I don’t really see my iPhone as a mobile phone anymore – it’s so much more than that, and judging by the number of people as attached to their phone as I am to mine, I’m far from alone. Every day I use it for a multitude of different applications that assist my life. Things like tracking times and distance whilst exercising, checking travel status, messages, watching the Rugby World Cup and occasionally tweeting about life thoughts.
At the excellent European Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference last week, I was really surprised to see Kinaxis was the only vendor actively demonstrating a functional supply chain management product on a mobile device during the course of the two day event. Isn’t that a path we should all be headed down given society’s acceptance and reliance on mobile technology these days? Aren’t more and more businesses finding ways to allow their employees to work from where they are? Why should supply chain be any different?
Customers are driving the supply chain. There’s no question about that. The demands of consumers, in an age where information is king, are becoming ever more dynamic and the need to be responsive is paramount. If a sales person is on the road and he gets a call from one of his major customers asking if an order can be achieved – how long is reasonable to get back to them with a definitive answer? Well, it probably depends on the circumstances of the order, but I’d state that in nearly every single case, responding quickly with accuracy will always be better than either a slow response, an inaccurate one, or worst of all, a slow and inaccurate answer.
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I love attending the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference. Much has changed in supply chain over the past 25 years, though there are many that date from that time, many of whom I run into at the conference, who would deny this. For me it is like a summer camp I have attended for many years. One of my younger colleagues walked with me through the hallways to a meeting and remarked afterwards that he thought we would be late because of the number of times I stopped to talk to people. What he doesn’t realize is that this is due to familiarity, as much as I wish it were true that his assumption of stardom was correct.
What continued presence at the conference has given me is the long view of how supply chain management, and my focus area, supply chain planning has evolved. When I first started attending the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference no one had a degree in supply chain management and vendors were not welcome. Most business people were in fact very unfamiliar with computers and the majority of the vendors had advanced degrees in Operations Research. Nevertheless the core focus was on process, with people (skills) coming second, and technology excluded from the conference. This year there must have been 50 exhibitors at the conference, some of whom were more focused on people and process, the majority of whom were focused on planning.
What I find strange in all of this is that almost always the central theme of the Gartner Supply Executive Chain Conference is about technological changes that will drive process changes and the need for skills development. This was as true this year as it was last year, and the years before. And yet within the community of supply chain practitioners the three horsemen of people, process, and technology are often portrayed as being in conflict. In fact the usual mantra is that you have to get the process right first, recruit/train to fill the roles, and then buy technology to satisfy the process. Hogwash.
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Gartner recently published their Magic Quadrant for Sales and Operations Planning Systems of Differentiation and we take great pride in the fact that Kinaxis has been placed in the Leaders quadrant and is situated highest on the Ability to Execute axis.
Gartner defines a sales and operations planning (S&OP) System of Differentiation (SOD) as a software solution that supports a Stage 4 or higher-maturity S&OP process. According to the report, Leaders demonstrate “Leaders have a strong vision for their S&OP SOD capabilities. They recognize the role they will need to play in enabling the move toward multienterprise horizontal planning allied with vertical integration that links strategy to operations and execution. They are focused on developing analytics to support end-to-end profitability trade-offs and configurable supply chain design and configuration capability.”1
In this regard, we believe we truly out-execute other vendors in the space. Our proficiency in consistently delivering a quality solution and service to our customers is foundational to our value.
Given the configurability of RapidResponse®, it is an ideal solution to take companies through the various stages of S&OP maturity. Our goal is to both enable quick initial success and help our customers advance their S&OP processes from early stages through to Stage 4 (and beyond) over time by leveraging the full capabilities of our solution.
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The recently published Gartner report, The Impact of In-Memory Computing on Supply Chain Management (Payne, T., 21 October 2014), describes the potential of in-memory computing (IMC) for supply chain management (SCM) including supply chain planning (SCP) applications, as follows:
“By 2018, at least 50% of global enterprise companies will use IMC to deliver significant additional benefits from investments in SCM, and especially, SCP.”
As awareness of the potential for transformational benefits from IMC grows, companies are asking tough questions about how, where and what type of IMC-enabled supply chain applications they should deploy. This is important because, according to Gartner’s research, the potential “benefits will vary by organization size, functional domain, industry and supply chain maturity.” So while the list of advantages of IMC technology is significant – and includes performance and scalability improvements, facilitation of advanced analytics, and process innovation – like any technology investment, the impact to your specific environment will depend on the chosen solution approach.
Gartner outlines three styles which include:
- Native IMC: These applications are “developed from inception on the basis of IMC design principles”
- Retrofitted for IMC: These applications were “originally designed on traditional technologies (for example, RDBMSs), but are now replatformed on top of an in-memory data store”
- Hybrid IMC: These applications “use IMC design principles and technologies only in part, usually to store (at times, only temporarily) and process the most performance or scalability sensitive application data, or to support real-time analytics”
Interestingly, the Gartner reports states…
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Supply chain visibility alone won’t yield effective supply chain orchestration; it is a prerequisite capability, among others.
The 2014 Strategic Road Map for Supply Chain Visibility research recently conducted by Gartner (and included in our new Supply Chain Visibility: Envisioning the Broader Need paper), describes the current state of maturity as it relates to visibility, as follows:
“Most supply chain organizations are at Stage 2 or 3 of supply chain maturity, and thus have an inside-out view of supply chain plans, events and data. Their current visibility capabilities are most likely departmental or functional and focus separately on data and processes for planning and execution.”1
The defined maturity model consists of five stages, which means there is plenty of opportunity for organizations to make improvements in their supply chains to enhance visibility. The ultimate goal is to have visibility into not just to what is happening within your own company but extended to all areas of your supply chain, including partners. This is the shift from an inside-out to an outside-in focus. Stage 5 also entails achieving visibility across supply chain planning and execution. Attaining this level of visibility is obviously no small feat.
As supply chains get longer and more global, there has been a significant increase in the number of supply chain nodes that need to be connected and the volume of data moving among these nodes. The complexity associated with connecting these nodes – both those internal and external to the organization – is a barrier to end-to-end supply chain visibility. Data harmonization across multiple systems of record also adds another layer of complexity.
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The Supply Chain Insights annual conference was held on September 10-11, 2014 at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Arizona. As an ex-AMR Research analyst, this was my favorite venue. Great memories here, as so much has changed in the supply chain research world these past 5+ years. Reliving the old days was made even more rich, as there was a panel session at the conference with Lora Cecere, Roddy Martin, Mickey North-Rizza and myself. All ex-AMR analysts on the stage, talking about the ‘Top 15 Supply Chains we Admire’.
There has been so much discussion on the “top” supply chain lists. When we did the Top 25 list at AMR, we mixed a bit of science, art and influence. While there was always passionate discussions on companies and metrics, the end goal was to raise awareness of supply chain as a practice. I know the Sales and Marketing folks have lots of elaborate events to celebrate their achievements, and we in supply chain needed to pause from our 17 hour flights to far off places to negotiate a 2% reduction in cost, and celebrate our industry.
The panel discussed the Top 15 Supply Chains we Admire, as built off the Supply Chain Index. While other “lists” use ROA, Inventory Turns and Revenue Growth, I find Lora’s science very objective. She is analyzing growth, inventory turns, operating margin, and return on invested capital, performance and improvement over time.
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