March 10, 2016 by Steve Rice
The success of mid-market enterprises is fueled by efficient, integrated and aligned supply chain operations. However, with day-to-day distractions, leadership often has limited time and energy to seek and implement measures to enhance collaboration and productivity across departmental operations.
To combat this challenge and gain a competitive advantage, mid-market companies should consider creating a supply chain evangelist – an individual responsible for coaching employees and helping departments across the organization prioritize and streamline the supply chain. In addition to implementing strategic alignment, the evangelist offers a clear and compelling vision for the entire supply chain strategy, explaining why change is important to the company and staff.
A supply chain evangelist develops an effective supply chain by collecting and organizing all the disparate components of an often-fragmented supply chain strategy. While a thorough understanding of their company’s supply chain is crucial foundational knowledge, the evangelist should also serve as a passionate champion for its improvement and advancement.
By providing positive impact and growth, supply chains are instrumental to operational efficiency; supply chain experts, however, have not always been included in C-level strategic decisions.
This disconnect between the supply chain’s importance and the lack of executive- level representation often occurs because organizations don’t have a single individual with the leadership ability, vision and authority to serve as the supply chain ambassador for business strategy, growth and net income.
The absence of well-defined and dedicated supply chain leadership is particularly true for mid-market companies whose departments may perform two or more roles and lack resources directed specifically at supply chain improvement. Materials management and purchasing,
for example, may both fall under one department despite different skillset requirements. The supply chain evangelist can help facilitate cross-organizational collaboration, encouraging teams to view and interact with the supply chain in a uniform way.
Organizational change begins with an over-the-horizon view of how the supply chain fits into corporate strategy. The supply chain evangelist provides a comprehensive perspective to all supply chain stakeholders, so that leadership can steer employee focus away from isolated benefits (i.e., “What can the supply chain do for me?”) toward specific departmental impacts on the larger end-to-end supply chain (i.e., “How can I help the supply chain improve the company as a whole?”).
The details of supply chain evolution require continuous attention to and appreciation of the organization’s subcultures. The culture of a sales and marketing department can differ from that of purchasing, manufacturing, engineering or accounting not only by function but also by talent and personality. Those differences are only heightened when departments have varying objectives.
Linking isolated departments is a long-standing challenge to achieving operational efficiency. Individual managers have little time to think about synergy in the midst of resolving the immediate and pressing needs of their own departmental teams, whether working on audits and quarterly reporting in accounting or product development in engineering. Shifting individual focus to encompass the larger organizational “big picture” can be an exercise in cultural change best led by a supply chain evangelist.
A recent PwC Global Supply Chain Survey found that although many great supply technologies exist, companies do not take advantage of them. “The existing suite of innovative supply chain technologies includes RFID and other digital capabilities, new visibility and statistical decision tools and technology to facilitate further process automation and efficiency,” the research stated. The evangelist will be keenly aware of IT trends in the market because they’ll know that technology is the bedrock of a successful supply chain. One of the greatest risks to an organization, however, is not properly using or fully adopting purchased and implemented technology.
This breakdown on the road to deployment can occur for a variety of reasons. If the software in one department is more advanced than another, or incompatible with another department’s system, the whole becomes weaker than the sum of its parts. Bridging these implementation- adoption technology gaps is another reason to consider adding and empowering a supply change evangelist.
To ensure the supply chain is equipped with the right tools to succeed, the evangelist can not only check that existing technologies are utilized properly, but can also use their ability as an organizational and process change agent to influence and advocate for new, cost-effective technologies to ensure they
meet the precise needs of end users.
As mid-market organizations become more globally competitive, well-managed and integrated supply chains act as a strategic advantage. By focusing on cultural alignment, process change and technological alignment, a supply chain evangelist can help drive supply chain integration.
For many organizations – especially those in the mid-market that have thin margins and limited cash flow – the supply chain often falls off executive priority lists. Creating a dedicated supply chain evangelist will ensure the supply chain receives the attention it deserves.