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Strengthening the weak links in your supply chain

supply chain
(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/KAMONRAT)

The use of technology within enterprises across both the UK and globe has been consistently developing over the past two decades, as tech is used to support varying business functions from HR to IR. Digital transformation, as a result, is no longer something an organization with a sound business plan can afford to keep restricted to within the walls of its IT department. 2020 has been a year of surprises, and the past 12 months have seen an unprecedented acceleration of technology adoption.

The pandemic has forced the hands of many to push through more extensive digital transformation plans to protect their business function, their business outputs, and their business stability. Organizations have had to adapt their existing cybersecurity plans to become more flexible and less situationally rigid. They have also had to leverage RPA to better support employees’ workload, all of which are key areas we’ve seen addressed. However, another major area, and one that has perhaps been overlooked but is also critical for a business’s infrastructure, and indeed a country’s, is the way technology has been employed to support our supply chains. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the technology supply chain, whether to fulfil increased demands for online grocery orders, provide lifesaving telemedicine capabilities, or manage the surges in online and call center volumes.

As the pandemic began to cause major disruptions to operations back in March, many organizations found themselves in a position where they were forced to accelerate the plans they had been looking at. It became an overnight necessity to protect your supply chain, which was now vulnerable to being hit or overwhelmed in several locations all at once. At CGI, we spoke to our global clients to understand how the pandemic impacted them and their supply chains, looking specifically at the role of technology, where they were hit the most, before evaluating where our supply chains can adapt to strengthen those weakened links.

Where disruptions occurred

I’m a strong believer in seeing crisis as a land of fertile soil, especially when it comes learning and growth. By examining where the pandemic’s disruptions have occurred to date, we are able to identify and strengthen the systemic weaknesses that need to be adapted for a better future. Ultimately, there are three key areas which should be addressed to achieve this stronger future, and they are:

  • The capability of offshore technology disruptions caused by a physical lockdown
  • Greater elasticity needed for technology solutions to scale up and down as demand changes
  • Gaps in agreements between organizations and their providers, leading to service disruptions

Utilizing different technologies in these areas can provide you with better agility, increased elasticity, better protected security, and heightened resilience by managing the core products and services your business offers. It has the potential not only to provide a more cost-effective and time-saving advantage but can ultimately give your employees the ability to more strategically adjust their plans and your supply chain alongside real-time changes.

Rethinking the supply chain

To make your supply chain more agile and faster reacting, it is key for business leaders to rethink them and assess where technology can be used enhance their security and flexibility. It comes down to enabling an array of offerings that work together and with you to improve your operations. This includes cloud technologies, robust automation solutions, and smart managed services, delivered through a deliberate architecture of onside, onshore, nearshore, and offshore configurations.

Think of it this way; you would never rely on your employees to be your only line of defense for cybersecurity, so why would you rely on them to be the sole defense line for your supply chain – your business security? It would not only be an unfair and unrealistic expectation but would reduce your reaction time to dealing with an immediate threat. The same is true for your supply chain, which can often need an immediate response or call to action which unfortunately people cannot achieve. The technology I listed earlier is much more likely to capture breaks in your chain urgently when they occur and would be able to simultaneously alert relevant departments and enact backup plans in the same breath. Giving your employees time to assess damages, fix errors and work together to improve the ongoing function of your supply chain.

Prioritizing data points

Based on the findings of in-depth interviews with more than 1,500 business and technology leaders, the 2020 CGI Client Global Insights report reveal that consistently, executives highly prioritize the optimization of their technology supply chains.

IT modernization continued to maintain its position as an ongoing international trend. Influenced by the slow progress in results from their digital enterprise strategies, executives are looking to address the cost and agility of existing IT portfolios. One of the biggest managed services areas professionals are interested in updating is leveraging substantial, fully managed applications and infrastructures.

This makes sense to us, as throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen our clients increasingly turn to digital solutions to speed up request processing and information sharing to improve their efficiency and decision making. Many are working flexibly or at home, and technology has been adopted to support these new models of working so essential processes are able to continue.

Overall, technology has an important and central role to play in supporting and developing our supply chains. Using technologies like real-time data, automation, and cloud are just three fantastic ways to employ technology to better protect the value chains your business relies on, making them more robust and agile at the same time.  Unfortunately, when it comes to corporate risk there is no crystal ball, so while you cannot look to the future and know what will happen ultimately it is near impossible to predict the surprises this pandemic has in store for us. Using technological advancements already around to your advantage is the only effective way to successfully compete and continue to survive.

Tara McGeehan, President, CGI UK and Australia Operations