Fall 2013 and we appear to be in the middle of a perfect storm that will drive Supply Chain Management (SCM) to the next level. Research earlier this year confirmed Visibility to top the Supply Chain Manager's agenda and looking at trends, we see specific interest in those technologies that enable improved transparancy and collaboration. But are we making the progress everybody expects?

Looking at the developments in the light of my role in Business Development, I can only say that SCM is definitely getting a lot of attention. Our National Logistics/SCM institute, called Dinalog, has managed to team up universitiet and corporations, resulting in a considerable amount of Research Projects. Outside the government funding arena, I also see many prospects taking next steps after several years of low IT spending and risk averse behaviour. Obviously this is great news, but there's why I do have some concerns. 

Talk the Talk

The Buzz around the Dinalog's work has been amplified by the media and found its way into research projects and offerings across the market. The usage of terms like 'Cross Chain Control Center (4C)' and 'Synchromodality' in some of the RFI/RFP documents we receive may be far-fetched in context to the business problem it adresses and probably underlines a company's ambition to reach for the ultimate long term goal. It reminds me of my days selling Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) Solutions. Many organizations were looking for the 'optimize-all' button (a.k.a. the Holy Grail in APS), but in the end most had to settle for less as both individuals and departments were not ready to deal with more advanced concepts and algorithms. 

The Real Bottleneck

Ask yourself it the interaction between the internal silos actually allow us to reach for these higher goals? In the past the was quite some discussion about Supply Chain Managers and Board Membership. The SCM Manager or CSCO (Chief Supply Chain Officer) was seen as the linking pin between department and the role that could overcome departmental sub-optimization and create value for the company by pursuing an integrated approach. In a number of the cases we see department led initiatives hit the market with RFQ's without overthinking their overall company requirements. Beside of the traditional business-IT friction we more and more often miss involvement of other (relevant internal) stakeholders like Procurement, Customer Service or even IT itself.

The combination of announcing ambition to strive for the best and the lack of internal collaboration results in projects where departments try to realize state of the art solutions that only address parts of the overall Supply Chain business case. All this can also lead to a more scattered solution landscape and overshooting ambitions imply an elevated risk for project failure. The question is: How to deal with this? Ask yourself who is looking at your organization's project calendar and making sure it give you a view on ALL ongoing projects in context? Are the people with access to this overview capable of distinguishing between short term needs and long term vision? Can they cluser and prioritize these projects in the right way? 

In a past engagement with one of the bigger chemical Tier 1's, we organized a workshop called CSI SCM. It focused on the rear view mirror approach many organizations have when dealing with disruption and value of (near) real time visibility. In this case we zoomed into the invoicing process where AP/AR department had to trail back the chain of events to figure out with 'SCM forensic techniques' what happened in case the invoice match failed. The involvement of multiple departments made this an interesting exercise and increased awareness of an integrated approach through the many eye-openers during the session. 

Back to Supply Chain in general, I believe that Supply Chain improvements have many faces and it's difficult to plot them in the bigger picture of things. But if your logistics department is optimizing carrier collaboration, procurement is dealing with e-Ordering, spare parts wants to implement VMI and finance is dealing with e-Invoicing Compliance, you probably notice a certain level of potential synergy. By the way: This is a real example we encountered recently where all these initiatives were running in parallel. 

In case your organization has not fully established the 'Navigator' role and you are not sailing the optimal track, think about ways to improve your course planning stearing away from the shallow waters with more risk. Beyond your strategic consultants, the Account Executive of your dominant Solution Partner (with over 3000 modules to sell) or the numerous point solution providers, there are parties out there with both overall SCM knowledge and a bottom-up approach. Through their Business Development staff, they may know more about your organization then the individuals within your company's silo's. 

Through their focus on your results their business development and supply chain experts can actually help you to establish a platform of support in the organization and expand the business case. These parties can facilitate the internal discussion to streamline your SCM initiatives by focusing on how to get somewhere together instead of the putting a dot on the horizon as the destination of your SCM journey. Interested in organizing a SCM round table within your company? Just reach out.

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