I think the focus this year will swing away from simply cutting costs, and toward learning how to cope with an era of unpredictable, mercurial change.
The rules already are in flux. We’ve been in a global recession for the last two years, and yet the ocean carriers’ rates have risen because of decisions the carriers have made about capacity. Add to that inflation in China, resulting in higher costs, leading in turn to pressures to change sources; combine that with fears of a double-dip recession, and you’ve got a very uncertain world.
The situation calls for an unprecedented level of agility and responsiveness, and the key to that is a globally connected supply chain management platform.
A cloud-based data platform that allows you to quickly access information up and down the supply chain powers the visibility and control that’s crucial in gaining and maintaining competitive advantage. The beauty of the cloud model is the initial costs are minimal, since you’re renting the technology rather than buying, installing and maintaining it. Also, it’s very scalable. You can start with one piece of your operation, measure the improvements, and move on from there.
A related change I anticipate in 2011 is that companies that use these supply chain platforms will thrive because this smart technology allows them to build inter-enterprise communities that collaborate like tribes, working to maximize each member’s best interest for the benefit of the whole. These connected tribes will have access to information, sources, analytics and options they simply didn’t have before, hugely boosting competitive advantage.
So although Web-based cloud technology is great for shaving dollars off the bottom line, it’s also going to boost revenue and create strong new communities of shared interest.
I don’t think we can even imagine yet all the benefits that kind of collaboration will bring.