IT Seeks Low-Code Solutions to Run Global Supply Chains
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IT Seeks Low-Code Solutions to Run Global Supply Chains

Susan Roberts, senior director, analytics and Kelli Smith, senior director, product, GEP
Susan Roberts, senior director, analytics and Kelli Smith, senior director, product, GEP

Susan Roberts, senior director, analytics and Kelli Smith, senior director, product, GEP

Over the last several years, every manufacturer has been forced to build supply chain resilience on the fly. And it’s getting even harder, despite the easing of the pandemic. Disruptions, geopolitics, cyberattacks, inflation and price volatility are wreaking havoc with companies’ complex, multigeography global supply chains — and there’s no end in sight.

Despite investing years and many millions, supply chain leaders are being hampered by their technology platforms. Multinationals have been unable to capture the critical data from suppliers and sub-suppliers two or three tiers down in the chain. And instead of leaning on the best of the digital technology toolkit, supply chain leaders are relying on spreadsheets, historical sales data and news reports about continuing disruptions in key production and logistical hubs.

Historically, supply chain and procurement software wasn’t a top priority for CIOs and their IT organizations. Organizations tended to rely on modules from the ERP solutions built for finance. That’s all changed in the last 16 months, as supply chain disruptions became a boardroom priority and more than half of European and North American business leaders committed to making “significant changes to manage supply chain disruptions in the next five years.     

"Low code helps supply chain managers to quickly adapt to changes in operations and, at the same time, keep up with the pace of innovation"

In the same way dedicated enterprise solutions providers such as Adobe (for marketers) and Workday (for HR) carved out territory from Swiss-army-knife-styled ERP providers, supply chain leaders are seeking platforms expressly designed to run their complex operations. Companies are investing in solutions expressly to improve resilience, data analytics and artificial intelligence to drive smart manufacturing.

So, how should you invest in solutions to automate and build resilient, data-driven nimble global value chains?

Select a low-code platform: Low code is more than just a buzzword; it’s a first-class development approach to help you be more agile and resilient when disruptions occur. But not all low code is created equal! Many providers claim to offer low code, but instead it’s actually a pro code development approach where developers code but leverage common low code components. With this, you’ll still need pro code developers, who are currently hard to find and retain given the scarcity of IT talent.

 This is where low code comes into play. It helps supply chain managers to quickly adapt to changes in operations and, at the same time, keep up with the pace of innovation. With low-code capabilities, it won’t take 10 months to build and deploy an app; instead, it should take 10-12 weeks or less, depending on the complexity.

With any low-code platform you choose, configurability is the key. It’s not simply about the ability to create an app faster — any prebuilt supply chain or procurement solution should be easy to extend and configure to align with your business processes.

Begin with the insights and data you need, not features and function: Ask what insights drive supply chain decisions. Work backward to ensure your solutions provide supply chain leaders with a single portal coupling real-time internal and external data, verified by third parties who are commercially on the hook for the quality of that data. The external data feeds ¾ all readily available today ¾ should include public health information, commodities pricing, shipping and logistical costs, weather forecasts, and port and factory closures, along with financial information about key suppliers. By integrating external intelligence feeds with internal data, including orders, inventory, shipments and supplier information to scan for predictive patterns, companies are able to identify potential issues and provide realistic alternates.

 Select software that automates processes: Most companies focus on automating physical assets, such as using robots and automated vehicles, in warehouses. This is an especially pressing need because of labor shortages. As a result, however, companies deprioritize software automation. The industry priority now is to automate processes within procurement and supply chain software. For instance, automating accounts payable can enable faster payments, bolster compliance and, of course, save time and money, freeing up employees to focus on strategic challenges.

 Inflation and supply chain snarls and shortages have shocked world trade, forcing company IT leaders to invest heavily in technology platforms to build resilience and agility. It has proven costly to rely on ERP solutions. Instead, look for low-code platforms with visual, real-time reporting portals that combine external data with a company’s internal demand, inventory and supplier risk assessment to deliver actionable insights for navigating uncertainty.

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