Critical Skills for The Future of Supply Chain Planning
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Growing Importance of Supply Chain Planning Skills in Analytics-Driven World
In response to the survey for our upcoming research report, Supply Chain Planning in The Cloud, SAPinsiders highlighted advanced analytics capabilities as the top technology when the current state and immediate next steps timeframe are considered together, as shown in figure 1. As you can see from figure 1, SAPinsiders have indicated that they have started building capabilities in foundational aspects like advanced analytics, and those who have not done it yet, are actively evaluating it. This focus on analytics also brings attention to the importance of supply chain planning skills in the future.
This insight does not have implications only from a technology perspective. In fact, among the three critical buckets of people, processes, and technology, the fact that analytics becomes an integral and essential extension of supply chain planning tools has a key impact on the “people” bucket. We often hear the quote, “It is the supply chain of companies that compete with each other,” but dissect it, and you will find that it is the quality of employees of one company competing with another.
And what does quality imply when it comes to employees? The level of their skills. And now, if we connect the two aspects, we can postulate that what is effectively competing is the capability of the employees to use best-in-class processes and best-of-breed tools to deliver the right product, in the right quantity, at the right time, in the most cost-effective and sustainable way. And if someone has worked consistently in the supply chain domain, they may have seen the evolution of skills needed to run supply chains.
The next key question is, what skill sets are needed, in the context of analytics being extensions of supply chain planning solutions. Low-code/No-code tools are increasingly becoming more and more prevalent. That is putting analytics’s power in the hands of those on the frontline of supply chain planning. So, it is not about the technicalities of the tools and underlying algorithms being leveraged for end-to-end supply chain planning. Certain fundamental skills will apply irrespective of the specific role within end-to-end supply chain planning:
- Process intuition through data: Automated or no-code tools can present you with a set of recommendations, but the ability to interpret the level of real-world feasibility of these recommendations needs a strong ability to combine process intuition and data interpretation.
- Smartness to avoid analysis paralysis: Not many people realize that with more and more automation of planning systems and letting algorithms take control of some or many decision elements of supply chain planning, specifically at the operational planning level, the ability to cut through noise rapidly becomes extremely critical. The fact is that a significant portion of supply chain analytics is done “after the fact” in the current state. With planning becoming more real-time, there needs to be an ability to decipher metrics and KPIs quickly.
- Empathy: Supply chain planning is not essentially about sitting in a cubicle or “control tower” and looking at numbers churned by fancy tools. At its core, the function must ensure that the supply chain operates as seamlessly as feasible. For that, despite what level of automation you have in your end-to-end supply chain planning, continuous improvement will always be necessary. And that cannot happen without understanding the pain points of those working on the shop floors. No matter the automation level in manufacturing and warehousing, there will be shop floor bottlenecks that only those close to these bottlenecks will understand best.