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2017
by Bill DuBois

Financial crisis. Check. Environmental catastrophes. Check. What’s next? Is this the year of political disruption?

Supply chain risk managementWorking in supply chain is like starring in a Rocky movie. You keep getting knocked down and you have to keep getting back up.

 

You don’t need to go back any further than a decade to understand the many challenges supply chains have endured over the years. Interestingly enough, the first episode of Breaking Bad that aired in 2008 reflected what it was like being in supply chain risk management at the time: “Hey, a science teacher is cooking meth, how much worse could it get?”

 

If you were a fan of the series, you were on the edge of your seat amazed at the plot’s crazy twists and turns. My guess is people who didn’t see the show were the supply chain practitioners too busy trying to ride the storm of the 2008 financial crash.

 

Supply chains had to deal with squeezing margins and dramatically cut costs, which included significant downsizing. Doing more with less wasn’t an option; it was a necessity. Maybe the one good thing to come out of it was some companies figured out how they could survive with lower inventories. Some suppliers weren’t so lucky. In 2009, I’m sure most we’re thinking, “How much worse could it get?”

 

Well, it got a lot worse.

 

The 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland. The 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Yes, there have been natural disasters before. But these specific disruptions not only resulted in significant human and personal loss, but also had a major impact on supply chains.

 

For example, travel was halted all together as a result of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Inventories were stranded as supply chains scrambled to understand the impact on their customers. While there may have been an uptick in video conferencing from executives stuck in airports and others eager to catch up on Breaking Bad episodes, supply chains would take weeks, if not longer, to recover.

 

There were many lessons learned from these unexpected global events and, although we don’t know when the unexpected will happen, supply chains are now generally better prepared for unplanned events.

 

So, it couldn’t get any worse, could it?

 

Is the global political landscape the next unknown? Take Brexit as an example. There are so many questions still left unanswered: What will the impact be on supply chains when goods do not move as freely as before? Will the pound take a hit causing a strain on suppliers and imports? What will the impact be on the UK if they are no longer part of current free trade agreements?

 

To avoid the risk of becoming political and losing the focus on supply chain, there’s only one other question to ask: Where else in the world is there political uncertainty? When you answer that question, you can look at it through the supply chain lens.

 

Like our science teacher turned meth cooker in Breaking Bad, the real enemy for supply chain risk management is uncertainty. The political landscape of today sure would make for a great mini-series, but the folks in supply chain likely wouldn’t have time to watch. Rather, they would be too busy keeping their networks as agile as possible so they are prepared for the uncertainly of the future.

 

What do you think the next big risk to supply chain will be? Please let us know in the comments section below. I’m sure we’ll all benefit from our collective insights.

 

The post Supply chain risk management in 2017 appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.

 

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Originally posted by Bill DuBois at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/supply-chain-risk-management-2017/

by Dr. Madhav Durbha

Supply chain planning systemIt was in 1965 that Dr. Gordon Moore made a prediction that changed the pace of tech. His prediction, popularly known as Moore’s law, was with regards to doubling of the number of transistors per square inch on an integrated circuit every 18 months or so. As a result of the innovations attributable to the endurance of Moore’s law over the last 50+ years, we have seen significant accelerations in processing power, storage, and connectivity. These advances continue to have major implications on how companies plan their supply chains. In my nearly two decades as a supply chain professional, I have seen quite a few changes.

 

Let’s look at some of the big shifts that have taken place in the supply chain planning space.

 

1. Planning community gets bolder in tackling scale:

Early on in my career, I remember working with a large global company who had to take their interconnected global supply chain model and slice it up into distinct independent supply chain models. This was because the processing power at the time was simply not enough to plan their supply chain in a single instance. This surgical separation of supply chains required a high degree of ingenuity and identifying the portions of supply network with the least amount of interconnections, and partition them. This was not the most optimal way to build a supply chain model, but they did what they could within the limitations of the technology then. With the advent of better processing power, they were able to consolidate these multiple instances into a single global instance leading to a better model of their business. This is just one of many such examples.

