Go Ahead, Make My Day…. Really, please! The New Generation of Supply Chain Software Users

While many blogs, articles and websites talk frequently about the changing, evolving and ever-connected consumer, little focus seems to be paid to the practitioners (or end users) of the supply & demand chain software that drive the satisfaction of those end consumers. As the end consumer is evolving, being more connected, “always-on”, social and succinct, so must the users driving the businesses that operate the hundreds of millions of dollars of inventory that circulate the globe.

As I was starting to draft blog on a long cross country flight, I stumbled across a website (thanks to inflight Wi-Fi and multitasking!), that included the top 100 movie quotes of all time. As I started reading through these, several of them started to jump out at me as they aligned well with my view of today’s supply chain planner. So, to add a little fun and context to this blog, please find my top five requirements of today’s supply chain software users, predicated and described using some of the most memorable movie quotes ever.

1.“I feel the need, the need for speed.”

In today’s high pressured business environment, everyone’s time is extremely valuable, including that of supply chain systems’ end users. The ongoing trend requires users to tackle more work in a shorter period of time. In order to be effective, a supply chain system must be a first-guiding step to quickly and efficiently identify what that planner needs to focus on, which will have the most impact to the business. For decades, supply chain systems have been “exception driven,” but not always “business driven.” For example, how many exceptions can you really view that talk about “serial correlation” of a statistical model?  Answer: Zero; unless that exception is really driving to a direct business impact. Likewise, be sure to enable a very quick way to resolve the issues at hand.

Bottom Line: Give planners a clear direction, business driven prioritization of their workload, coupled with the right data for fast analysis and action oriented outcomes.

 

2.“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Ok, so a big listing of exceptions is going to do nothing for an end user. They likely will not know where to start and will likely not even care to look at most of them. Case in point: I visited a user and asked them to show me their day in the life. They pulled up a listing of exceptions, selected them all, and deleted them! Ok, so I guess those exceptions provided no business value and they couldn’t have cared less to even have a step in their process to take the time to delete them!  Linking to the topic of speed, why not automate a solution for the exceptions? In the age of overly sophisticated optimization algorithms, users don’t care to know the intricacies of every bell and whistle, but where possible, automate the answer and notify the user.

Bottom Line: Planners need data; information and guidance that helps them reach their goals.  Erroneous information diverts them from their main focus.

 

3.“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

In the realm of “big data”, information overload will quickly happen. Companies are jumping to obtain any type of data points possible to help within their business spanning many different functions. Collecting the data, storing the data, and accessing the data are all challenges; however, the true challenge is turning that data into actionable insights. Planners do not want to be drowning in data, so if you are going to give it them – and hopefully you are! – either give it to them in a fashion that helps them with their job or throw them a life preserver for when they jump ship.

Bottom Line: Help planners do their job and obtain big business success by transforming all available data insights into something worthy of their attention.

 

4.“What we got here is a failure to communicate.”

The role of a supply chain planner plays an integral role of the success of the business. Planners don’t operate in isolation. In fact, they are in the middle of everything, playing a vital role to coordinate stakeholders from across the entire business…..sales, marketing, operations, logistics, finance, and oh yeah …those customers. Effective and efficient communication is essential. By automating some of the mundane or less risky decisions, you free up your planners to really drive key discussions across the business spanning consensus forecasting, Sales & Operations Planning, and trading partner collaboration with suppliers or customers, which is an increasing trajectory of importance given the expanding purchasing fulfillment options that are being initiated by retailers.

Bottom Line: Provide tools for your planners that help them define, coordinate, develop and sustain collaborative relationships across your business and your trading partners.

 

5.“There’s no place like home.”

Business doesn’t stop when planners are not at their desks. As consumers are “always on,” planners look for opportunity to stay connected and to perform business functions while on the go, whether at home in their pajamas (no web cam, please!), from the car (except of course, in states where that is illegal) and from the airport while they are waiting to board their flight to go visit one of their largest customers. Mobility requirements are everywhere, however, the information to provide and tasks to complete must be presented in a prioritized, simplified and efficient format, which is not the same manner that is obtained from their desks. Planners aren’t looking to run their entire day from an iPad and they aren’t looking to view “less” information either – in fact, quite the opposite! – however, if you can identify and align key information, KPIs or alerts to empower planners to be more efficient while not at their desk, there can be some nice benefits.

Bottom Line:  Arm your planners with the power of mobility, where appropriate; they are eager to do a good job and with the right tools, they can keep a closer eye on the business.

Planner skillsets, requirements, experience and preferences continue to evolve, just like everything else in the world of supply chain. As we evolve our processes and practices, let’s not forget those at the heart and soul of the business, making the daily decisions that ensure we get the right product, at the right place, through the right channel at the right time, at the right price.

Stay tuned for more posts…. I’ll be back…

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