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A Reflection on Global Supply Chain Management Technology Needs in the SAP Universe

by Bob Ferrari

March 23, 2011

Hello to everyone in the SAP Insider community, I’m Bob Ferrari and I’m the Executive Editor and Founder of the Supply Chain Matters blog.   This blog provides ongoing commentary on global supply chain developments, supply chain business process and IT challenges among various industries and companies.

 This week, I’ve been attending the Logistics and Supply Chain Management 2011 conference being held here in Orlando.  I’ve enjoyed attending previous SAP Insider conferences, and this conference is no exception.  You are welcomed to view our commentaries by linking here. If you’re attending this year’s event, please seek me out since I always eager to speak with community members.  It is an outstanding opportunity to meet-up with industry and other company representatives who all have common interests in getting the most benefit and productivity from their SAP technology.

 Taking in this year’s conference, there is some thoughts I would like to share with the community.  This year, as with last, SAP has added  more functionality, technology and deployment options for customers to take advantage of, particularly in the broad process needs of supply cha in management, product lifecycle management and procurement. The good news of course is that SAP is listening and responding to your needs. That was not so in the past, and today, there are far more SAP and partner ecosystem options for either getting started with a new SAP application, or jump-starting an existing non-utilized application.

Each year that I come, my sense is that certain SAP customers can tend to get bogged-down or side-tracked with a previous implementation.  Speaking with some attendees at this year’s conference sessions, its seems that the gap in SAP’s roadmap vs. some current customer instances continues to widen. The issues may be process, people, or technology in scope, and they can hamper obvious needs to add more responsiveness and quicker decision making. In some cases, organizations take a conservative lens to what may be viewed as new and unproven technology.  For instance, some organizations continue with APO release 3.0/3.1 while the current release lies in 7.0. This is not meant to be a call-to-arms for upgrading immediately, but rather some food for thought. 

Managing the complexity of globally extended supply chain processes has become quite dynamic and ever more challenging. Consider the events of just the last few weeks with numerous supply chain disruptions and now the effects of the devastating earthquake that occurred in Japan

It has become ever more apparent that efficient yet responsive management of global supply chains has been recognized by the C-level executives as a key business differentiator.  Robust business processes and reliable technology are the fabric that yield required fulfillment capabilities. 

Many will describe the “new normal” of post-recession business.  I argue that one of the most important considerations of the “new normal” is the faster clock speed of business change and consequent faster decision-making cycles. Older technology, while reliable, may not have the horsepower to fuel these changing business norms.

The takeaway is this.  At the very least, take a fresh and objective look at your current processes and technology tools in light of where technology is headed.  If internal resources are scarce or over-committed, consider third-party consultants and integrators who are willing to provide best practices and learning, as well as fresh ideas for moving forward, without breaking the bank.

As businesses prepare for recovery, do not risk getting left behind in the ‘new normal’ of global supply chains.

Bob Ferrari

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