 

As the hardware side of the solution benefited from Moore’s law, in parallel, developers of the supply chain applications continued to make conscious efforts to better utilize the storage, processing, and network resources available to them. This multi-pronged approach resulted in squeezing further efficiencies and bringing better scalability. Now companies are getting more adventurous with their planning and are getting planning down to the point of consumption. While there is enough debate within the supply chain community as to whether the data at more atomic levels is clean, trustworthy, and dense enough, and whether the extra effort needed to model down to the granular levels is worth it, the fact that we are seeing technology scale to such levels of granularity is illustrative of the power of Moore’s law.

 

2. Planning moves to the Cloud:

In a traditional packaged planning software deployment, the vendor sells a perpetual license for the software, helps the customer with sizing the hardware, waits for the hardware to be setup and configured at the customer’s premises, then installs the software and the middleware components needed before the software configurations can begin. This whole process can take several weeks or in many cases, months. With Moore’s law holding its power over the decades, and resulting gains in processing, storage, and network speeds, newer delivery models prevailed. Supply Chain Planning capability is now being provided in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Immediately upon executing the necessary contracts, customers can start accessing the software, so the project can begin in earnest. This is shifting the focus from “Technology enablement” to “Business capability enablement”. I remember the days when prospects approached Cloud with skepticism, specifically around the security of cloud based systems. Now, while I still see a number of prospects asking questions around security as part of the RFP (Request for Proposal) process, it is fair to say that the security discussion in most instances is turning out to be a set of quick conversations with the customer’s IT teams. There is in general, a growing acknowledgement that a SaaS vendor catering to many customers is better equipped to handle security vulnerabilities than any one company’s IT organization.

 

One added advantage of the move to the cloud is accessibility. Until a few years ago, every RFP looking for global deployment of supply chain planning systems used to contain questions around accessibility on dial up lines and such in developing nations. Now it is not as often that I see questions around speed of networks and accessibility. With tech becoming accessible across the globe and with increasing availability of the bandwidth, I am seeing fewer companies query about accessibility from different geographies. Instead, the questions are more geared around access from various mobile devices, which is becoming a core requirement. The SaaS model renders itself very well to such support across varied devices and form factors. SaaS is illustrative of the symbiotic progress between hardware and software delivery models powered by Moore’s law.

 

3. Planning can happen at the speed of business:

While there is enough talk about the rise of the machines and autonomous supply chains, the newer forms of planning technology is in fact helping get the best of bringing together the humans and machines, rather than making humans redundant. The previous generations of planning technology was very much waterfall oriented with Demand Planning, followed by Supply Planning, followed by Capacity Planning, and so on. It severely undermined the role of human intelligence in supply chain planning. The well intentioned users of such systems spend more time in data gathering, preparation, and piece together information on outdated data using excel macros and such. Also, building an S&OP capability with such underlying technology is turning out to be an expensive band aid for several organizations.

 

Such batch, waterfall-oriented planning is giving way to near real-time concurrent planning supported by what-if scenarios and social collaboration. Supported by technologies such as in memory computing, concurrent planning can happen at a scale like we have not seen before. Such advances in planning at the speed of business can also better leverage advances in IoT, Machine Learning, and Data science. Batch oriented supply chain planning capabilities of the previous generation are not fit to consume the real time digital signals from smart, connected devices, and course correct as needed. Having a system that can supplement human intelligence so planners can make decisions at the speed of business can be very empowering.

 

Now it is becoming very realistic and affordable to represent the model of an end to end network of a large corporation with all its assumptions and parameters, and simulate the response strategies to the various stimuli the supply chain receives. Linear approximations of highly non-linear supply chains are giving way to more realistic modeling of supply networks.

 

The impact

All in all, Moore’s law did have a major impact on the supply chain planning capabilities. Significant gaps still exist between the “art of the possible” with a new way of concurrent planning, as compared to how many organizations run their supply chain planning processes in a batch oriented manner today. My advice to the companies embarking on supply chain transformation – the future is here! Challenge yourself on if the old ways of planning will meet the needs of the organizations of the present day. If Moore’s law helped get unprecedented computing power right in your pocket in the form of a smart phone, what can it do to your supply chain? The possibilities are limitless. You just need to be open to explore!

