Building Data-First SCM, Brick by Brick

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Margaret TedlieMargaret Tedlie May 9, 2017

Organizing supply chain management based on a data-first culture can seem like a huge job. Here are four cornerstones for a foundation of facts.

The leading recommendation of the just-published Clear Peak Supply Chain Advisory Council white paper on next-generation SCM Visibility is clear:

Both supply chain and C-suite executives must focus on “enabling a data-driven culture [that] encompasses processes, technology, change management and organizational structure”

The survey also shone light on the obstacles that lie in the path of attaining game-changing SCM systems and practices. The leading obstacles include:

  • Inadequate strategic planning and budgetary support
  • Inaccurate or incomplete SCM data
  • Lack of internal cooperation
  • A dearth of analytical skill sets

These barriers, taken in groups or even in isolation, can seem discouraging. Overcoming them takes time, and costs money. But companies that fully intend to survive, remain profitable, or grow and dominate, must confront them. Giving up is not an option.

How, then, can you transition from severely impaired SCM visibility to a supply chain driven by data? More broadly, how can you organize around a data-first culture and become a Learning Enterprise, built on a sustainable system of actionable insights and managed from a single source of truth?

Here’s a pragmatic “brick by brick” view if you’re wondering where to begin – or how to catch up:

1. Survey the Landscape: find out what you don’t know

  • Determine where you really stand. Begin a rigorous process of spend and category assessments.
  • What are the gaps in your supply chain data? Where are the blind spots? Where are you being shortsighted?
  • Begin to identify strengths and weaknesses of your operational/analytical personnel.
  • How are others within your industry dealing with supply chain disruption? Are there lessons you can take from companies in other industries that can give you competitive advantage in yours?

2. Engage the Architect: create an execution plan

  • Build a business case that gains the attention (and support) of upper-level management. What are the opportunities to enhance the company’s top line? How can increased efficiencies improve its bottom line?
  • Create an MDM (master data management) plan to integrate, manage and verify the data you need from silos within your organization, supply-chain partners, and third parties.
  • Align your SCM team around a clear, goal-driven planning process – and execution plan.
  • Determine how (or IF) the people within your current organizational structure can support the developing plan and meet your strategic goals. Put a training (and/or hiring) strategy in place. Invest in your personnel wherever possible.
  • Roll out new initiatives (tools/technologies, processes, people) in pilot form; assess, refine, fix, and then broaden the deployment.

3. Empower the Builders: let early successes drive project momentum

  • Build FACT-DRIVEN confidence in the integrity of your augmented/integrated/cleansed supply chain data.
  • Ongoing reporting gives everyone visibility into the impact of the project.
    • Create supply management evangelists up and down your organization with credible evidence of early results
    • Start with realistic expectations, show results as they occur, and plan for continuous improvements.
    • Offer operational personnel tangible proof (and prompt recognition) of their contribution to the achievement of milestones.

4. Aim for the Sky: keep taking SCM to the next level

  • As SCM becomes more data-driven, move up the ladder from descriptive to predictive analytics, or from predictive to prescriptive analytics.
  • Broaden the application of data-driven SCM to supply chain management functions that may not have been part of a pilot program.
  • Expand your training and personnel empowerment programs.
  • Be open to unexpected (or uncomfortable) truths that the data may present. Early recognition of issues can mean the difference between building on a foundation of rock solid truth, or on one of shifting sand.

The transformation to a data-first SCM, clearly visible supply chain isn’t easy.  It requires a brave commitment to corporate self-awareness and organizational or philosophical change.

But the good news is that a systematic approach with the right partners along the way will certainly strengthen your foundation of strategic knowledge.  This will give confidence to your team, your leadership, and your partners that the supply chain story you tell is equal to your supply chain truth – and it enables rock-solid advantage.

Are you ready to build your foundation of facts?
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