Outdated software isn’t just a headache to manage. It’s a business blocker. In a moment when unpredictable shifts in the flow of goods to consumers has dominated headlines, supply chains have become a driver of competitive differentiation for companies, with 65 percent believing their supply chain will be a source of differentiation in the next year. But the technological infrastructure that supports supply chains? It remains a weak spot. Many companies say they still rely on spreadsheets for all or part of planning.
This puts new pressure on companies to drive innovation — or be driven out of business. CIOs, VPs of IT infrastructure, system administrators and other IT professionals are tasked with one of the most difficult jobs in the midst of this: how to transition companies’ supply chains to new, enhanced systems without jeopardizing an existing competitive edge.
Why IT should drive innovation
In many ways, IT teams have never been better positioned to launch their companies' supply chain transformation. Their knowledge of existing systems and processes as well as their understanding of the technological foundations that support future capabilities, like artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), means they are uniquely capable of balancing existing supply chain needs with opportunities for the next round of innovation. To lead digital transformation, IT professionals should consider some key questions.
1. Choose best-of-breed or single vendor?
There are a lot of commonly-held but rarely questioned beliefs around the convenience of both best-of-breed and single vendor solutions. IT professionals will need to sniff out the truth behind these convictions if they want to select the best option for their organization. A key factor to consider is cost-effectiveness. It’s easy to believe a single vendor will provide great value, but sometimes have-it-all solutions need additional (and added cost) applications. Explore all options before committing.
2. Manage in-house or adopt software-as-a-service?
Your company likely already relies on a mix of on-premise and SaaS solutions for business needs. When considering options for the supply chain, the deciding factors are resourcing and customization. Does your team have the manpower and agility to quickly align on-premise options with best practices for data security and the latest industry innovations? How often do IT teams fulfill requests for custom capabilities from planners? If there’s concern that your supply chain won’t have the resources to maintain frequent updates, SaaS may be the best option. If you’re customizing frequently, on-premise solutions will have better flexibility to meet your needs.
3. Invest in infrastructure to support innovation today or wait for future developments?
Companies don’t always have to be on the cutting edge of technology to maintain a competitive advantage, but there are make-it-or-break-it moments when failure to adopt the right infrastructure can set companies back for years to come. Supply chain is experiencing a boom in technologies that will change planning processes for the foreseeable future, like AI/ML, digital twins and always-on algorithms. All require critical planning infrastructure that's optimized for speed and efficient storage. IT professionals will need to ensure current supply chain planning solutions can deliver on key performance metrics or else new tools and processes won't deliver on their potential.
Prepare for transformation
With executives focused on pandemic preparedness and planners managing disruptions in daily operations, IT has the opportunity to drive innovation and improve business outcomes with digital transformation in the supply chain.
Arm yourself with the right knowledge and questions to ensure that you land on the solution that meets your company’s needs. Download our handbook, Supply chain transformation and the role of IT: A guide for IT professionals navigating today’s changing business landscape.