 

The post Moore’s Law and supply chain planning systems appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.

 

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Originally posted by Dr. Madhav Durbha at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/moores-law-supply-chain-planning-systems/

by Alexa Cheater

End-to-end supply chainEliminating silos from any company’s supply chain planning processes comes with challenges. And those challenges are only amplified the bigger your supply chain is. When you’re a large global pharmaceutical company operating in more than 100 markets across four geographical regions, overcoming operational silos in the end-to-end supply chain  may seem like an insurmountable feat. That’s how MSD ’s supply chain planning story began.

 

Supply chain planning challenges

Known as Merck & Co., Inc. in the US and Canada, MSD was desperately seeking a way to connect its end-to-end supply chain, which spans four planning hubs, over 80 distribution centers and more than 20 internal and external sites. Setting out on a journey to standardize its enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform meant finding a way to sync its supply chain data and enable access across all those divisions and locations to support better business decisions.

 

Henrik Frojdh, Supply Chain Planning Lead at MSD, quickly realized the only way to elevate supply chain planning capabilities to support that level of synchronization and at the same time optimize inventory levels, was the adoption of an integrated solution – one that enabled end-to-end supply chain planning, visibility and decision-making.

 

Concurrent planning was also a key capability of MSD’s new supply chain planning vision. By connecting people, process and data in a way that allowed Frojdh’s team to continuously plan, monitor and respond meant they could plan all supply chain nodes simultaneously. An always-on, in-memory planning engine was a vital component to this, and would mean creating plans would only take seconds. The improved visibility and insight into action provided by an integrated supply chain planning solution would allow MSD to plan more proactively and by exception, better understanding where demand was at risk, and ultimately aligning to the company’s first priority – its patients.

 

The journey to success

MSD’s vision is more effective supply chain planning, which in turn allows it to supply high-quality products to its customers at the lowest cost and with the shortest lead-time. To meet these goals, the company has undertaken a supply chain transformation initiative spanning global demand planning, global supply planning, distribution requirements planning (DRP) and sales and operations planning (S&OP).

 

From a demand perspective, MSD now generates a consensus forecast that’s aligned with the financial plan. That forecast drives the fulfillment processes, leading to a more demand-driven supply chain and more effective asset utilization. This makes them a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, where most other companies still use a push planning model.

 

On the supply side, MSD is differentiating inventory policies through segmentation analysis based on constant make, inventory replenishment levels and re-order point, while still respecting rhythms within its various sites.

 

Changes to S&OP enabled MSD to make better decisions more aligned with commercial and financial needs. The company now models scenarios to assess alternatives and does deep dives on top products using the same data that drives everyday decision-making in its supply chain. Everything is connected.

 

Transformational results

While MSD is still in the early phases of its supply chain planning transformation, it has already achieved results. For the first time ever, the company now has:

 

  • Global visibility of its inventory for all finished goods
  • Exception-based planning for min/max inventory levels
  • Replenishment strategies implemented across sites and hubs
  • A governance structured with designated work stream leaders from across the company

Want to learn more about MSD’s supply chain planning transformation? Read our complete MSD case study, Removing Silos in End-to-End Supply Chain Planning.

 

The post MSD’s journey to remove silos in its end-to-end supply chain appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.

 

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Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/msds-journey-remove-silos-end-end-supply-chain/

by Teresa Chiykowski

Sustainable supply chainChocolates, wine, flowers, jewelry? What will you buy for the special person in your life this Valentine’s Day? Not planning to buy anything at all? You might want to seriously rethink that decision before you show up empty-handed.

 

Over the years, Valentine’s Day has become big business.

 

As you know, Valentine’s Day is an annual holiday, celebrated on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus. Today, Valentine’s Day is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world.

 

Commercial celebration is right.

 

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are poised to spend more than $18 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2017. That comes to about $137.57 per person. I’d really love a $137.57 box of chocolates. Heck, let’s round it up to $140 and skip the sentimental greeting card.

