SCM Buyer’s Guide 2012: Adapting to Challenging Times and Circumstances

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TEC is coming up with four new buyer’s guides for 2012, and one slot is reserved for supply chain management (SCM) solutions. My main reason for pushing for this was that the global business landscape has been battered significantly by a slew of economic, political, social and environmental events over the past five years. This has resulted in significant losses for businesses around the world.

It is no secret that the world is going to engage in  a fairly trying period for the foreseeable future. And businesses will need to examine their outside environment more closely than ever before committing themselves to action. They will also need to take measures for obtaining greater visibility into and around their supply chain in order to adapt more quickly to changing circumstances.

TEC’s 2012 SCM Buyer’s Guide will discuss the issues that will continue to challenge supply chains, specifically in regard to managing complexity, achieving insight into the chain, and managing collaboration within the chain.

Here is a short synopsis of items I’ll be covering in the guide.

Managing Supply Chain Complexity

Businesses have been increasingly decentralizing their activities (e.g., outsourcing, or creating subsidiaries) in an effort to focus on their core strengths. Note that this trend persists despite a growing tendency toward governmental protectionism. The economies being generated (or  expected) are the main drivers behind the increase in supply chain complexity for businesses of all sizes. We have come to the point where looking abroad  is no longer the sole prerogative of large organizations—small to medium businesses are also increasingly interested in outsourcing.

In the guide, I’ll discuss approaches to handling multiple partners and agents, and the challenges of integrating them into your chain. Other points of discussion: the challenges of managing a large volume of communication, and the efforts businesses have to deploy to coordinate activities throughout the chain. I’ll also talk about how to establish a fluid network that will allow a more flexible and responsive supply chain structure.

Best Practices for Achieving Insight into the Supply Chain

There are a number of elements that are critical to supply chain visibility. Chief among them is data management—and ensuring that the information your partners need is available. Too often some new business process brings out an element that needs to be tracked within a supporting infrastructure that doesn’t lend itself to new data integration.

I’ll also talk about data mobility, i.e., ensuring that the information required by your partners is accessible, along with the means to disperse this information in an effective manner. Another critical element is how information flows back to you and how it is subsequently handled within your organization.

And as we broach the topic of communication, we also need to discuss exception management, since significant time is spent in issue handling (a.k.a. fire-fighting), which is often a source for increased costs. In this regard, I’ll discuss some of the efforts that can be deployed to establish a more effective and proactive supply chain.

Managing Collaboration within the Supply Chain

For some businesses, the world feels as big as it did when national economies were mainly domestic. Outside dealings leave these businesses feeling uneasy and tentative. For others, the world is a board across which they push their divisions and brands like chess pieces. In both cases, businesses need to establish a sound level of connectivity across their growing network of global partners.

I’ll talk about the tools that promote collaboration, and discuss how you can further enhance collaboration with guided communication via workflows. I’ll provide some examples to illustrate how some of these solutions will facilitate response time and prevent issues from escalating into full-blown crises. And lastly, I’ll discuss means of controlling choke points in the supply chain and some of the notions and tools that are important to bear in mind in establishing a fluid network.

Report on Global Trade Management

This guide will also feature a report showcasing a fairly recent subset of SCM vendors that have collaboration at the heart of their offering, specializing in bridging distances between partners. They offer solutions to assist in gaining visibility between the different point of your supply chain by facilitating the logistic, compliance, and financial aspects of trading operations. Most importantly, they will help you manage the complexity of your supply chain, gain visibility, and provide substantial collaborative tools.

I Want to Hear from You

We’re launching the guide in March 2012. That’s soon! I’m already profiling vendors and solutions.

For supply chain managers: if you have any questions in particular you’d like me to address, let me know in the comments below!

For SCM vendors and GTM folk that would like to make your voices heard, I invite you to contact us and share with us your contribution in making supply chain a powerful business driver.
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