July 11, 2016
Five skills all great supply chain managers have in common
By: Henriette Lundgren

What do Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Chris Tyas and Ivanka Janssen have in common? They are all voted as leaders in Supply Chain Movement’s list of Europe’s top supply chain executives, and there is no doubt that these people know what skills a supply chain manager must strive for in order to succeed.

Look beyond foundational knowledge

Plan, source, make, deliver and return: The supply-chain operations reference (SCOR) framework infuses the foundational knowledge of core supply chain functions. However, knowing the realities of your extended supply chain partners helps to put your own operational needs in an end-to-end perspective. What is it like to ramp up a supplier’s bottling line or to restock your retailer’s shelves with back-of-store products? Look to develop skills by leaning on others who have experienced these pains firsthand. This experiential know-how is your springboard to develop more holistic solutions that ultimately create value for your customers.

Align business strategy and ethics

Supply chain strategy follows business strategy, not the other way around. For example, if your company produces “organic fresh vegetables,” then all supply chain processes must support that vision, even if that leaves you with less room for price negotiations with suppliers. A consumer who picks up your product trusts that the physical good comes with the implicit values of organic and fresh. While cutting cost is extremely important, don’t sacrifice business ethics; keep those in mind for all people- and product-related decisions you make along the way.

Develop financial acumen

As a supply chain manager, you are familiar with all kinds of flows: product flows to customers; return flows to warehouses; information flows between functions; and, not to forget, cash flows. Financial acumen involves much more than cost-reduction programs. Consider your company’s cash flow as the fuel that keeps your operations running and your total inventory as your biggest opponent on your positive cash flow mission. In order to excel in financial acumen, develop a data-driven financial mindset and learn to become comfortable discussing supply chain levers and their impact on your company’s financial performance.

Communicate to influence

Leadership is not about who you are but who you can be when around other people. Communication holds the supply chain together, whether it is in the form of system integration or person-to-person interaction. Influencing means persuading, negotiating or stimulating depending on the context you are in.

When speaking to your shift leaders about next week’s production plan, think about their needs and pressures, as well as how proposed changes may benefit them. What is the value proposition that you are trying to communicate? Active listening creates better communication, and that’s what you need for enhanced supply chain success.

Innovate through new technologies

Do you remember when radiofrequency identification (RFID) was too expensive to apply on individual consumer units? That’s in the past now, with passive tags costing as little as $0.10, depending on volume, packaging of the tag and the amount of memory the tag holds. As a supply chain manager, keep up with new technologies and what digital applications can do for you to enhance your value chain, including:

  • Social media to enhance customer relationship management (CRM).

  • Big data analytics to sense demand as part of your forecasting routine.

  • 3D printing to accelerate spare part replacements in manufacturing.

Planning, production, delivery, service. It seems straightforward on paper, but professionals know the complexities involved across the supply chain, and nothing ever goes 100 percent according to plan. Minimizing risk, cutting cost and planning for the unexpected is the difference between good and great supply chain managers. Look beyond foundational textbook knowledge and develop extended supply chain expertise from diverse experiences in the field.

Accenture Academy’s curriculum is created by industry experts and highly regarded members of academia. It’s different from other e-learning tools in that it utilizes a competency-based approach to skill development and includes assessments to drive the curriculum and priorities for its users. Every day, there is something new to wrap your head around, expand your knowledge and develop your know-how for excellence in supply chain management.

Take a test drive with Accenture Academy today to learn more


APICS Supply Chain Council. “SCOR Framework.”

RFID Journal. “How Much Does an RFID Tag Cost Today?”

Supply Chain Movement. “SCM Publishes Groundbreaking List of Supply Chain Leaders.” 2016.

About Accenture Academy

Accenture Academy offers proven, cost-effective learning solutions for a more versatile workforce and a more agile organization. We provide a flexible learning approach that helps your people be more versatile and your entire organization be more agile in the marketplace. Curriculum includes Supply Chain Management, Finance, Procurement, Analytics, Leadership & Management and Specialty Skills.


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