Not looking to the future is a common mistake that supply chain managers and demand planners make when considering which tools will help them with their current workload. As your process adapts to the changes brought about by your chosen solution — ideally becoming more efficient and streamlined — there will be new opportunities for growth and new challenges to face. You need a tool that can be easily configured to address your evolving needs, since implementing an entirely new software solution a few years down the line can be extremely costly and time-consuming. Here are a few key questions to keep in mind when considering which supply chain software solution is right for your company now and in the future.

Does it integrate with other tools?

Supply chains are extremely complex, involve many departments, and incorporate lots of moving pieces. It’s likely that your SCM solution will consist of several different software packages and tools that need to work in concert with each other to streamline your processes across the entirety of your supply chain, from the raw materials to the end customer. For example, you may employ our planning and forecasting solution, Atlas, to assist you with all your S&OP needs, but then use other software solutions designed specifically to help you with other aspects of the supply chain, including warehouse management, distribution, and fulfillment. The answer to success lies in ensuring these tools integrate seamlessly with each other and that updates to one tool later on down the road won’t cause problems with the others.

Is it flexible?

You may not use all of the features and capabilities offered by your SCM solution right away. But as your company expands its customer base, diversifies its product portfolio, or adds suppliers, you’ll come to value a tool that is highly adaptable to its users’ evolving needs. Examine whether the tools you’re considering offer you the flexibility to pick and choose features depending on the level of detail or complexity you need at that given time. Does your demand planning tool allow you to employ several forecasting methods and view data at any level of aggregation or format? Smaller companies, for example, may choose to forecast on a more general level, such as overall total product sales. But as their processes become more sophisticated, they may want to refine their forecasts by division, product category, or SKU. Solutions can’t stay one-dimensional because your company’s needs certainly aren’t.

Does it feature a centralized experience that facilitates collaboration?

There’s a reason we keep mentioning collaboration: no solution will work without it. This is true on an internal level — across your organization — but also on an external one, where communication with your external suppliers and resources is just as important. Traditional approaches, such as emailing, forecasting in Excel, and passing spreadsheets back and forth increase the margin for error. You must have a centralized place where all involved can communicate and understand what is happening. Moreover, as you grow and expand, it’s

important to remember that you’ll be gathering more and more data from a wide variety of sources. Using a software program that has the ability to incorporate data from any source and of any type as well as relay information in real time, enables key stakeholders to provide input easily and in a timely manner, ultimately resulting in more accurate consensus forecasts.

Is it able to incorporate new AI and machine learning technologies?

Advancements in technology, especially in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT), are happening at a lightning-fast pace. And they’re doing exciting things for the supply chain management and forecasting industry. You need a software solution that can adapt to these emerging technologies and won’t be obsolete in just a few years’ time. While it’s difficult to predict how these technologies will evolve and what new applications they may have, ask your vendor about their current approach — how they incorporate the latest predictive analytics features, for example — and for their thoughts on what the future holds. How are they building their supply chain software now so that they can accommodate new advancements later?

Is your SCM software vendor committed to R&D?

Even more important than whether your tool is currently built to support AI and machine learning technologies is whether your vendor is committed to research and development in general. Given the speed with which technology has been advancing, you need a vendor that is forward-facing and dedicated to developing new services and products or improving upon existing ones. Another thing to consider is whether software updates and new feature requests are quick in coming. Does your vendor implement an agile release cycle or are updates released quarterly, biannually, or annually? The tool you choose today will be outdated in a year, so you need a vendor who will invest time and energy into making sure your software continues to run on the latest technology.

John Galt’s Atlas Planning Suite offers a robust set of features, designed to be customizable to your company’s specific needs. Our implementation specialists can walk you through the initial process and offer relevant and timely support as your processes mature. Find out what business value you've been missing out on so far.