 

Consumers’ changing expectations

In a recent infographic, How to get your supply chain ready for the future, we highlighted three factors driving the need for supply chain change. One of those factors is sustainability and accountability. This means, in addition to growth and profitability goals, companies must pursue sustainable development, including environment protection, social justice and equity, and economic development. It’s what today’s consumers expect. In a February 2017 article, SCM World Chief Content Officer Kevin O’Marah underscored the importance of meeting consumers’ expectations, saying, “Shoppers believe their buying decisions make a difference and are increasingly willing to drop brands who fail to deliver on sustainability and climate change promises.”

 

So, if we look at some of the sustainable supply chains behind a few Valentine’s Day favorites, what are these companies doing to demonstrate their commitment to sustainable supply chain management and development? I did some digging and found out some interesting things.

 

Say “yes” to chocolatey goodness

Hershey’s business practices affect everyone in its supply chain, from cocoa farmers and their communities to employees, shareholders and customers. When Hershey’s says an ingredient is sustainably sourced, it is farmed in a responsible manner so the land, people and community that produced it can continue to thrive. Hershey Company is also a founding member of CocoaAction, which helps build educational and community resources, and improve labor practices in West Africa, where improving cocoa sustainability is critical.

 

Raise a glass to land conservation

E&J Gallo Winery’s commitment to the environment began in the 1930s when co-founders Ernest and Julio Gallo introduced an innovative approach to land conservation in the North Coast known as the “50/50 Give Back” plan. For every acre of land planted in a vineyard, one acre of property was set aside for wildlife habitat — a practice that continues today. I’ll toast to that!

 

Show the love with fair trade flowers

Although not a manufacturer or procurer of fresh cut flowers, Green America has a mission when it comes to the planet: “harness economic power — the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace — to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.”  In addition to fair wages and labor practices, Green America’s Fair Trade flower certification ensures that farms comply with rigorous environmental standards governing the use of pesticides, conservation of water, treatment of wastewater, protection of ecosystems and more.

 

Beware of diamonds in the rough

In 2002, the UN adopted the Kimberley Process — a joint governments, industry and civil society to stem the flow of conflict diamonds (rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments). How do you ensure you’re buying a conflict-free diamond when that special moment comes? One article I read recommends asking to see the diamond’s System of Warranties statement. It’s a notice on all invoices for the sale of rough diamonds, polished diamonds and jewelry containing diamonds stating the diamonds in question have been purchased from legitimate sources and that the seller guarantees they are conflict free.

 

Wrapping it all up

Consumers’ growing expectations for companies to do the right thing, are making organizations rethink the supply chain. Greater transparency, corporate social responsibility, and environmental sustainability aren’t just nice-to-haves anymore; rather, they’re imperatives for capturing the hearts and wallets of consumers.

 

Do you have any stories to share about exemplary supply chains? We’d love to hear from you.

 

The post Looking at the sustainable supply chains behind some classic Valentine’s Day favorites appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.

 

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Originally posted by Teresa Chiykowski at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/looking-sustainable-supply-chains-behind-classic-valentines-day-favorites/

by Teresa Chiykowski

This is the final blog post in our three-part series discussing ways to improve supply chain collaboration.

 

Supply chain collaborationIf you’ve read the first blog posts in this series, you should have a pretty good idea of two main reasons why supply chain collaboration is failing – fundamental . You should also have a better understanding how to fix what’s “broke” when it comes to data and processes.

 

Today, I’m going to tackle a third fundamental reason collaboration is failing: the disconnect between the people overseeing the supply chain.

 

The challenge: Disconnected people

Supply chains don’t run themselves – not yet anyway.

 

From demand and supply planners, to inventory managers and capacity planners, humans play a pivotal role in keeping the supply chain moving and customers happy and loyal.

 

But there’s a problem. Not everyone in the supply chain talks to each other.

 

Stakeholders are often distributed globally. As a result, they make decisions with little understanding of or visibility into their cross-functional impact. Without collaboration, critical decisions can’t be made quickly, which can lead to supply chain disruption and the inability to mitigate risks before they turn into disasters.

