Supply chain management has come a long way over the last 20 years, according to a new whitepaper by Hatmill, a leading supply chain and logistics consultancy and JustEnough implementation partner. Before the advent of social media, online shopping and increasingly demanding and discerning customers, forecasting and replenishment activities existed but only at a very basic level. Today, very few retail, wholesale or manufacturing organizations can function without a dedicated team of supply chain professionals – and for good reason. A solid supply chain gives businesses a competitive advantage, allowing them to forecast and plan for demand, which in turn helps increase availability, reduce stock levels and markdowns and, ultimately, increase sales and profit margin.
However, as the supply chain game has changed, so too has the competitive landscape. Businesses must contend with challenges that run the gamut from higher customer availability expectations to increasingly complex supply networks to erratic demand patterns resulting from promotions and markdowns.
As such, the stakes are high to achieve supply chain optimization – companies that succeed stand to see significant gains in terms of higher turnover, lower inventory levels and reduced operational costs. This is no environment for spreadsheets and disparate planning tools – the right solutions are paramount. Advanced supply chain technology is designed to intelligently forecast for demand; strategically define service-level, product-segmentation and associated safety-stock policies; provide full modelling capabilities against complex supply networks; as well as correlate demand impacts – from weather to social media.
Choosing the right supply chain management solution is only part of the equation: the implementation itself is also a key consideration in the quest to achieve operational excellence and a quick return on investment. The Hatmill article outlines the following challenges organizations often encounter when implementing new forecasting and replenishment solutions – and how independent support can have a positive impact:
- Providing implementation balance: How much should a business bend its ways to accommodate new technology, versus how much should a supply chain solution be modified to fit the business? That's a tricky balance to strike, but a knowledgeable, experienced implementation consultant can help weigh the options and help the organization avoid costly mistakes.
- Effectively resourcing the change: An organization’s technology team should be focused on driving a successful software integration, whereas the solution’s future users – a.k.a. the forecasting, planning and replenishment teams – often struggle with being involved in the implementation while keeping up with the day-to-day needs of the supply chain operations. Qualified implementation consultants know what it’s like to be in either role – as such, they are best-positioned to drive the deployment while ensuring all parties are in full agreement, continuously engaged but with minimum disruption to the business.
- Ensuring strategic alignment: No doubt, the decision to deploy new supply chain software is often a costly endeavor that stratifies the entire organization – not just its supply chain and IT teams. Good change management practices point to the need for consistent, cross-business communication regarding the implementation. Showing how the new system aligns with the company’s overarching strategic goals is paramount to ensure buy-in. The cross-functional benefits, impacts and change in process should be identified, planned, communicated and managed throughout all phases of the project.
- Capability to succeed: The best implementations take into account the needs future users will have – well before the solution goes live. New skills and expertise may be required to manage the system, which could impact existing team structures. An experienced consultant can help organizations assess their existing teams and understand where any gaps may exist, as well as provide day-one support until new talent is on-boarded.
- Effective process adoption: The ease in which new supply chain technology is adopted varies from system to system, and from organization to organization. Having led any number of implementations, outside experts can assess existing business processes, capabilities and user behaviors, as well as identify any barriers to adoption success. Such consultants often bring to bear best-in-class process flows and training programs to help ease the transition.
- Accelerated Benefits Realization: Knowing where to begin once a new system is live is crucial. Often, the simplest approach is the right one: The Hatmill article points out that utilizing a new solution in the most basic form often drives 80% of the anticipated benefits.
- Making it stick: To underscore the point above, the first six months following deployment is the most important and can make or break the decision to invest in new technology. During this time, users are most susceptible to adopting or rejecting the solution. As such, post-implementation support should not be overlooked: It’s often much more about managing user expectations and process changes, versus the technology itself.
- Making it great: Supply chain consultants can help users become more sophisticated in their approach to using new technology as time goes by. Doing so will generate greater results and establish a culture that celebrates ongoing optimization – a clear win for the business.
For more on implementation best practices, read the full article or visit www.hatmill.co. Contact JustEnough today to learn how our end-to-end, fully integrated and easy-to-use suite of retail planning solutions are quickly and seamlessly implemented to help businesses achieve bottom-line results within months of go live.