Building Coherent Enterprise Architecture
During the past few years, in order to stay competitive, many companies turned to so-called "control towers" and shiny new objects like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and blockchain as the answer to modernization and competitive edge.
Many companies, however, failed to address the elephant in the room: the on-premise, decades-old, disconnected systems they used for core supply chain operations. The result? Despite attempts to modernize, they failed to achieve the desired result. COVID-19 shines a bright spotlight on these issues: Visibility without control. Capability without connectivity. Insight without response.
Emerging technologies do have tremendous potential in supply chain. But technology for technology's sake almost always ends in disappointment.
So, how can companies set their supply chains up for long-term success in a way that allows them to effectively leverage emerging technologies and succeed in the new normal? Put another way, how can they combine innovation with a coherent enterprise architecture?
Consider the long-term goals for your supply chain. Think about what you want your business to look like in a strategic time frame, say five years. Do you want to increase revenue? Expedite the path from purchase to delivery? Enter new markets?
Bring in stakeholders from across the organization to align on a few attainable, honest goals. Based on those conversations, determine what your supply chain must be capable of to make those goals a reality and evaluate your current supply chain solutions against those goals—not as piecemeal capabilities, but as a holistic solution in the context of an enterprise architecture.
Define the IT investments required to enable those goals. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that companies must be able to pivot entire supply chains and businesses at a moment's notice.
An outdated, on-premise technology foundation doesn't enable you to do that, no matter how many layers of new point solutions are added. At an enterprise level, that means cloud architecture that delivers true software as a service (SaaS).
Success Relies on SaaS
To be successful, invest in SaaS-based supply chain, logistics, and manufacturing solutions that integrate seamlessly to enable flexibility as conditions change and deliver the continuous innovation required to stay competitive.
Only once you've defined that cloud-based technology foundation should you fit emerging technologies into the picture. Emerging technologies can play a critical role in helping to achieve long-term company goals when adopted with purpose and integrated seamlessly into core systems.
That's why it's important to select a cloud vendor that embeds emerging technology capabilities directly into their core solutions, rather than offering a-la-carte modules that users have to deploy and integrate themselves.
This doesn't mean you're required to use all (or any) of the embedded emerging technologies if they don't serve your company's purpose. But it does mean that you can easily switch these capabilities on or off without having to deal with the headache of building, integrating, or maintaining anything.
COVID-19 has proven that supply chain professionals have a unique opportunity to drive substantial change. Supply chains are now a boardroom conversation; heck, they're even a dinner table conversation. But even the best of intentions won't end well if your supply chain continues to rely on a foundation of antiquated systems, augmented with poorly integrated emerging technology buys.
As we emerge from this pandemic, think strategically about where you want your company to be. Structuring your supply chain with a strong enterprise architecture will support your goals.