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Three steps to close the gap with IT supply chain issues

The supply chain, once a mostly seamless, behind-the-scenes operation for procurement, is now front-of-mind for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. In Australia, the days of empty supermarket shelves were thought to be over following the first wave of COVID-19.

However decreased access to materials continues, along with staff shortages, and fractured logistics networks. In fact, over half of Australian businesses expect their ability to source materials will continue to be disrupted this year.

Jim Freeman, Chief Technology Officer, for IT services provider Kyndryl Australia & New Zealand provides IT Procurement professionals three tips to fix gaps in your supply chain.

The supply chain issue has had an impact on everything from computer chips to coffee beans, not only affecting smaller players but also big retailers who struggle to source fresh produce. As a result, businesses must address the acute pressures of the pandemic and their supply chain networks by transforming their digital operations and technology investments on the front-end.

While it’s important that manufacturers and retailers continue to prioritise product innovation, flexibility, and speed-to-market, they now must mitigate the supply chain impact on their existing and new customers. IT teams have at least the following three initiatives to fix gaps and help them make faster and more informed decisions:

1. Deepen your understanding of the supply chain

Even if your supply chains are in order and you’re already implementing the right demand forecasting solutions, the covid stress changes the dynamics of your supply chain. That means getting to know who your freight border and shipping contacts are, representing all agents and components of the supply chain. Clear communication, not just technology that helps you communicate better, is key to getting commercial teams and partners to prioritise and assess their supply chains and their products.

In addition, evaluating your existing talent and resources will help to determine any potential gaps. Traditionally, the CIO oversees the technological needs and IT decisions for the organisation, but these functional siloes can slow down the digitalisation of the supply chain. Gartner analysts predict that by 2025, more than half of today’s supply chain organisations will have a technology leadership role reporting directly to the chief supply chain officer. A dedicated technology executive is in a much better position to advance IT investments and create an optimal mix of emerging and maturing solutions that can address their changing business needs.

2. Assess your technology portfolio and build your product roadmap

To understand your desired future state, first assess your current state. Examine how robust networks, artificial intelligence (AI), and edge computing capabilities can help you understand exactly what the pain point in your environment is and how to immediately be able to connect with current customers before they become former customers. These functions include accessing and scaling troves of unstructured on-premises data across a scattered network, then automating data processes through AI-driven critical risk models that can identify vulnerabilities and mitigate structural risks in real-time. Keep in mind that storing data across multiple IT estates and moving it between partners and third parties can leave companies more vulnerable to cyber security risks and data breaches. Assessing infrastructure solutions that support the ability to protect data even when it leaves your platform is crucial.

3. Identify, invest, and capitalise on the right digital strategy at the right time

Most supply chain networks are in need of an infrastructure overhaul to eliminate today’s bottlenecks. With external, global pandemic challenges not going anywhere, it’s important to prioritise your needs and know that it will take time to implement all the IT changes you need to make. Increasing operational efficiency is a matter of skills investment, as well as bringing in advanced technologies.

For example, 67 percent of Australian supply chain leaders are considering implementing predictive analytics according to a report by Australia Post. While this is an important move in making CRM systems more sensitive and responsive to customer demand, it’s important that organisations are ready to embrace this change and have the right skills to implement it. For many CIOs, their biggest challenge is IT infrastructure management, influenced by the fact they often don’t have enough skills, security or resiliency to make the changes they believe are essential to compete in a tightly constrained market.

The global supply chain may take far longer than most businesses or consumers desire to stabilise in a post-COVID economy. To speed up the road to recovery, organisations should find the right technology and infrastructure services partners to help accelerate their IT transformation journey and improve their logistics and supply chain management. The partnership between talent and technology will be fundamental to bridging these gaps because it performs many of the critical functions underpinning a truly robust, reliable, and connected supply chain in 2022.

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