Supply chains are stretched to their limit in today's complex market as companies continue to focus their efforts on maintaining the delicate balance between cost and risk, while seizing new opportunities to remain competitive. Leaders are facing growing challenges to manage their supply chains effectively – many of them still struggling with traditional models characterized by discrete and siloed processes that often create bottlenecks and inefficiencies, leading to delays and heightened costs. Increasingly, organizations are ditching these outdated approaches and re-orienting the supply chain towards advanced technologies, with the right processes and talent to augment decision-making and increase agility in the face of uncertainty.
Implementing an advanced supply chain planning solution is a crucial step in handling this increased complexity and helping companies achieve their strategic objectives. The emergence of digital transformation strategies has accelerated the possibilities for companies to optimize the supply chain and create a fully integrated ecosystem that is transparent, resilient, and quickly responsive to change and disruption.
It is indisputable that there are numerous benefits to implementing a modern supply chain planning solution – from automating and streamlining processes across the network, to reducing costs and improving efficiency. But there are also challenges and pitfalls that companies often encounter during the implementation process. A recent survey found that 83% of companies feel their supply chain technology investments have not fully delivered expected results.
This begs the question, what is going on as this is quite contrary to our experience and our excellent customer reviews. Are the technology providers not focused on their customer? Do they not understand each business is unique and has specific needs and strategic goals? We must acknowledge the implementation process can be complex and that each has its own set of challenges that must be handled with precision and care.
While there is a strong focus on digitalizing the supply chain, and there are widely recognized gains from these efforts, it’s important to understand the reasons why the results from new tech investments may be coming up short for some companies.
In the spirit of helping teams ensure success in the implementation process, here are seven key factors that companies should watch out for as they embark on the journey to implement a new supply chain planning solution.
1. Define a Clear Strategy
Can’t stress this point enough. A clear and aligned strategy is critical for success. Ensure your strategy is focused on specific goals and that there is a clear roadmap that aligns with these objectives. This involves prioritizing different elements of the solution, understanding the different challenges and risks, and coming up with a plan to mitigate these risks.
The strategy should also involve setting a cadence for the process to keep all stakeholders working within this set and agreed upon cadence. There should be a clear understanding of the project’s goals across the board, timelines and budget, to make sure the process is actionable.
2. Work with the Right Consultants
In the initial stages, it’s very important to work closely with consultants to help teams define the strategy and clear focus for the project, including targets for measuring ROI, and how the different metrics will be measured to effectively assess performance.
Supply chain planning solutions can be highly complex, and their implementation requires a team of experts with specialized skills. Companies may struggle to find the right resources, which can lead to delays and increased costs. The right consultants can help a company understand the different challenges and how to address them, knowing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
3. Data Quality and Integration
Access to accurate and timely data empowers companies to make informed decisions, quickly and with greater confidence; so, the methodology for the implementation should be focused on data. This can be challenging in instances where the data is siloed across different departments, or where there are inconsistencies in how the information is gathered and managed. Investing in technologies like data analytics and machine learning is key to help improve data quality and accuracy.
On the other hand, integrating data from various sources can present challenges. A new solution usually needs to collect data from different departments, such as procurement, inventory, logistics, and production. This requires a level of collaboration between these departments, which can be difficult for companies with disconnected teams and business units.
Companies need a clear data governance strategy to ensure data accuracy, consistency, and accessibility.
4. Choose the Right Solution
Selecting the right supply chain planning solution is not easy. There are many solutions available in the market, each with its set of capabilities, strengths and weaknesses.
Planners need to determine their specific supply chain requirements before choosing a solution that aligns with the business goals. Then, a thorough research is required to shortlist the appropriate solutions and select the best option based on the business’ needs. Some steps that are especially helpful in this stage are:
- Speaking to colleagues and industry experts;
- Reading analyst reports and assessments from research firms;
- Checking out customer reviews on relevant sites such as Capterra or Gartner Peer Insights; and
- Requesting a demo to gain a good understanding of the solution’s capabilities.
5. Focus on Configuration – Not Customization
Because not all supply chains are equal and each comes with its own set of challenges, the importance of investing in a product that can fit specific requirements cannot be overlooked. This is why configuration—not customization—is key to success.
The best technology solutions offer the ability to shape the product to suit specific needs or issues that a company needs to address, without the need for writing custom code. Implementations based on customized written code are typically difficult to support and scale.
Some vendors offer configurable best practice templates which can help companies expedite the implementation process.
6. Ensure the Deployment Can Be Applied at Scale
In order to progress and continuously improve the performance of the supply chain to support the business, companies need to focus on the future and set their eyes on long-term goals. A scalable supply chain planning solution is a crucial consideration for any business looking to improve its supply chain operations.
Deploying a scalable solution reduces the cost as the business grows, as the technology can handle larger volumes of data, minimizing the need for additional staff and manual processes. More importantly, a solution that can scale up is more adaptable to change – its flexibility supports the business as it expands and makes it easy to modify or accommodate new processes, as required.
7. Enable the Workforce
Implementing a new solution can pose challenges as there may be resistance to change and new systems. Building a workforce with the ability to adapt to diverse ways of working and innovative technologies is fundamental to maintain resilience in the supply chain and steer digital efforts in the right direction.
Equally as important is to clearly define roles and responsibilities, as the lack thereof can hamper the success of the implementation. Companies need to ensure that everyone in the process understands their involvement and the benefits of the technology, and they must address any concerns through training programs and effective communication.
Paving Your Way Towards Supply Chain Planning Success
Your implementation journey doesn’t need to be a long-lasting odyssey. Our experts work hand in hand with companies like yours through an agile-implementation methodology that focuses on specific business needs and goals – helping teams define a clear strategy with integrated stakeholders and realistic timeframes.
Our market-leading Atlas Planning Platform comes with preconfigured best practice templates to align with your needs, and our dedicated partnering approach means fast prototyping, advanced configurations, and completely automated supply chain planning models.
Let us show you how easy it can be to set the steps for success and implement a next-generation system that will transform your supply chain to drive the best results.