Supply Management in the Decade Ahead IX: Leveraging Technology Enablers

This post continues our coverage of Succeeding in a Dynamic World: Supply Management in the Decade Ahead (a detailed report based on research jointly undertaken by the ISM, A.T. Kearney and CAPS Research), and our review of the seven critical supply strategies for succeeding in a dynamic world in particular, with the fourth critical supply strategy identified by the report – the leverage of technology enablers.

Ten years ago, the use of information technology in supply management was just emerging. As of today, an enormous amount of technology has been introduced to make supply management “easier” and more effective. In the next ten years, there will be both a continuation and expansion of technology introduced over the past decade and the introduction of totally new technological advances that will continue to expand the scope of supply management.

The report addressed what supply executives will want from technology in the future. Their wish list consists of ease of access; visibility through web-based tools; collaboration platforms for everything from product development to operations to schedules; tracking and simulation; powerful tools for risk, compliance, and supply market analyses; and user interfaces that can be grasped as intuitively as customer-focused e-tailer’s sites are.

In the future, these supply managers will focus increasingly on collaboration and collaboration-enabled technologies, advanced analytics will become common, and needed information and interaction with suppliers will become external rather than internal. Other strategies employed will be the use of a common company-wide data store for supplier, item, and service data; integrated applications and processes for supply-management; the embedding of best practices in supply management tools; and using tools that provide transparency of operational information throughout the supply chain.

The authors of the report believe that 2007 was the year where we “crossed the chasm” with respect to most of the functional areas in supply chain management and that we will thus, from this point on, see continued refinement of technologies already introduced. Specifically, spend management will continue to expand its flexibility for analytics and companies will be less challenged by the need to perform extensive data cleansing; optimization will continue to expand its feature set and capabilities; and contract management software will become more integrated.

New technology introductions over the next ten years will go beyond sourcing and compliance into more value-based areas. For example, collaboration tools will be linked to PLM and future tools will allow workflows for different supply chains to have different sets of processes. The emerging technology solutions, whatever they are, will leverage improved analytics, broader data integration, and collaboration.