Last week my reading brought me to this article “Managing The Basic Supply Chain Functions“ . In the article Professor Paul Dittman from the University of Tennessee outlines what he considers are the Five Pillars of Supply Chain Excellence:
- Talent is the first of the five pillars driving supply chain excellence. If you don’t have the right people in place, you can’t build an appropriate strategy – and you certainly can’t execute it. Finding talent for supply chain positions has unique challenges due in large part to the cross-functional and cross-company pressures supply chain executives face today.
- Technology is always critical, but the real key is making sure you choose the right supply chain technology and successfully implement it. Improperly understood or implemented technology can cause severe damage rather than improvement. You must be careful in how you select and apply the latest supply chain technologies, especially given the extremely complex nature of today’s global supply chains.
- Internal collaboration means that each function in your firm plays a critical role in building a successful supply chain. Effective internal collaboration will help you develop a clear vision for how all the functions can work together to achieve supply chain excellence. The New Supply Chain Agenda includes a self-assessment worksheet you can complete to honestly evaluate your process for aligning the demand and supply sides of the firm.
- External collaboration focuses on how your company can achieve breakthrough results by collaborating externally with both your suppliers and your customers. Best practices for collaboration exist and are being applied by more and more firms.
- Managing supply chain change is the last but equally critical pillar of a supply chain excellence strategy. If you don’t execute change successfully, everything else is for naught. You need to learn how to increase your chances of success on the path to supply chain excellence. Because of their cross-functional, cross-company nature, supply chain projects are more difficult to implement than those in other functional areas.
While it can be argued that five other components could be considered equally important, these five points are undoubtedly critical to achieving Supply Chain excellence.
What I find particularly interesting is that Dittman puts collaboration as 2 of the 5 major pillars of excellence. Why does Dittman rank collaboration so highly?
I would argue it is because collaboration is the way work gets done - whether internal or external. All actors in the supply chain collaborate whether they are conscious of the act or not. Collaboration takes place at the planning, execution and management levels. Collaboration is cross-functional and takes place among multiple parties. Collaboration is both formal and informal. Collaboration supports both tactical and strategic activity.
Furthermore, I would argue that because collaboration is so basic to doing work, an organization cannot excel at managing change (point 5) if the organization does not have superior collaboration capabilities and infrastructure.
Today, there are different technologies that go to support collaboration. Obviously some tools are better than others in supporting the flow of information inside and among organizations . However, the effectiveness of a collaboration tool is measured by its uptake in the organization. In order to be accepted and broadly used by all levels of the user community it must be simple to use and organic to the work process. It must be designed to facilitate not just the formal requirements of early generation collaborative tools such as document sharing and structured interaction but it must have the added attribute of being extremely flexible and supportive of rapid interaction for common work purpose.