In late May, Supply Chain Matters posted a commentary regarding the building of supply chain control (SCCT) capability.  Our primary takeaway from that commentary was that in your organization’s plans for building SCCT capabilities, it is rather important that you spend time in assessing the B2B network platform that will form the all-important foundation of these capabilities. Enabling SCCT is not about ripping out existing IT investments but rather building-out enhanced decision-support capabilities from more streamlined sources of planning, execution and fulfillment information.

In this follow-up commentary, we outline the various approaches that the broader community of technology vendors will undertake to enable various aspects of supply chain control towers.  We will declare up-front that this commentary is not to be considered in in any shape or form as judgmental, but rather to provide an aide toward helping your organization assess which approach makes the most sense for your business and your particular business outcome needs.

Our foremost recommendation is that before beginning to engage with any vendor, take some quality time to assess the following: What is the prime or immediate need for your organization’s supply chain wide decision-making? In turn, what are the more long-term needs?

A.     Is the business need primarily focused on end-to-end planning and bringing supply chain planning and execution processes together into a contiguous process that includes more predictive and insightful decision-making capabilities spanning product demand and supply?

B.     Is it primarily focused on B2B or B2C operational fulfillment synchronization that can support, daily, hourly or near real-time decision-making?

C.     Is it primarily focused on B2B supplier based decision-making where product demand and supplier responsiveness processes are continually monitored and managed in a controlled and more predictive environment?

D.     Is the business need to ultimately enable all three (A, B & C) of the capabilities noted above over time?

We declare up-front that in our view, no vendor can deliver (D) right now, but that does not preclude consideration that that any particular vendors are in better position to deliver all over a reasonable time period. 

There are three broad categories of technology vendors positioning to support SCCT capabilities.  They are:

  • Supply chain best-of-breed or specialty vendors
  • Cloud-based B2B
  • Enterprise ERP or Business Intelligence

The supply chain best-of-breed vendors respond to SCCT needs from their position of business process functionality support strength, whether that is supply chain planning, response management, supply chain execution or fulfillment synchronization. The planning vendor will tend to extend and integrate supply and demand planning with supply chain execution flows, including order fulfillment, transportation, logistics and inventory movement.  Planning and response management vendors have also extended their capabilities in scenario-based planning and execution, along with more predictive supply chain business intelligence.  Supply chain execution best-of-breed vendors take the opposite approach, building on their core strengths in execution and extending into deeper planning and decision-making support.

As noted in our previous posting on this topic, a cloud-based B2B platform vendor builds out from the B2B platform utility, integrating various planning and execution information to support both predictive and context-related decision-making capabilities for both the customer-facing and supply-facing aspects of the end-to-end supply chain. Some cloud-based vendors add social workplace capabilities to support team-based decision-making.

ERP or enterprise vendors tend to approach SCCT enablement as some form of extension to existing supply chain planning, execution or business intelligence software applications.  The approach, in our view, reflects an add-on perspective vs. a holistic set of capabilities that were designed around the specific needs of SCCT. While ERP and enterprise vendors may be in a better position to support the most holistic aspects as noted in option (D) above, it may take these vendors considerable time to both re-design existing applications and build-out required extensions. 

Regardless of what family of vendors your SCCT technology selection team ultimately decides to partner with, we at the Ferrari Consulting and Research Group advise that you consider a technology checklist of capabilities that will be required.  That checklist should minimally include:

  • Multi-organizational and trading partner connectivity, visibility and collative decision-making support
  • Near real-time integration of events and information flow vs. batch or periodic refresh
  • Integration of supply chain planning, fulfillment, execution and B2B/B2C decision-making needs
  • Support for scenario-based, what-if and/or simulation decision-making processes
  • Advanced visualization, drill-down and/or heat-mapping
  • Augmented information discovery tools

The framework for enabling Supply Chain Control Towers requires a holistic set of required capabilities that span organizational, people, change management and enhanced technology dimensions. It is not about ripping-out existing systems but rather building enhanced more time-sensitive and extensible decision-support capabilities. Invest in an up-front framework and do your research. 

Finally, you cannot assume that the broadest end-to-end supply chain control tower capabilities can be delivered in one implementation, but rather in manageable segments that are designed to accommodate business flexibility and scalability needs.

 If we can be of assistance in your efforts, call or email.

Bob Ferrari

© 2013 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters Blog.  All rights reserved.