In November 2019, the inaugural Gartner Supply Chain Planning Summit took place in the mile high city, Denver, CO. This article is a summary of the event and how it fits into the Gartner supply chain event portfolio. I hope it will help you decide which events to attend in 2020 and beyond. [Disclosure – Kinaxis was a premier sponsor of the event.] My overall recommendation is the event is good for mid-level supply chain planning professionals looking for a broad information overview. The top benefit is the networking across peers to build relationships beyond the event. A detailed agenda can be found here.
Understanding the Gartner event portfolio
To put the Summit in context, it is important to understand how Gartner is reorganizing its various supply chain planning events. Gartner acquired SCM World a few years ago and has been folding its events into their calendar. At the highest Supply Chain leadership positions sits the SCM Leaders Forum, held in London in July the last few years. At the next level are Gartner Supply Chain Symposiums targeted at the Chief Supply Chain Officer, one in the US and Europe in the May / June time frame. There are typically five tracks at these Symposiums, one of which is Planning. Given the demand for the Planning track, Gartner has created a new event called Supply Chain Planning Summit. The Summit is targeted at the planning leadership team reporting to the CSCO. There will be one in the US and Europe in 2020 in the October timeframe.
Kudos to Gartner for having approximately 650 attendees at this year’s Denver Summit. I was impressed to see such a large group where everyone shared the common focus around planning versus all the logistics people at Symposium, for example. Many of the registrants I spoke to were at the targeted level but there was also a mix of more senior planning leaders trying to make sense of the new event. Many attendees did not have access to Gartner materials at their companies so were not familiar with the typical Gartner frameworks. In terms of maturity, most companies represented were less mature and striving to reach Stage two or three in the Gartner model.
The Gartner Summit was chaired by analyst Marko Pukkila. He delivered the keynote focused on “Planning Breakthrough Requires a New Mindset”. The keynote had three core tenets:
- Do It Now – companies that take advantage of economic downturns as an opportunity are the winners. Be prepared for the next one, which could be as early as next year, and have multiple planning scenarios and playbooks ready along with adaptable processes.
- Refocus Your Team – do not let forecast error be a barrier to taking charge of your destiny. Planning is required to find the best path forward and navigate around risk. Leverage decision making automation with quality data to drive next generation analytics / AI with human input.
- Guide Your Business Partners – align planning to business objectives and an end-to-end view of the supply chain to continuously rebalance supply and demand capabilities. The end result is a supply chain as a competitive advantage.
Gartner made a significant effort to revamp their content to be more applicable to the practitioner audience. This initiative will take time given Gartner’s historical focus on a more executive level. There was a lot of time spent explaining concepts and frameworks to bridge the theory. Longer term, Gartner will need to bring in new types of materials to satisfy the practitioner needs. Technically there were three tracks around strategy / planning / execution alignment, planning management and planning technology, but most of the materials blended across the areas.
Given the focus on planning at the event, I was impressed with the number of analysts in attendance. They were highly visible and accessible both after and between sessions. Many times I could see impromptu discussions happening much to Gartner’s credit. The analyst inquiry sessions were also well leveraged by attendees.
Based on the focus of the audience, I was surprised there were not more case studies included in the Gartner materials. Of the three that were included outside of the exhibitor session, I’m happy to report that two of were Kinaxis customers--Cisco and Boston Scientific (both showcasing the power of concurrent planning). Kinaxis customer Extreme Networks also presented to a packed audience detailing their transformation to a full end-to-end digital planning solution in only nine months while merging two M&A transactions.
The event was a quick two days. If you wanted to network with other attendees, it was possible, but required effort. The only quasi-social event was the exhibitor showcase evening reception. The breaks between sessions were 15 minutes and labeled as networking time. Most people were trying to balance formal work and being at the event. I do believe this is probably the most important aspect of these events and should be a focus of anyone attending!
As the show is smaller than Symposium, there were fewer vendors. The focus on planning certainly helps to streamline information gathering. Symposium is starting to attract companies with more tertiary connections to supply chain, creating more ‘noise’ with messaging stretching the imagination of applicability. It was interesting that SAP, Oracle and a few others from the magic quadrant did not have any presence in terms of exhibition or inclusion at the event.
There were two excellent guest speakers to inspire the audience. Josh Linkner, the author of the New York Times Bestsellers: Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity, was my favorite. He shared five core mindset changes to illustrate the only long-term sustainable advantage is human creativity. This contrasted nicely with many discussions around the hype of AI and machine learning. The ideas are: every barrier can be penetrated, video killed the radio star, break the rules to get the jewels, seek the unexpected, fall seven times, stand eight. One of his examples was how a bicycle company reduced shipment damages by 80% merely with printing an image of a TV screen on the outside of the box. Pretty cool.
The addition of the Supply Chain Planning Summit to the Gartner portfolio is a good addition for companies. Over time, Gartner will continue evolving the content to make it more applicable to practitioners. Europe’s first Summit will be in 2020 and will likely see a smaller audience. Given the short duration, make sure to reach out to other companies and vendors for networking before the conference. I look forward to meeting you at a future show!