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Muralidharan Murugesan (Murali)
Global Head, Strategic Solutions, Enterprise Application Services, TCS
19 December 2017

Mass personalization is at its peak. Digital technologies are re-defining and reinventing new trends and models in consumerism. This is putting customers in the ‘driver’s seat’ and leading the dawn of a new era of ‘hyper-personalization’ of goods and services.

The pace of change is accelerating, and industry leaders are imbibing digital DNA to drive exciting new business models, which have been truly transformational. In this environment, an interesting shift has happened. Now, traditionally product-based companies are shifting or expanding in their use of service-based revenue models, whereas service-based organizations are selling their experiences. But the common thread for both is that the ‘innovative mindset’ has taken center stage, and every action is focused on delighting customers.

Remember, when you are thinking about transforming your customer experience, internally within your organization, you need to focus on building an agile, responsive, and collaborative supply chain. The supply chain needs to scale and meet the needs of your new age business models. This is key to driving ‘smart supply chains’ and ‘brilliant manufacturing facilities’, which are your backbones to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

Five key considerations in reimagining your supply chain

With the fundamental shift in the role of the Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO) and ever-peaking expectations, the CSCO needs to focus on 3Ps of Processes, Platforms and People, to digitally transform their entire supply chain organization. While doing so, the CSCO should consider the following five key differentiating factors for success.

1) Digital innovation – Have the right balance

Supply chain leaders should focus on having a ‘bi-model’ approach to innovation. On one hand, they should continuously strive for incremental innovation to drive optimization across the existing supply chain eco-system, thereby improving operational efficiency, reducing costs, and improving quality. On the other hand, they should also focus on driving transformational innovations aimed at creating breakthroughs in the supply chain that drive business model innovation, or vice versa.

Let’s take an example of how online retail giant, Amazon, has applied the digital innovation lever across both spectrums. Amazon has recently launched a mobile app, named Relay, which fully automates the truck move-in and move-out processes across their warehouses to drive supply chain efficiency. At the same time, Amazon is understood to be innovating with an ‘Uber for trucking’ mobile app, which could potentially disrupt the $800 billion trucking industry in North America.

2) Prototypes – Agile, iterative, and fail-fast approach

While exploring the power of digital technologies to transform the supply chain, it is key to adopt and engage in an agile, incremental, and fail-fast approach, through a meaningful prototypes-based model that is driven by use cases.

While proven, horizontal use cases from other industries could serve the purpose for incremental innovation, it is imperative to bring in more and more contextual, unique, and differentiated impactful use cases to drive breakthrough innovation. For example, German delivery firm, DHL, has successfully launched the commercial, regular ‘Parcelcopter 3.0’, after multiple agile and iterative research prototypes.

3) Supply chain network elasticity

Customer centricity drives rapidly changing global business models, which in-turn demand your supply chain networks be flexible and elastic. Supply chain leaders are challenged to efficiently manage uncertainties and risks and also meet the service levels for timely fulfillment of customized products and services.

Leading supply chain organizations are leveraging digital technologies, such as IoT, big data, analytics, and adaptive intelligence, across supply chain areas, such as planning and collaboration. Through this, they can anticipate and respond faster to market changes using better forecasts, drive supply chain segmentation and optimization, and enable efficient manufacturing to drive insights to minimize yield and quality predictions, etc.

In today’s world, with rich sets of data available across multiple sources (e.g., enterprise data, trading partner data, and third-party data like Oracle’s data cloud), enterprises are able to make predictions and gain insights using data science and machine learning. Leading logistics service provider, CH Robinson, leveraged the power of AI to derive predictive pricing to handle both long-term contracts and last minute, same day truckloads.

4) Digital maturity of channel partners

While building a collaborative and resilient stakeholder ecosystem across the entire supply chain, each of the channel partners—be they suppliers, intermediaries, third-party service providers, or customers— should display the same level of digital maturity.

Traditionally, we have seen partner ecosystems with siloed digital capabilities, which in no way means an efficient digital supply chain. Rather, partners could start with establishing an integrated, digital supply chain to effectively manage (capture and share) demand signals, as well as align and synchronize supply responses and seamless fulfillment across channel partners. The ultimate goal should be to establish a mature and secure digital ecosystem that enables and supports new digital business models across the channel partners.

5) Managing the digital talent gap

With the fast-changing face of supply chains, driven by sustained innovation from digital technologies, the current talent gap (the demand vs supply situation) in the industry is widening fast and is expected to become a crisis very soon. This was evident when the SVP of supply chain operations at Cisco proclaimed that: “The supply chain industry is undergoing one of the most massive talent shifts we have ever seen.” CSCOs need to focus on attracting, building, and retaining the right digital talent pool and pipeline, which is built on top of a solid foundation of a well thought out talent management strategy.

The next innovation conversation

To innovate in today’s environment, supply chain leaders should embrace an exceptional culture that infuses digital DNA across their teams. This culture should help them in their efforts to adopt and display an agile, collaborative, intelligent, and transparent mindset that supports success across their digital supply chain organization.

Today’s leaders are already reimagining their supply chains and harnessing the power of digital technology to get there. An innovation mindset, supported by the five keys to supply chain success, can help supply chain leaders drive transformative changes to delight customers and stay a step ahead of competitors.

About the author(s)
Muralidharan Murugesan (Murali)
Global Head, Strategic Solutions, Enterprise Application Services, TCS

Murali is a Business leader and Strategic advisor to Enterprises on ERP Cloud transformations. He has over 25 years of experience in IT consulting and transformation, Manufacturing and Supply Chain domains and has been working in TCS for close to fifteen years.

In his current role as a trusted advisor, partnering with large enterprise customers as part of their Growth and Transformation journey to define their ERP strategy and roadmap on modern cloud applications, aligned to their business strategy, outline the deployment strategy and approach, assess business and technology change impacts and help build business case for the Transformation initiative. Also advising customers on modern ERP Cloud product selection, through PoVs - point of views and detailed due diligence on industry leading ERP Cloud products.

Prior to his current role, he has played variety of roles at the capacity of Global Head – Oracle Presales and Solutions, Oracle Presales Head for Retail and TTH industry units, Delivery Head, Lead for Oracle Center of excellence, Program Director and Project Manager for Large ERP Transformations across multiple industries including Travel, Transportation, Hospitality, Telecom, Manufacturing and Retail.

Throughout his career, he has been aligned to Industry, Business and Technology, during his tenure in IT and manufacturing domain, he was responsible for building strategy, planning and execution of large operations, with diversified workforce in delivering Business outcomes. Some of his Key accomplishments include growing Oracle Business in TCS and been able to bring in new business across Transformation, Run and Grow initiatives and has also helped TCS acquire many of the Industry Leading Logos.

Murali holds bachelor’s degree in Chemical engineering and holds a master’s degree in business administration. He has presented business and technology papers at various conferences and is recognized as a noted speaker in the Oracle Open World and D&B conferences. Murali lives in Chennai, India.