Gartner Supply Chain 2018: The future is up to you
Everyone has a customer. Everyone is a consumer. We all have things we want or need, and in turn we work to fulfill the things others need and want. We plan and procure, make and fulfill, and hope somewhere along the line we’re creating value as well. A supply chain exists, even in the simplest interactions.
And if businesses are to survive in this disruptive age, they must simplify their own goals and ambitions to truly understand what they want to achieve from digital transformation.
“Everyone shares fundamentals,” explained SCM World chief content officer Kevin O’Marah, during his keynote at the recent Gartner Supply Chain Executive Summit. “Once you have the conversation in simple terms, then you can start layering in the other stuff.”
His advice applies to just about anyone in the industry as they work to have better conversations about the type of change that will truly make a difference in the supply chain, be they an executive or consultant, vendor, or employee. Speak common terms, find understanding. Decide and commit.
No one ever changed the world while sitting on the fence.
So if the world of digital sounds like it’s cold and distant, and the effort to transform seems insurmountable, remember that all supply chains begin and end with people. And the key to working with other people is to do so in the simplest and most direct terms possible.
3 outcomes for the dawn of the digital age
We’re living in the dawn of the digital age, where information technology and operational technology are bleeding together. Because of this confluence, where data and operations meet, supply chain professionals are uniquely suited to lead their companies into the fully connected future.
But it’s not an easy job, and there are many paths a business can take. In his presentation at Gartner, O’Marah identified three megatrends – or what could even be called desired outcomes – driving the biggest changes in supply chain right now. And believe it or not, people play a huge role in all three.
- Personalization – it’s no longer enough to simply mass produce off an assembly line; today businesses must increasingly look to human inputs as they create new merchandise. And if those products aren’t fully customized to the individual, they should feel as though they are. It’s time for businesses to think like technology companies, and harness as much data as possible to provide customers with new services and unique offerings that reflect the reality that no two consumers (or companies) are exactly alike.
- Transparency, accountability, and risk – trust is the single most important bond between a business and its customers. Once that trust is broken, whether through faulty products, poor service levels, a breach in customer data, or products that expose customers to injury, illness, or death, it’s almost impossible to win back. As the old saying goes, you can outsource just about anything these days except for risk. And the result is companies are ultimately held accountable for everything that happens upstream in the supply chain. It calls for greater visibility, more collaboration among suppliers and trading partners, and higher standards for workers and the environment (but the upshot to all this extra work is greater sustainability).
- Coping skills – People are the secret to digital transformation, whether designing and deploying new processes and technologies, inventing new business models, or simply knowing how to use the latest software. A company’s leadership is responsible to understand and to help their people understand this new wave of change, and create tomorrow’s leaders along the way. Culture is the key to transformative companies, and if the people at the highest ranks aren’t fully invested in understanding and making the most of the power of digital, there’s little hope their employees will either.
While no two supply chains are necessarily the same, supply chain visibility remains one of the prerequisites for success. And while there’s no one solution for any of the three outcomes above, they’re all achievable today with greater connectivity across the supply network, improved financial mechanisms to help ensure accountability upstream, and strong partnerships across organizations driven by supply chain data that matches what’s taking place in the real world and supported by a single version of the truth.
Change isn’t easy. But as was evident at this year’s Gartner conference, many leading business have taken their first steps toward a digital future. Where in past years, the focus was on simply defining digital transformation – seemingly talking about technology for the sake of technology – there’s clear evidence that top companies like Heineken, Havertys, Columbia, and Caterpillar, have defined a roadmap, implemented new technology, and learned from past mistakes. And, importantly, they’ve have done the little things to keep both customers and employees – the all-important people in the supply chain – engaged along the way.