 

Streamlining the supply chain requires close collaboration among all partners, whether they’re located in the building, across the country or around the world. The speed at which organizations can connect internally with other business units and externally with select manufacturers, suppliers and customers is critical to success.

 

So the question is, “How can you get people connecting, communicating and collaborating in real time to make optimal decisions faster?” Good question.

 

The solution: Connecting stakeholders, data and processes

If the lag time to share planning decision results can be eliminated and people have a way to concurrently assess impact, conversations related to tradeoffs and compromises can flow seamlessly across the supply chain. Making critical decisions in time to drive value requires everyone to see their data and planning process results in the moment at exactly the same time.

 

When you enable this level of connecting people, supply chains become more responsive to their customers and have a greater ability to navigate through unexpected events. Add instant access to related supply chain data, plus the ability to run processes in one place, and what do you get? The kind of collaboration that can drive supply chain excellence.

 

With that in mind, how does supply chain collaboration stack up in your organization?

 

If you want to learn more about how to connect supply chain data, processes and people to pave the way to better collaboration, check out the eBook: 3 Ways to Improve Supply Chain Collaboration.

 

The post Improving Supply Chain Collaboration: Connecting People appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.

 

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Originally posted by Teresa Chiykowski at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/improving-supply-chain-collaboration-connecting-people/

by Alexa Cheater

supply chain glocalNope, that’s not a typo. I really did mean glocal. In case the term is new to you, glocal, in a supply chain context, is the blending of global integration with local responsiveness. I first heard the term only a few months ago during Zoltan Pekar’s presentation at our annual training and user conference, Kinexions. Pekar, the VP of Roland DG’s Global SCM Division, gave some interesting insights on the changing role of IT in supply chain. You can check out a recap of his presentation in my blog The Changing Role of IT in End-to-End Supply Chain Management or check out his presentation yourself on our YouTube channel.

 

What really jumped out for me during his session was this idea of glocalization. As defined by the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, “glocalization is the adaptation of globally marketed products and services to local markets.” And apparently the term has been around since the late 1980s, first appearing in print in the Harvard Business Review.

 

Global companies have been using glocalization for years when it comes to products and services. Restaurant mega chain McDonald’s is an example easily identified by most. Their regional menus offer things like the Chicken Maharaja Mac in India, the Croque McDo in Belgium and the KiwiBurger in New Zealand. Automotive manufacturers are another great example, although many of the differences between European and North American car models are due to specific regulations, with the most obvious being which side the steering wheel is on and whether the speedometers show miles per hour of kilometers per hour.

 

But what are the supply chain implications of glocalization? And, how do supply chains actually become glocal themselves?

 

Well the answer to the first questions is probably pretty obvious. Global companies need to account for regional variances in product preferences. As mentioned, this isn’t anything new or particularly Earth shattering (although it might have been when the concept was first introduced – as I was still in diapers, I can’t really attest to that). That means supply chains need end-to-end visibility across all nodes of the value chain, regardless of geographic location.

 

They also need the flexibility to respond to changing regional supply and demands quickly and efficiently. There needs to be an effective system in place to manage demand across multiple global and regional locations, as well as across product hierarchies. That means generating demand plans with input from all stakeholders – including sales, marketing, operations and finance. And optimizing inventory. You must balance market and customer needs against supply chain capabilities and risk. Planning, monitoring and responding concurrently is a critical factor in a company’s ability to know sooner and act faster.

 

It’s those same characteristics that help supply chains become glocal themselves, blending global integration with local responsiveness. But there are certainly challenges when it comes to glocal supply chains. The first is overcoming the multitude of disparate systems used across each location. It’s not uncommon for companies to have numerous ERPs systems, a smattering of Excel spreadsheets and dozens of other archaic systems in place – especially if they’ve grown through acquisitions, which is often the case these days.

 

Harmonizing all that data requires an overlaying supply chain management solution that can collect and analyze information from all sources, all while using advanced analytics to output multiple scenario options when changes need to be made.

