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The Path to a Thinking Supply Chain

Digital transformation is poised to change the supply chain more profoundly than any other functional area and more dramatically than at any point in its history in terms of driving efficiency and resiliency to disruption. In the context of the challenges facing supply chains, both now and in the future, it becomes clear that the old ways of working will not suffice and that even best-in-class performance today is unlikely to be good enough in the future. It is the view of IDC that the supply chain must become a “thinking” supply chain, one that is intimately connected to all data sources, enabled with comprehensive and fast analytics, openly collaborative through cloud-based commerce networks, conscious of cyberthreats, and cognitively interwoven. According to IDC supply chain research, technology is emerging as a prime driver of change, particularly artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Data is also a driver of change. In 2018, supply chains have over 50 times more data available to them than just five years ago, with less than a quarter of that data being analyzed in near real time for value; and it’s not just structured enterprise data that the company “owns” but also a mixture of both structured and unstructured data from myriad sources such as IoT, unstructured social media, news feeds, weather, and even emerging blockchain-enabled networks. Within the next three years, half of all applications will have embedded cognitive capabilities — making them able not only to do things better and faster but also to do things that simply couldn’t have been done. In a recent supply chain survey conducted by IDC, 55% of supply chain organizations believe themselves to be past the midpoint of digital maturity, with almost 8% saying they are at the most advanced stage. While we might justifiably suspect a case of “rose-colored glasses,” the reality is that leading companies are moving quickly and laggards may soon find themselves uncompetitive.