
Knowing what you want and how to convey it is only half the battle. There is still an overwhelming number of software vendors to choose from, with differing specialties, many of whom offer variations on the same solutions. With so many options and variables to weigh, how do you qualify vendors based on your priorities and what does it take to earn them a seat at your table?
Here is how I like to approach the process, based on what’s worked for me.
Chances are you’re familiar with the renown Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The psychological theory attempts to map out the stages of human growth, starting with physiological needs, like food, shelter, and safety, and moving onward and upward to love, belonging, esteem, until culminating in self-actualization.
The hierarchy is conceived as a pyramid with the basic needs at the bottom; to advance, you must first meet the requirements of the previous level. In other words, starvation takes precedence over safety. Most won’t have the bandwidth to sustain meaningful relationships if they feel unsafe, and they probably won’t reach their full potential if they lack self-esteem.
The same can be said about a business’s growth and development.
Approaching a digital transformation can seem daunting. There are many considerations and software providers, so how do you determine which solutions are best? After assembling a small, cross-functional team, outline a strategic approach for summarizing your intentions and highlighting priorities for the initiative.
In the following sections, we’ll discuss how to effectively approach the task and apply your decisions to the vendor selection process.
Having spent over 25 years in the supply chain industry, I noticed that while companies diligently assess their performance and capabilities, they are often unmotivated to improve as long as they do better or earn more than the year before. Satisfaction with small, incremental gains is a setback. The mindset usually stems from the presumption that additional growth demands significant spend, time, resources, and disruption.
In light of this, I’m launching a blog series to relate my perspective as an actual practitioner who has evaluated, selected, justified, and implemented software solutions for e-commerce fulfillment, warehouse management, supply and demand planning, transportation and logistics management, supply chain control towers, reverse logistics, and depot repair. There’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding the process of systems upgrades, why they are necessary, and what it takes to set them in motion.
The customer demand economy has permanently altered supply chain and in turn, it's forced supply chain leaders to search for answers. From better supply chain visibility to supply chain orchestration, companies are searching for ways to be quicker, more efficient and more agile than ever before. In turn, they have realized that they can't do this alone and have moved toward utilizing strategic partners to help them figure out how to transform their supply chain strategy.
The definition of Supply chain visibility has evolved more than any other term in supply chain. From track and trace to multi-tier inventory, supply chain visibility is used to describe improvements in how we use data to track and make better decisions in our supply chain.
Today, we would like to talk about end-to-end supply chain visibility and how organizations are using supply chain orchestration in order to get real-time actionable visibility into the orders that are being executed throughout their end-to-end supply chains. This is key.
As organizations move forward with determining how to transform their supply chains, it’s critical to understand that successful supply chains aren’t driven just by more investment into static resources but about agility in the way that we use our assets, investments and partners. The one constant we know is that business changes will happen and these changes will have a direct impact on our supply chains increasing the need to adjust and adapt quickly to drive cost efficient and customer focused practices.