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An agile approach when assessing Supply Chain Planning technologies

Alis Hinrichsen
Alis Sindbjerg
Hinrichsen
Thought Leader & Strategic Advisor

Supply Chain organizations must rapidly assess new digital strategies and Supply Chain planning technology solutions to accelerate digital business. At the same time, they need to assess and identify automation opportunities, while supporting organizational change. How do they stretch their organizations current way of thinking and operating while at the same time delivering on speed and flexibility? Get some fruitful advice in this blogpost.

What does digital mean?
Supply Chain leaders of today struggle with defining what “digital” means for the Supply Chain. Supply Chain are living in a time where there is a lot of complexity and volatility but also enormous opportunity, significant risk, and lots of uncertainty. Supply Chain leaders are driven to redesign their operating models to better meet the needs of new and existing (digital) business models and incorporate digital technologies.

So, the business case is clear. New business offerings are driving revenue growth and the Supply Chain must adjust accordingly. The good news is, that there is a willingness to invest in digital technologies, especially within Supply Chain planning.

Digitalizing Supply Chain planning
Though many Supply Chain leaders struggle with translating a digital vision into the critical Supply Chain planning capabilities needed, to deliver a digital experience to customers. They also struggle assessing emerging digital technologies and current Supply Chain planning technologies, to operate the Supply Chain in new ways.

Digital planning is not about digital technology. Rather it is about appropriate and effective use of digital technology being applied to planning. As a company moves forward in its journey, and applying these technologies across the business, they are looking to make higher quality decisions in planning.

These trends are bringing new requirements that often obviate those traditional architectures. Organizations are more frequently seeking ways to capture data from external data streams, to provide input for future planning activities. As a result, data and processing of this data require increasingly extensive use of in-memory computing to help with planning speed, granularity, and model adaptability.

In parallel, as higher volume, velocity and veracity of data is brought into Supply Chain planning, this increases the need of organizations to use advanced analytics to drive process automation and get insights from all this newfound data.

Why is there a need to be more agile in the assessment?
The accelerating digital business means organizations must rapidly assess new digital strategies and technologies. As digital planning becomes a top priority, Supply Chain leaders need a way to assess and identify automation opportunities, while at the same time supporting organizational change as planning decisions move from people-centric to decision-centric. It is time to rethink the way assessment is done when it comes to the assessment of Supply Chain planning technologies. It is time to seek and embrace agility.

How to rethink the way assessment is done
Supply Chain organizations should place a greater emphasis on testing, experimentation and learning when evaluating Supply Chain planning technology. They should adapt an agile mindset when considering new Supply Chain planning technologies. They should avoid risky and costly projects with long cycle times. They should build pilots and proof of concept into the Supply Chain technology assessment process, in order to gain speed to value and flexibility while mitigating risk and uncertainty. If they do not, they risk that the business looses out on their business potential.

Before the assessment is started, some essential questions
There are some questions which the organization could consider before starting the assessment of the technology – and perhaps start or continue a conversation with a Supply Chain technology partner:

  • Where are you today in terms of Supply Chain planning maturity?
  • What type of business are you and what kind of complexity do you have in your Supply Chain? What needs to be catered for?
    Larger companies tend to have more complexity in their Supply Chain
  • What are you trying to achieve? What challenges are you trying to solve?
    Make a list of operational challenges that you are facing and goals that you would like to achieve. Spell out the performance you are looking to achieve with the technology. If today you have decentralized organization – will that change in the future?
  • What are your must have features?
    The type of business you are running will determine the exact tools and features you require to operate effectively. Make sure that the software technology has the right functionality to meet your specific requirements.
  • How much are you willing to pay?
    Costs can vary significantly – keep in mind that paying for essential functionality can end up increasing your profitability and decreasing costs over time. What if you could pay more but get a higher guarantee of business results – would that make a difference? There could potentially be a risk of missing out on business results which can be hard to quantify.
  • What integrations do you need?
    Most but not all cloud-based technologies offer a suite of integrations with other key application.
  • What kind of organization/training/support do you need?
    Most providers offer varying levels and types of support as well as training resources, although costs can vary. What you need to consider is how resources will be organized including key role. What key competences, people and skills are needed for the project team and how will they be provided/acquired.
  • Which change will your planners and other employees see and feel?
    Have an idea about the communication around the change. What is the story?

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