February 2, 2021

7 Powerful Questions to Consider for Digital Supply Chain Transformation

A fundamental change in the very nature of supply chains no longer looms in the distance, it is already here. But digitization can have vastly different implications depending on your company’s unique situation. And without a cookie-cutter paradigm applicable to every supply chain, how businesses set up and implement a strategic roadmap for digital transformation can make all the difference in the world.

At Elemica, we believe that the most successful transformation strategies are collaborative, incremental and reasonably scoped. But more than anything else, we believe for a strategy to be powerful, it must also be iterative—allowing for a reified vision that creates tangible value with each step forward. A great way for companies to begin that process is by asking the following questions.

Question #1 Are we ready?

The nightmare of a poorly executed strategy can result in major disruptions in day-to-day operations. That’s why so many businesses are still asking themselves if they’re ready to start the transformation process. Our resounding consensus comes in the form of yet another powerful, albeit, rhetorical question: if not now, when? To that end, as your company begins to build a roadmap outlining the critical steps towards digital supply chain transformation, rest assured that it’s never too early to start.

It must be said, however, that “starting” does not simply mean hitting the green button, beginning full-scale transformation all at once. Rather, getting started means building out a detailed strategy across your organization and each of its connections, outlining a smart roadmap with achievable phases across multiple years.

Question #2 What are our overall supply chain connections?

While traditional supply chains function as a linear system, supply chains today can be seen as a vast network of connection points. Taking the time to fully audit these connection points is a crucial first step to developing a strategy.

Take care to consider the entire ecosystem of your supply chain. Who are your suppliers, partners, carriers and customers? What are the processes, systems and technologies that govern and bind them? Mapping out each one of these connections as pieces of our strategy provides an overview of every aspect of your supply chain that stands to be enhanced throughout the transformation.

Question #3 What are our pain points?

You’ve audited your supply chain, but take an opportunity to make sure absolutely everything is on the table. Looking at each aspect of your supply chain, what connection points cause bottlenecks? What processes or partnerships prove to be less than ideal, and what kind of diagnoses can you draw from these realities? After all, some of these pain points may be completely avoidable, and others might be endemic of larger technological shortcomings, communication breakdowns or organizational structures.

Identifying these logistical pain points from an objective lens will not only flag issues your strategy needs to consider, it also sets your team up to now shift focus on ways your strategy can solve them. By striving to understand the implication of each bottleneck and pain point—taking the time to quantify the impacts each will have on your business—you can prioritize future automation and digital transformation initiatives that will come later in the strategy development process.

Question #4 What can be automated?

A major advantage of digital transformation is that it unlocks opportunities for optimization of tedious and time-consuming processes through automation. Maybe you spend lots of time tracking down COAs, or manually processing orders. Identifying potentials to streamline aspects of your workflow can free-up resources and save time.

It’s also important at this stage to understand that there’s no process too small. Outline as many opportunities as possible in order maximize the power of digitization. A big-picture awareness of all possibilities is crucial to building a strategic roadmap toward digital supply chain transformation.

Question #5 What can come now, and what can wait?

One of the most commonly avoidable pitfalls of digital transformation is the mistake of broad implementation without appropriate planning. Because an iterative approach is so critical to avoiding sweeping disruptions in operations, ask yourself what needs to come first and what can wait.

Setting up a system of gates and checks throughout the rollout of your strategy is imperative. Build a roadmap that outlines the implementation of your vision over the course of the next several years, and itemize the necessary steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve your vision through planned, actionable phases.

Question #6 How can we measure our success?

As you move forward with your roadmap, be sure to promote data-driven responses. A great way to do this is by establishing the key objectives and KPIs necessary to track the efficacy of each stage of your roadmap. Consider KPIs that are tactical in nature, like “onboard 50 customers in the first 6 months.” Also consider KPIs in business improvement objectives, like “reduce administrative time used for order entry by 50%” or “reduce carrier wait times at our Knoxville warehouse by 13%.”

Outlining the ways in which you and your team can measure the success of your digital transformation strategy throughout its implementation will allow you the freedom to safely pivot if any given stage does not achieve its desired results.

Question #7 Where can we find support?

This process can be resource intensive, and often fresh perspectives and insights from third-party service providers can be instrumental in both building and executing successful roadmaps. Take some time to identify and even reach out to companies with the right expertise. It’s critical that they not only have experience helping businesses create effective plans for digital supply chain transformation, but also the technical and platform knowledge needed to help implement automation for quick wins.

Having a team of professionals with the right expertise to help plan and guide your transformation processes can free-up resources and maximize efforts. Again, every business comes with its own unique needs and challenges, and leveraging experts who have experience in similar projects can provide much-needed advice and help ensure your transformation yields powerful results.


Conclusion

Developing a measured approach for digital supply chain transformation is among one of the most important steps in future proofing and ensuring resilience and agility across your end-to-end supply chain. Elemica’s roadmap process can contextualize what a transformation can mean for your business at any step along the way, helping you plan and see benefits earlier. So whether you’re now confident in moving forward on your own, or interested in ways Elemica can help, we wish you luck in implementing a planned, iterative approach.