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Alignment and edge innovation for the future

How COVID-19 is transforming IT’s supply chain role

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis and the pressures on the supply chain show just how critical Information Technology (IT) is to success—helping to see the big picture for the business while playing a key supporting role in the flow of goods and services.

How is IT evolving as the COVID-19 crisis continues to reshape supply chains? How can IT leaders play a bigger role—and make a bigger impact—within their organizations? And what will IT look like in the future, as we move toward the “next normal”?

Three Deloitte leaders share their first-hand insights on how leading global organizations are transforming IT to meet the demands of a transformed supply chain and to enable the built-to-evolve enterprise.

IT aligned to the business

In a fast-moving world, it is critical that IT be tightly aligned to the business. For Matthew Humphreys, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, that means a crystal clear understanding of how the business run and operates, and the strategic direction and priorities. “When the business and IT come together, that cohesive team can not only deliver on the promise of any transformation program, but more importantly, the promise of that company in the market.”

The COVID-19 pandemic thrust IT into the spotlight almost, quite literally, overnight. According to Nikhil Goray, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, that solidified the function’s critical role in business continuity, let alone the development or progress that has been made over the last 25 years. The push – again, literally overnight – to video conferencing is, for Goray, a good example of how any part of the business aligns to IT for the future. “IT has always been at the foundation of it all, and I think now it's coming to the forefront.”

Shift to human-centric design

“As IT leaders play a bigger role in the business, they must not forget the human elements as any new solution is designed and deployed,” says Donna Gray, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP. In the consultant space, gone are the days when transformations were rolled out after requirement discussions, builds, and tests. Now it’s about human-centered design. “If you start thinking about the end users and consumers of this new process at the beginning, you’ll have a more robust and better solution at the end that the businesses really can run with.”

As Goray sees it, that shift has been driven in part by the high usability of mobile device apps, which has set the expectation of a rich, consumer-grade experience for employees. “That has completely shifted the dynamics of the interaction between IT and supply chain function. Both are now thinking: How can we make that experience much richer, that technology much easier to use.”

However, great ideas around experience and usability will fall flat without IT fundamentally understanding how an individual will leverage a digital asset and fundamentally change how they work. “It is not only about the person and their experience,” says Humphreys, “but the way in which they get work done, and ensuring that informs whatever design and implementation work that follows.”

Innovation supply chain’s edges

Alignment between IT and supply chain must include edge innovations, something inherently built into kinetic enterprises. To illustrate his point, Goray offers the global tracking and monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines as a timely example. “These are the kinds of solutions that can be developed when there is a huge handshake, between IT, business, and many functions need to happen to make it all come together.”

For that reason, IT organizations that stay on top of new technologies and their application can be a strategic business partner to help solve complex problems.  Edge technologies, says Gray, builds in agility. “You don’t have to change the fundamental core to have these innovations. Rapidly deploying something like IoT solutions becomes exponentially easier to do with the right technology.”

A universal reality: persistent global uncertainty

As Humphrey sees it, one of the greatest impacts on supply chain organizations has been a rapid shift in demand. And while that has been experienced differently by companies across industries, common to all is a “persistent level of uncertainty across global markets.”

This was pronounced in 2020 when COVID-19 laid bare weak spots in supply chains around the globe. The solution, Humphrey offers, is for organizations to have end-to-end visibility across the supply chain – including their supplier base – and to invest in good master data management. “This is where IT can really help. Having good information from all parts of your business makes it easier to plan, understand how things are changing and how to effectively respond.”

Seeing firsthand how companies are challenged with managing data, Gray suggests the best approach is to develop the plan and tackle it in pieces: Determine high priority areas with business partners, get wins, and continue building from there.  She also offers a caution about speed. “For example, IT organizations working in the business must think about how to get predictive analytics information sooner.”

Goray wraps up the discussion offering 2020 as a cautionary tale, suggesting IT and supply chain functions should examine what works for the day-to-day, and absolutely build in agility that allows a company to pivot quickly. “It’s supply chain and IT organizations that can come together to ensure the company is better prepared for the future.”

Want more transformation insights from enterprise leaders? Visit deloitte.com/SAP to download future podcast episodes or listen to previous ones.

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