Chief supply officers will need buy-in and help from other top company managers to put new digital technology in place—a task they need to do a better job of.

As more companies go digital, chief supply chain officers need to be better seen and heard within their organization, says a new survey from Accenture.

The survey of 900 chief supply chain officers also reveals that many supply chain executives see their job function as less operations support and more as a driver of cost and efficiency for the company.

Today, more companies are looking to add new digital technology and data services such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things to make their supply chain work more effectively, Accenture says. The job of implementing those new technologies falls to the chief supply officer. But chief supply officers will need buy-in and help from other top company managers to put new digital technology in place—a task supply chain officers need to do a better job of.

71% of chief supply officers say more digital technology across the supply chain will improve customer service.

The Accenture survey found that 80% of supply chain executives identify the chief information officer or chief technology officer—not the CEO, chief operating officer or chief financial officer—as key stakeholders in building a more digital supply chain, despite the major role the chief financial officer has in making technology investment decisions and the chief operating officer’s role in designing the operating model.

In many organizations, the supply chain isn’t seen as a driver of differentiation and aggressive growth. Chief supply officers say absence of a clear business strategy (43%), inadequately skilled workforce (48%) and outdated legacy systems (44%) are the main reasons their company supply chain isn’t more visible.

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“Supply chain executives should take no comfort in being categorized as a support function,” says Mohammed Hajibashi, an Accenture managing director and global supply chain lead in Accenture’s products industry practice. “In this digital era where customers demand speed to market and hyper-personalization, these executives need to ensure that their supply chain function is not only a key differentiator but also ensures the sustained growth of their organizations.”

50% of all survey respondents say adding more digital technology and services to their respective supply chain operations would unleash new cost savings and improvement in logistics and warehouse operations. Specifically, 71% of chief supply officers say more digital technology across the supply chain will improve customer service, compared with 68% that see digital technology as a way to improve support operations, 60% as a driver of cost efficiency and 53% as a driver of business growth.

But supply chains won’t remake themselves, Hajibashi says. If companies do want to make their supply chain more digital, supply chain executives need to take it upon themselves to do a better job at raising their profile and getting better support from top management.

“While most companies recognize the value of a digitally enabled supply chain—empowered by new technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data and analytics—many chief supply chain officers are not leveraging their C-suite counterparts to help reinvent the supply chain function and transform it into an engine of new growth models and customer experiences,” Accenture says.

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