 

Disparate processes also present a problem when tackling a glocal supply chain. Decentralized authority, which can accompany regionalization, results in each location working toward its own goals and objectives, instead of focusing on company-wide metrics and KPIs. The focus needs to be on the company as a whole, not its individual parts. Now I’m not saying each region can’t operate slightly differently – holidays, working hours and cultural differences are to be expected. But the overall processes and measurements need to stay consistent.

 

Bringing together the people involved in your supply chain is also a necessity. Overcoming this supply chain obstacle means finding a way to foster better company-wide collaboration, regardless of where employees and operations are based.

 

By connecting data, process and people, you’ll be able to successfully manage a glocal supply chain, one that’s globally integrated and functioning as a holistic whole, but still provides the responsiveness required to meet local and regional requirements.

 

What do you think about glocal supply chains? Let us know in the comments section. We’d love to hear your thoughts on if this is a supply chain trend you’re interested in following.

 

The post Is it time to take your supply chain glocal? appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.

 

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Originally posted by Alexa Cheater at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/time-take-supply-chain-glocal/

by Melissa Clow

For Xilinx Inc., a supplier of programmable logic devices, the focus is more on speed than optimization, says Alex Brown, vice president of supply chain.

 

That’s not to say the latter is unimportant. After all, Brown was trained in the area of optimization, but he says data, always uncertain, changes every day. “We want to make decisions quickly, we want to be able to run things quickly, we want to know as fast as we can the sensitivity of a problem and what the key parameters are that affect decisions. Then, too, we focus on speed because it allows us to focus on problems other than just planning. It’s the data management problem, for example, where we make mistakes.”

 

Alex Brown shared a great quote by Steve Jobs who shares his philosophy:

 

Steve Jobs Philosophy

 

Fight the urge to be precise. Try to think about solving the business problem not the price mathematical issue. Their lesson was you have to get your core infrastructure straight so that you can model your core complexity well. And what allows Xillinx to embrace and tame this complexity is their supply chain planning technology.

 

In one platform, Xilinx receives signals continuously across the supply chain – because of the depth of its integration with its suppliers and customers, Brown says. How those signals are processed is extremely important. “That goes back to speed, about the speed of being able to process those signals quickly. When you have a signal, you have to know right away how that affects your output decision.”

 

It’s one of the key reasons, he says, why Xilinx became a Kinaxis customer to leverage its supply chain management software. “I like the Kinaxis heuristics because they are transparent and make it easy to understand that when input change occurs, the output changes as well.”

 

Kinaxis RapidResponse is used for all planning across the board at Xilinx. “It’s used everywhere in the organization now. People wouldn’t think to not have it anymore. It’s like having a computer or Excel. It’s become like that.”

 

Specifically, the platform has helped solve a fundamental semiconductor problem related to performance binning. “If I was not able to solve that, and we couldn’t with just a simple MRP system and a bunch of very smart planners, there would be tens of millions of dollars in excess and obsolete inventory that would happen every quarter. So it has major value for us.”

 

Upper management buy-in and subject matter expertise ensured that implementation would be relatively pain-free, Brown says. Before the product was selected, key users from each function and supply chain were tasked with a two-week pilot to test the usability of the system. “Obviously, they all came back and said RapidResponse was the right tool.”

 

Xilinx: Taming Supply Chain Complexity

 

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Originally posted by Melissa Clow at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/xilinx-fight-urge-precise-supply-chain-technology-helping-xilinx/

by Justin King

Supply chain technology questions

 

For most humans, the fear of public speaking ranks #1 on the list of ‘things most feared’ – often scoring higher than death. Apparently my genes were cross-connected at some point and I actually enjoy opportunities to speak. In my role as a Technology Evangelist for Kinaxis, I jump at any opportunity to talk to our customers or prospects about their technology needs. A typical day might have us sitting down with those who are evaluating the solution and walking through the planning process. The business team would show the capabilities live in the tool and then at the end of the session we will often open up the floor for questions. Usually I’ll get very thought-provoking questions that are quite relevant to the conversation . Occasionally I’ll get “that guy” who wants to sound smart, asking what color network cables we use or why we don’t use 8,192-bit keys rotated on an hourly basis. Recently, I was asked a question that really took me by surprise. The prospect asked, “What questions should we be asking, but aren’t?”

