Peer Forum connections foster excellence

By November 9, 2018Beyond Supply Chain
181107 November Cover

The North American version of Gartner’s Enterprise Supply Chain Leaders Peer Forum convened in late October in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The peer forum events are unique in the Gartner portfolio because they are “by the members, for the members.” Instead of analyst research being featured on stage, the peer forums feature case examples, best practices and learnings — delivered largely by Gartner clients, who also help influence the overall agenda. Members submit presentation nominations ahead of time, and the bulk of the event plays out as clients share their know-how about those topics, with Gartner experts facilitating the conversations.

The three days are filled with a cross-section of plenary keynotes, executive showcases, speed-networking sessions, analyst 1-1 meetings, industry track sessions, member presentations, and a women in supply chain breakfast. The event brings good friends together, along with food and fun.

The theme of this year’s event: “Craft the ultimate experience: Rethink supply chain in the age of the customer.” So much attention is being paid to customer experience and its role as a competitive differentiator. As we all know, though, it is supply chain that actually delivers on the customer promises that our companies make. So, in reality, marketing and product may talk about customer experience, but supply chain owns the execution of it.

The keynote on Day 1 reinforced this connection, but reminded us all to constantly look through the eyes of our customer. Customer loyalty expert Jon Picoult highlighted the 12 principles of turning customers into fans. This helped remind us all that while we may get wrapped up in the complexities of our demand forecast or our materials requirement planning that we must always be looking through the eyes of the customer. Our job is to make sure we do things like make it easy for the customer, maximize their highs and minimize the lows, stir emotion, and deliver pleasant surprises.

On Day 2, renowned author AmyK Hutchens turned the spotlight internally, onto our employees. She showed us some of her secrets on creativity and innovation. Amy helped us understand how to get creative ideas instituted more quickly by aligning brilliance in leadership through associational thinking and co-created question-based agendas.

A wide variety of topics were discussed. The beauty of this event is that we get a lens on trends from both a role and an industry perspective. For the contingent of chief supply chain officers we had on hand, we got great insight into what they were wrestling with. They highlighted digital, talent and organizational design, and (tying to the event theme) customer experience.

Here is some of what keeps them up at night:


  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and roadmap to develop; should these be home grown or off-shelf?
  • Best practices in cybersecurity
  • Global order management tools in non-integrated supply chain organizations
  • Technology roadmap creation and implementation
  • Blockchain: What are the nearest term applications of this tech and how is it being used today?
  • Internet of Things (IoT)

Talent and Organizational Design

  • Decentralized leadership model
  • Organizational design to align commercial entities with supply chain
  • With labor shortages in the United States and the European Union, how is your organization expanding capacity with supply chain?
  • Best methods to recruit and maintain supply chain personnel

Customer Experience

  • How to enhance digital experience to improve customer satisfaction
  • How to find out what the customer really wants
  • How do you bridge the gap in a practical way to get the voice of customer inside the organization to pivot strategy and change priorities?
  • Meeting or exceeding customer expectations for quality and delivery


From an industry perspective, there were interesting takeaways in terms of what is top of mind now.

Here are a few highlights:

High Tech

  • Sourcing getting a seat at the product development table
  • Looking at better definitions of perfect order

Consumer Products

  • How to do direct-to-consumer right
  • Benefits and risks of centralizing customer service

Life Sciences

  • Cybersecurity in light of major 2017 pharma company breach, and how the industry can respond
  • AI being used for customer experience

Health Care Providers

  • Best practices in health care inventory management
  • RPA use cases in Integrated Delivery Networks (IDN) supply chains to automate workflow and eliminate manual processes


  • Continued concerns over transportation capacity issues
  • Trade and tariff issues
  • Digitization in the retail supply chain, and how can it help visibility

This peer forum was a resounding success. Attendance this year spiked to 228 members, up from 158 the year before. We went to Barcelona in early November for the European version of the event. Now we start planning for the North American spring event in Phoenix, Arizona, in February — where we anticipate close to 500 people based on exciting format changes.



Mark Atwood, Managing Vice President, Supply Chain Industries & Programs, Gartner

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