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Solutions are more than just technology

Supply Chain Storyteller - Solutions are more than just technology

My team was the first to use a new forecasting and replenishment tool. Throughout the pre-launch training, there was an emphasis on the number of modifiable factors for tuning item-level forecasts by region.

The impression was that planning teams would be given more flexibility in managing their categories and encouraged to abandon old tools and an overreliance on Excel. However, with the first go-live phase of the deployment, the organization, from hourly associates to executives, wasn’t ready for that.

There were too many things to fix, so the promises of the newest technology wouldn’t come quickly. Instead of everyone taking ownership of their tool setup, only the core internal team and the external consultants could update parameters. The confidence in the new solution waned as planners struggled to understand how their daily activities impacted key metrics like inventory values and in-stock percentages.

Eventually, the group VP initiated a new metric, the number of item-region combinations adjusted daily and weekly, to encourage planners to work more within the system and to track their work. Given the high volume of plannable items planners and this new objective to perform the most work possible, many planners fell into repeatable sequences of tasks done quickly.

By showcasing the new technology as the all-encompassing “solution,” the vendor and the company inadvertently flipped the outcome. In this instance, the new tool didn’t even represent the same job, but better. Instead, it created new manual workarounds for something that seemed tailor-made for automation.

While some parts of this example are cherry-picked to make a point, the general situation is unfortunately too common. Going all-in on technology without equally advancing strategy, tactics, and storytelling works against the concept of transformation. As one C-level executive once shared with me, it’s essential to understand, “It’s not just the technology, but what we do with it.”

In my experience and insights from senior leaders, a multi-tiered approach at the beginning of a transformation can be especially effective in bringing it all together. For instance,

  • Define the desired future with an eye for specific characteristics like automated forecast tuning and an established sales and operations planning cycle.

  • Find the gaps between the current and desired states, understanding what builds competitive advantage and what filling the gap might mean throughout the hierarchy.

  • Assess the technology, tactics, and timing needed to start filling gaps, making sure to differentiate what can be a quick fix and what needs to be part of a longer-term roadmap.

  • Connect it all by creating a case telling the entire story of what’s to come, why, and when, without making it all about features and functions. Transformation becomes a shared vision when employees engage with missions and stories crafted with them in mind.

Putting in initial thoughtful, creative work makes transformation part of the culture. Take the time and build the robust, lasting solutions your company needs. Let’s chat about how that might look for you – Book a meeting with me

About the Author

Patrick Van Hull

Chief Storyteller at Supply Chain Storyteller


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