CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
September 21, 2019
Forward Thinking

Gartner: Before you dive into digital, be sure you have a strong foundation

Keynote presenters at the Gartner Supply Chain Executive Conference dream of a future where the digital and physical supply chains are combined, but caution that most companies are not there yet.

James Lisica at Gartner conferenceThe promise of emerging digital technologies—such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, digital twins, and advanced analytics—to revolutionize your supply chain is exciting. But James Lisica, research director at the analyst group Gartner, has a strong warning to companies looking to dive into adopting these new solutions: "If you are still operating on the back of an Excel spreadsheet, it may be time for a reality check."

Lisica threw out this warning today during the opening keynote address at Gartner's annual Supply Chain Executive Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The keynote laid out Gartner's vision of a supply chain that blends together the digital and physical worlds.

Lisica and co-presenter Amber Salley, a supply chain technology research director at Gartner, were very clear: "The digital age is firmly upon us." But most companies still have a lot of work to do before they can realize Gartner's vision of a self-regulating, autonomous, and intelligent supply chain that can proactively make decisions on the fly, they said.

Technology currently has the ability to create an integrated ecosystem that can connect together a companies' internal supply chain, its suppliers and customers, and products and assets. But most companies, according to Salley, are still working at integrating their own internal functions and implementing established technology such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and analytics.

"The speed of innovation is happening beyond the ability of most companies to implement it," Lisica explained.

In the face of this rapid change, many companies are struggling to find a way forward. Salley said that Gartner's research has found that 50 percent of chief supply chain officers said their biggest barrier to implementing a digital supply chain is lack of a clear roadmap.

The key, said Lisica and Salley, is being realistic about where you are. "It's okay if your digital roadmap includes mainstream technologies," Lisica assured the audience of 2,500 supply chain professionals. "That's where most of you are."

Those technologies are crucial for creating the digital foundation, he said. This foundation will also include collaboration with key supply chain partners; process standardization and optimization; and the automation and streamlining of routine, repetitive tasks.

Susan Lacefield is Executive Editor of CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly.

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