Monday, October 6, 2014

21st Century SCM Challenges and Opportunities for Executives: Understanding IT and the Big Data Revolution as a First Step

IT management, big data and analytics are important for the future of supply chain management. However, we often associate supply chain management with manufacturing and tangible goods and not the former. There is something inherently appealing to people about having a tangible end product - as we saw with the example of LittleBits in the Giridharas article - of creating. Supply chain management deals with how various parts come together in this process of creating, so it may seem counterintuitive as to why supply chain management and big data should go hand-in-hand. After all, big data and analytics is associated with data mining and IT engineers in dark backrooms fussing over estimated net usage, and not tangible end products. Herein lies the contradiction: data can on one hand be the end product, while also being the source material whereupon decisions are made.

If we see data analytics and big data as drivers for optimization, then it seems there is no denying the importance or impact of big data and analytics can have on supply chain management. However, there seem to be a gap between having management understand IT and its importance on optimizing supply chain management. Therefore, the questions that I think we should ask is how do we bridge the gap and bring IT, Big Data and Analytics to the forefront?

Zettelmeyer’s article “Billy Beane Shows Why Leaders Can't Leave Data Science to the Data Scientists” cements the notion that companies need leaders, who have a modicum of understanding and who can champion better utilization to get results. As Zettelmeyer puts it:

[leaders] need to know enough: enough to judge what good analytics looks like, enough to identify the parts of their business where analytics can add value, and, most important, enough to lead, whether a team of data scientists or the entire company, with confidence.

Similarly, Cecere’s article “Seven Characteristics of Supply Chains to Admire” further bolsters Zettelmeyer’s points by showing that successful supply chain management needs to include strong leadership, as well as “outside-in processes” (in essence, embracing analytics). She similarly points out that one-step/swift implementation of IT systems is key.

However, this still leaves the questions of how this education of executives and management is to take place, and what constitutes an “adequate” amount of knowledge about this topic to make effective decisions.

Cecere, Lora. "Seven Characteristics of Supply Chains to Admire." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 21 Sept. 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2014. <>.

Zettelmeyer, Florian. "Billy Beane Shows Why Leaders Can't Leave Data Science to the Data Scientists." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 23 Sept. 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2014. <>.

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