Gartner analysts highlighted three key trends for supply chain leaders this year:
Understanding and Supporting the Fully Contextualized Customer
Gartner says that as it talked to supply chain leaders, "We heard them expand the demand-driven concept in terms of how they relate to their customers. It is now about understanding customers in a deeper way and blending seamlessly into their daily routines."
Gartner notes that over the past few years, there has been a lot of press on the insights to be gleaned from big data sourced from point of sale (POS) transactions, online searches, ordering activities and assets in service. It says that leading companies "go beyond just tracing correlations in operational data, however. They study the environments this activity occurs in to parse out the contextual reasons behind local behaviors that appear "quirky" when viewed from a distance."
A Convergence of Digital and Physical Supply Chains Delivering Total Customer Solutions
Gartner says that leading companies have moved past only selling discrete products or services to their customers and are now focused on delivering solutions.
For example, "In high tech, this might mean selling a coordinated collection of hardware, software and services to stand up a data center for a business customer. In consumer markets, this same company might sell a hardware device for near break-even, recognizing that the profit of the solution will come later through the metered delivery of software applications and content."
A number of leading industrial companies, for example, have instituted suggested order replenishment systems with their dealer networks, based on a superior ability of the manufacturer to forecast demand for their dealer. Some are going even further and are now acting as virtual consultants to their customers' planning organizations.
"They recognize that helping improve customers' internal capabilities is part of a total solution, making them more competitive suppliers," Gartner says.
Supply Chain as Trusted and Integrated Partner
As company CEOs focus on growth, supply chain leaders are becoming trusted and integrated partners to business groups.
"Their focus on profitable growth often leads to smarter, more conscious decision making, saving business groups from spiraling out of control in the drive to maximize revenue," Gartner adds. "Supply chain's influence over which products will be sold and what customer service levels will be supported is akin to the checks and balances built between the branches of a democratic government."
Gartner also says that "The most advanced companies on our ranking are not afraid to rethink the design of their global supply networks, if that is required, for success. In some cases, this has led to increased vertical integration where leaders are getting into their customers' and their suppliers' businesses in an attempt to dominate value chains, redrawing the lines of competition in the process."
As always, the Gartner supply chain top 25 isn't perfect - but it's the best we have right now, and always the spurce of interesting discussion and debate.
Any reaction to this year's top 25 list? Who should be on that isn't, or who is on that should be off? How if at all could the methodology be improved? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.
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