If you go back as many years in this business as I do, you remember the good old days when doing business as usual was a good thing. It meant that operations were running smooth and steady, supply and demand were generally in balance, and there were few major problems or disruptions keeping you up at night. In case you haven’t noticed, those days are long gone because business as usual is dead.
You can argue about who killed it—was it consumers taking control of demand and the shopping experience? Was it the Internet and mobile that enabled consumers to gain this control and create their own path to purchase? Was it globalization and the worldwide recession that made everything more competitive and volatile at the same time? The truth is that it’s probably some combination of all of these things and more. But it doesn’t really matter because business as usual is gone for good and all companies have to adjust to this new reality.
The problem is that too many companies are trying to adjust to this more volatile, more competitive, consumer-driven world with supply chain systems built for business as usual. Is your IT staff still trying to convince you that using your ERP vendor’s add-on supply chain modules is “good enough” for your business, as if systems integration was the biggest challenge facing your business? Are you and your supply chain partners still using separate forecasts of the business and then wondering why forecast error remains high and you have both excess inventory and out-of-stocks? Are you struggling to react to today’s real-time marketplace with batch processing systems and analytics?
There are many more similar questions I could ask, but you get the point. If you are using supply chain systems that are five, ten or more years old; systems that are not agile, real-time, collaborative, integrated and constraint-based, then your ability to compete in today’s anything but business as usual climate is going to continue to deteriorate.
So are we evolving to a new type of business as usual, like the newly popular, but erroneous, “new normal?” Only in the sense that change is the only constant. The phrase new normal suggests we have morphed into some new and improved level of business as usual. But that is wrong. This isn’t an evolution to a new level of normal, a new business as usual—it is a complete paradigm shift. That is why using the old supply chain systems is a sure recipe for decline.
The paradigm-shifting, consumer-driven world requires a new type of supply chain technology. Yes, you still need the basics of supply chain planning and replenishment, warehouse management, labor productivity software, and transportation and logistics systems. But they now must be real-time and integrated to a much higher level to where they are constraint-aware across the suite, provide cross-system visibility and workflows, and are agile, extensible, infinitely scalable and incorporate real-time analytics. And because these new supply chain suites support cross-system workflows and analysis, they must also provide persona-based work paths that are simple and intuitive so your associates can be as agile and productive as the systems.
There is one more type of business as usual that I think will soon be dead. That is the one where large in-house IT staffs spend 80 percent of their time implementing, maintaining and upgrading systems on-premise. It is just too slow and unproductive for today’s volatile marketplace. Cloud-based systems continuously maintained and upgraded by vendor experts are the only way companies will be able to keep their technology up-to-date with the marketplace and responsive to customer demand.
Make no mistake about it—business as usual is dead, and your business will be dead in the water too if you continue to use out-of-date business as usual systems. It’s a new world out there where tried-and-true must be replaced with sense-and-respond. If your supply chain technology doesn’t provide that agility and responsiveness, the only place your business will be found is in the history museum.