May 11, 2015 by David Riffel
I recently participated in a Supply & Demand Chain Executive panel webinar on the procurement challenges of small and mid-size companies. As you can imagine, the challenges are many, ranging from poor visibility, productivity, and predictability, to low inventory turns, difficulty gathering data to measure supplier performance, and problems reconciling/matching/paying supplier invoices on time.
Upgrading existing or implementing new Supply Chain tools is a strong option to address these challenges, but many times small or mid-size companies hold a perception that it is too difficult or too expensive; that today’s supply chain management solutions are still fit and priced for larger companies.
Fortunately, that is not the case. Best practices and technologies are now available to companies of all sizes; and with the increase in supply chain management education and experience, supply chain subject matter experts are also available to small and mid-sized companies…either via internal resources or a reputable consultant. Small, mid-sized and large companies alike are now reaping the benefits of a single or small group of focused individuals within the organization that are tasked with bringing best practices into the organization, as well as monitoring and leading improvements and upgrades for the supply chain.
A recent, beneficial trend in forward-thinking companies is to develop a position for what is called a “Supply Chain Evangelist.” This is someone who has a good understanding of the company’s end-to-end supply chain and can act as a passionate champion for improvement, investment and upgrades.
Often, supply chain projects fail to gain momentum or funding priority because of a lack of understanding and support across critical areas of the organization. Staff members typically want to understand why change is necessary, especially when it affects them personally. Without buy-in and commitment, it is difficult to gain momentum and support for change. In addition to bringing best practices into the organization, the supply chain evangelist is tasked with articulating the clear and compelling vision for the project and explaining why the change is important for the company and, sometimes more importantly, important for the impacted staff.
The supply chain evangelist can be a formal or informal role within the company (it’s more likely to be a “formalized role” in a larger or more complex organization), but either way, it is important that they have the visible support of upper management to ensure they can garner the respect and appropriate authority to develop and implement much needed improvements. This allows them to share and implement the vision for the initiative across the company.
A good supply chain evangelist also helps the company see beyond isolated savings in specific areas. This helps to affect a more global view of the impact and the dependencies each area within the supply chain has on others. For example, a small change in how procurement issues purchase orders can drive significant time and cost savings in AP from reduced invoice matching and reconciliation efforts.
The supply chain evangelist can also help to establish the company’s organizational mindset. The cultural attitude toward changes, new initiatives, and new ideas can often have a great impact on a company’s ability to execute a successful project. The supply change evangelist is critical in helping to create a proper, positive organizational mindset, and ultimately the organizational will to place a priority on making the change happen.
As a mid-size company, it’s easy for all levels of the organization to feel like there are not enough resources or time to kick-off and successfully implement a project. This can lead to being stuck like a “deer in the headlights” – worrying about your perceived and actual constraints.
However, there is a high cost of waiting and missing out on the significant supply chain improvements that can be had by a well-executed implementation of the appropriate new processes and tools. It’s also a safe bet that your competition is working to continuously improve their supply chain, and you don’t want to be left behind.
Leverage the power of a supply chain evangelist to get your company on board with on the opportunity supply chain upgrades can offer your business.
You and your team may want to check out these resources for additional supply chain education to support your supply chain evangelist initiative:
Supply Chain Online offers a course written by Dr. Warren H. Hausman, Founder of Supply Chain Seminars and Professor in the Department of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University: https://www.supplychainonline.com/
The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals offers the SCPro™ certification program: http://cscmpcertification.org/
And, the #1 school for supply chain management, Michigan State University, offers a robust online program: http://www.michiganstateuniversityonline.com/programs/certificate/supply-chain-management/