Whom do you report to? A vice president of logistics, distribution, or supply chain, perhaps? That might be what it says on the organizational chart, but according to software vendor Manhattan Associates, that's not who's really calling the shots.
A promotional video aired at the opening session of Manhattan's recent Momentum user conference in San Diego began with this invitation: "Meet the new boss of your supply chain"—immediately followed by a huge photo of a teenage girl surrounded by a laptop, a cell phone, and a credit card.
The audience laughed, but the message was clear: The end consumer is using technology to make decisions—and those decisions are shaping the way companies manage their supply chains. As Eddie Capel, Manhattan's executive vice president and COO, explained, "The Net Generation" is increasingly relying on technology to research, place, track, and pay for orders. That's putting pressure on retailers to coordinate information sources and enable separate applications to access and make use of each other's information.
To satisfy customer demand that will be conveyed via new and constantly changing platforms (such as social networking sites), retailers must be able to unify information across inventory, order management, promotions, merchandising, and execution systems. This unified view will help them create and manage "virtual pools of inventory"—inventory that's segmented by sales channel but not physically separated and can be dynamically reassigned based on forecasts and actual demand.