I’m kicking off my first blog as part of Accenture’s supply chain practice with a nod to the one of the most viewed movies of all time. And trust me, this unexpected reference to the Wizard of Oz is more relevant than you might think.

Before I make the connection and share my perspectives, let me introduce myself. I’ve worked in supply chain for nearly 30 years, on both the consulting side and running practice areas across plan, source, make, deliver and aftersales in several industries. I believe that we have reached a tipping point in supply chain operations. Like in the movie, a storm is coming to the black-and-white Kansas prairie, and the Technicolor world of Oz is just over the horizon. 

Pressures are mounting

What does the supply chain operations landscape look like today? Conversations with leaders reveal three common challenges. First, there is a talent gap as the workforce is limited by functionally-specific skills and a lack of analytics know-how to interpret data. Second, there is uncertainty around which technology investments are key to the digital reinvention of the supply chain. Finally, executives are in uncharted territory as the supply chain transforms from cost efficiency driver to business growth enabler, and customer-centricity becomes key to survival.

While these issues are not new, there is a magnification of pressures that is new. It’s raising the stakes for leaders to do things differently and deliver new business value.

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70% of chief supply chain officers think the supply chain will be a key driver of customer service for their organizations by 2020. That view was unthinkable even five years ago.

-Reinventing supply chain with new IT March 2018


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Demand for data insight

The role of data is also intensifying the pressures. Excellence in supply chain operations used to be about moving products and tracking financial transactions. These activities are still critical. But in the digital era, information drives—and is—value. This is why mastery of what I call the information supply chain is so critical. It’s about gathering, cleaning and using data from hundreds of systems to make better decisions and delight customers.

Yet harnessing data from the information supply chain is difficult. Supply chains operate in silos. Data, technology and skills are disparate, even within towers. Systems of record and the tools on top of them are disconnected, blurring end-to-end asset visibility. And with the rise of ecosystems, vital data often sits outside of an organization’s four walls. As such, we see supply chain operations transformation happening more at the functional level with point solutions. Because driving change across the continuous supply chain is out of reach for many.

The intelligent supply chain

This is where the intelligent supply chain comes in. Essentially, we flip the script on status-quo operations. Instead of working inside the lines of discrete functional areas, we focus holistically on the continuous supply chain. In other words, start with the desired outcomes and then analyze the end-to-end data insight needed to achieve them.

This concept is at the heart of the intelligent supply chain. It harnesses data and digital technologies—think automation and AI—to smash the silos, hook into the ecosystem, and empower the workforce with more meaningful work. This is true data-driven operations that is always centered around customers. Accenture’s Syn Ops for Supply Chain—an operating model that brings together business outcomes, data, human and machine talent, work orchestration and insights—is the engine that drives it all.

The journey has only just begun

The intelligent supply chain is not the “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” stuff that Dorothy ran into in Oz. Our managed services clients are experiencing the benefits today. I think we’ll continue to see momentum here as organizations begin their own journeys to a destination where data empowers the supply chain in unprecedented ways. And where supply chain leaders are not just moving inventory, they are moving the business forward.

Please connect with me directly if you have more questions about the intelligent supply chain, and watch this space for future blogs on top-of-mind supply chain transformation topics.

Chris Karney - christopher.karney@accenture.com



Chris Karney

Managing Director, Global Supply Chain /Industry X Offering Lead – Accenture Operations

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