Oct 30, 2006 0
In this concluding review of the report titled – Creating the Optimal Supply Chain published by experts from Wharton and BCG, I take a look at the section titled – Supply Chain Enterprise Systems: The Silver Bullet?. In earlier posts, I had reviewed the first three sections namely, You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure’: Maximizing Supply Chain Value, Avoiding the Cost of Inefficiency: Coordination and Collaboration in Supply Chain Management and Flexibility in the Face of Disaster: Managing the Risk of Supply Chain Disruption. The report – Creating the Optimal Supply Chain is available online as well.
There can be little doubt in the minds of supply chain professionals and practitioners that managing the supply chain is no easy task no matter how simplified the meta level process diagram looks like that neatly shows product flows in one direction and information flows in the other. It is precisely because supply chain management is such a complicated issue that Supply Chain Enterprise systems have appeared on the scene from a variety of vendors – SAP, Oracle, i2, Manhattan etc. However, since supply chain management is a rather complex task in itself, systems deployed to facilitate supply chain management are also complex such that a practitioner now has to deal with supply chain complexity through a complex system. And thus go I to say – “Have you really solved a problem when your solution creates two new problems?” This task is not made any easier when you have to wade through not only a complicated solution set but oodles of marketing gimmicks, ploys (and well meaning marketing professionals as well), endless half promises with inflated verbiage and out and out term misuse.
According to supply chain experts from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Wharton, applying enterprise systems technology to supply chains is often a difficult undertaking with an uncertain outcome; in reports and cases cited by both BCG and Wharton, companies that have implemented supply chain technologies often fail to leverage the new systems for a competitive advantage.
That is by itself not surprising at all. The success of a supply chain system implementation (or for that matter any type of implementation) is limited by the capability of the people deploying and using the system. Furthermore, in order to use such technology to create competitive advantage is a task of an order well above the capability that some firms possess or are even in the process of acquisition.