Supply chains are growing more complex by the minute. With increased outsourcing, companies’ broad market penetration and expansion, not to mention the overall volume of products, it’s no wonder the difficulty in integrating all those internal and external supply chain nodes has grown exponentially. Smart companies are turning to improving their supply chain visibility to help combat this connectivity problem, but the truly wise ones realize end-to-end visibility alone won’t yield effective supply chain orchestration. It’s just one step of many on the path to achieving higher levels of maturity. Gartner’s five-stage demand-driven maturity model for supply chains outlines visibility as a key focus of supply chains in Stage 3 (Integrate), but with two more stages (Collaborate, Orchestrate) on their maturity model, it can’t be the end goal. Viewing visibility as simply being able to ‘see the data’ is a surefire way to hold your company back from achieving those higher levels of maturity. While that end-to-end visibility is important, it’s the ability to leverage it for deep analysis and quick action where true value is realized. That means developing a definition of visibility that also includes the requirements for associated data and analytical capabilities. Depending on your company’s current maturity, your definition of supply chain visibility may fall into one of these three categories: How I Did This is what you typically get out of your enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. It’s focused on metrics, and while it has great value in setting policies to improve performance over the longer term, it’s of little help in situations of imminent danger. How I Am Doing This type of visibility only allows for insight between business functions and/or organizations. It doesn’t provide visibility holistically across functions, and does little to enable one to accurately see ahead. How I Will Do This end-to-end visibility gives advanced warning to future danger, provides a runway for course correction, and inherently spans across organizations. It includes analytics and modeling capabilities to project results of what-if simulations. Which definition does your company use? The goal of supply chain visibility should lead you down a path to data connectivity, not just information gathering. By addressing the connectivity challenge in a way that gives quick access to multi-enterprise supply chain information, supply chain teams can not only solve their visibility challenge but also enable core supply chain capabilities which help them to address today’s top business challenges.
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