You Don’t Have a Supply Chain Planning System Roadmap?

Does your team face the challenge of having too many options in the supply chain planning space? With a plethora of solutions available today and the desire to move away from homegrown solutions and spreadsheets (see Are Spreadsheets Sabotaging Your Supply Chain), some more capable than others, you may feel a bit like a kid in a candy store. It’s hard to know what you need and what you don’t. And if you already have some supply chain systems in place, how can you know if they are the best mix for your business? Will they be the systems you’ll need in the future?

These questions are best answered by a technology or systems roadmap for your supply chain.  Here’s how to create one:

As with most projects the first step is to develop self-awareness about your company’s strategies and goals. What is your company’s 5- to 10-year strategic plan? Undoubtedly, it involves growth and cost control. Growth results from acquisition, innovation and new market penetration. Cost control comes from efficiencies.

Many supply chain organizations focus too much on short term challenges and cost control. If you want a seat at the executive table, you need to map your plans to the company’s growth plans as well as to efficiencies. If your CEO is planning to enter a new geography with a new offering, you better have a supply chain plan to support that!

This self-awareness exercise: includes understanding your strategic competencies as a company.  What do you do that is a unique competitive advantage? If your manufacturing or sourcing is a commodity process, it’s going to influence the way you design your supply chain and the systems you will need.

When you have a confident understanding of where the company ship is sailing and know what provisions are most important to help get it there, begin to walk through each planning process and map out the technologies and systems involved.

This is a great place to get an unbiased third party involved. Business consultants can offer a methodology to help you walk through your current state and identify gaps. They will extend this methodology to create a suggested road map of where you want to go (also known as the “to-be” state). This gives you a menu of initiatives that you can embark on to fill gaps and move forward.

A note of caution: consultants may be aggressive, opportunistic or overly optimistic when picking the “next steps” technology initiatives. Remember, we started with the need for a roadmap, so be sure any gaps or “to-be” supply chain decisions align with the company strategy and your business’s unique competencies. You don’t want to invest in differentiating systems or technology that are “really cool” but don’t support your strategy.

Next, make an honest assessment of your organization’s maturity in each major business process and its supporting system. Most consulting organizations will have a methodology to map your maturity level. Analyst groups like Gartner and Supply Chain Insights have good models for this. You need a yardstick to define, defend and become comfortable with your relative maturity. Once you have that mapped out, set your roadmap with confidence.  When the board asks “Why do you need to make this technology investment now?” explain how it fits into the company strategy, how it supports the unique business value of the venture and why it makes sense at this point in your journey towards a higher level of maturity.

By taking a rigorous approach to this process you can create a great roadmap for your supply chain planning systems technology adoption. It will help you confidently pick the places where your finite capital and resources will have the most impact. Point solutions and point projects may have local success, but don’t tie in to the overall company strategy. (Often they are supported by one strong individual who inevitably gets promoted, after which the point project runs out of gas.)

A well-thought-out supply chain planning technology roadmap helps you hold the ground you’ve gained and progress up the maturity curve, while supporting the company’s strategic business priorities as you go.  According to Aberdeen, a key trait of successful S&OP deployments is having a technology roadmap.

In today’s fast-moving, frenetic business environment it’s hard to get a handle on what your supply chain planning systems priorities should be. Unless you take the time to do a bit of roadmap planning you can waste time and money and miss opportunity. The solution is to create a technology roadmap that aligns with your company goals, your unique competencies and your maturity level.