We have been gathering a list of issues that need to to be resolved before building a Supply Chain Control Tower: SCM and IT partnership; Visibility; Strategy and expectations; Foundation for the tower; and Team-building. Here's a recap of what we know, what we need, and where we might go.
SCM and IT partnership
The supply chain functional teams are expecting support from Information Technology. Up to now, many IT organizations have not been heavily involved with a lot of the supply chain; for example, the Procurement system could be a package that is supported directly by the vendor. How about bringing the teams together by emphasizing IT network management skills? IT manages complex wide-area networks using state-of-the-art applications. SCM will rapidly understand that IT brings real value to the party.
Scott Koegler wrote about “Combined Data and Visibility”. He pointed out that the number of systems or software applications that make up the supply chain within a single company is likely to be more than 1 and could easily be as many as 20. If that’s the case how is it possible to actually achieve what we’ve been calling visibility? He quickly dispelled the notion that all data for the SCM Control Tower can come in real time from the EDI system. So a conclusion is that the SCM Control Tower will need what is called “middleware”.
TechTarget came up with the best definition that fits our needs: “In the computer industry, middleware is a general term for any programming that serves to 'glue together' or mediate between two separate and often already existing programs. A common application of middleware is to allow programs written for access to a particular database to access other databases. Typically, middleware programs provide messaging services so that different applications can communicate. The systematic tying together of disparate applications, often through the use of middleware, is known as enterprise application integration (EAI).”
Strategy and expectations
Cover the “50,000 foot view” of what the SCM Control Tower is all about. What are the goals to be achieved, and how. Explain the major goals of end-to-end demand and supply visibility plus analytic ability to establish exception-based management capability and problem resolution. All the cross-functional groups invited to participate will want to know why and what is in it for them. With all parties participating, develop a staged implementation plan with everybody comfortable with their ramp-up date. Implementation plan should be based in order on (1) those required for initial/basic operation; (2) “easy catches”: close geography, high willingness to participate, etc; (3) remote sites and members with “cold feet”. THEN and only THEN get into technical and operations topics.
Foundation for the tower
Just like any building, a solid foundation is important. With an SCM Control Tower, the foundation is connectivity and data. The SCM Network must provide real-time connectivity across all trading partners in the extended network. With the Cloud, there are no longer connectivity issues. So here is where our recently-discovered “middleware” will come into play.
So let's take advantage of the wide range of individuals with differing skills. Typically, this group will include logistics, order management, order fulfillment PLUS key trading partners. Let's get as many as possible involved in building the SCM Control Tower. We know that processes need to be automated, work flows drawn, contingency plans need to be drawn up. Form committees with your own core group on each committee. This will help individuals from other functions and external companies work better together (break down silos) and get their buy-in on processes, procedures, etc.