 

At the time, I was taken by surprise and probably didn’t come up with a good answer; however, I’ve given this much thought and now have compiled a list of questions that I think every organization should ask their technology vendor – regardless of what they are buying.

 

1. How many products are you offering?

In a past life, I spent many years selling supply chain software where at times I had to try to convince the prospect that the five products, each with their own technical stacks, databases, coding standards, and heritages were somehow going to magically work well together. Every inter-module integration adds latency to the process and creates a batch-oriented supply chain planning solution. Concurrent Planning demands the opposite – a single view of data across the entire Supply Chain – with supply and demand that are connected together such that a change in one instantly reflects a change in the other. This is not possible without a single product sitting on a single database.

 

2. Is the vendor at the forefront of innovation?

This one can be a bit difficult – because ‘marketecture’ can make even the oldest, most convoluted mashing together of multiple platforms to look great. I get a good laugh every now and then watching product release announcements or videos where concepts like in-memory computing are touted as ‘cutting edge’ or the next ‘wave of innovation.’ If a software company is just now catching on…well, you’re late to the party. Look for a vendor who has solid experience in in-memory technology and ideally who has a purpose-built architecture for Supply Chain.

 

Here at Kinaxis, we caught the wave about 15 years ago, and that’s why our purpose-built in-memory model can out-perform every other solution in the space.

 

3. Can you show me all the tools/files/schedulers that I need to touch to evolve the solution?

This one will make most demo guys cringe. It’s really hard to show the inner workings without airing the dirty laundry! A lot of this came from the migration to Cloud. While early adopters of Cloud built their solutions to Cloud-native, latecomers found themselves scrambling to make their solutions work in a hosted environment. Often this meant the adoption of third-party schedulers, source-control for configuration files, and Citrix for rendering legacy UI’s. Ask the tough questions and see how well the solution was built for the Cloud.

 

Here, we welcome the question…because it’s all in the standard UI.

 

4. What independent audits prove your cloud security works?

Make sure you find a vendor that has gone through the rigors of becoming SOC 2 Type II certified and is maintaining compliance. It is important that both data center and internal operations are audited on an annual basis to ensure that compliance is maintained over a period of time. Remember, this is more than just ensuring that the data center facility provider is certified, but the software company itself as well. Look for both audits and make sure they are in compliance.

 

5. Can you create new scenarios live in the software?

Getting scenario planning right is very difficult – that’s why designing the capability into the database code is critical. This approach is unique to Kinaxis, and is yet another reason why our planning engine speed is unrivaled. Many solutions can show the semblance of scenario planning with pre-defined ‘buckets’ where certain what-if planning can occur… but can it be done on the fly? How long does it take to create or setup? Is it limited to certain metrics or views? We hope you’ll ask all vendors to show you how it works.

 

6. Can you show me some live real-time integration?

I have to admit – I would never want you to ask me this question in my past. Integration using a demo environment can be very difficult…but if it’s difficult in a demo environment, how much harder must it be in a production environment? Any solution that is capable of connecting to SAP using a standard template should be able to be demoed. Any solution that is capable of receiving real-time data, such as with Web Services, should be able to be demoed. Ask to see it live during your next meeting.

 

If I were you, these are the questions that I would be asking. Sure, meeting the business functionality is key…but don’t forget that the underlying technology will be the real make-or-break when it comes to the ongoing evolution of your supply chain. Does the platform have what it takes to make you successful? These questions will help you find out.

 

So, the next time a prospect asks me “what questions should we be asking” I’ll be ready. As for you – you’re one step ahead. You already know what questions to ask… and we hope you will.

 

The post Technology questions YOU should be asking appeared first on The 21st Century Supply Chain.

 

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Originally posted by Justin King at http://blog.kinaxis.com/2017/02/technology-questions-asking/

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