“When I was a kid I got no respect. I played hide-and-seek. They wouldn’t even look for me.” — Rodney Dangerfield
If there’s ever been a year that has thrust the profession of supply chain into the headlines, it has been 2019.
Arguably the most visible example has been the ramped-up trade disputes. Not just the U.S.-China tariff fight, but U.S.-European Union, the United Kingdom’s protracted Brexit, U.S. Iran sanctions, U.S.-Canada, U.S.-Mexico and Japan-South Korea, among others.
While some still view this as a blip in time, these trade war flare-ups have caused changes that at least half of supply chain professionals say are permanent or very difficult to reverse. This hasn’t just been about changing the physical structure of the supply chain, but rather building networks that are more flexible and resilient, thereby more effectively responding to global shocks.
Technology — specifically digital — has dominated the headlines for years. Technology continues its march away from single independent applications to comprehensive environments with the capability to connect and orchestrate ecosystems. As this occurs, digitalization decisions have an increasing socioeconomic impact on labor markets.
In the meantime, parts of the profession have begun to adapt to a growing force that has the potential to change every aspect of supply chain — the evolution toward a circular economy. Whether it’s done because of an environmental conscience, to combat climate change or because key raw materials are becoming scarce, an evolution to a circular economy is happening. The tipping point will come from consumer/customer pressure, government regulation, a consortium of the world’s most influential businesses, or more likely a combination. In any case, the tipping point will come and the supply chain represents the corporate front line.
Simply put, the supply chain profession is responsible for solving bigger business and socioeconomic problems than ever before. But despite that, perplexingly, the percent of supply chain professionals who believe they are recognized by their CEO as equally important to business success as other functions has been stuck at 50% of those surveyed for five straight years. This is in contrast to the increasing number of supply chain professionals who are now reaching the CEO seat.
In the ’90s and through the beginning of the 21st century the supply chain profession worked to get a seat at the executive table. A founding principle of the Gartner Top 25 was to give the supply chain executive a platform to show CEOs and other executives that the best companies in the world benefited from having the best supply chains in the world. In other words, that supply chain mattered. I believe most of us in the profession agree we’ve achieved “the seat.” What lies before us now is a new challenge, moving from having a seat to earning an equal seat at the table.
Is it time for a brand refresh?
The idea of spending time building an organization’s internal brand may seem unimportant, but as the problems get bigger and more complex, the resources and cooperation needed will as well. Those with an internal reputation as less important for business success than other functions will find it more difficult to get what’s needed.
In reshaping your brand, keep the following in mind:
- Clearly outline your organization’s brand vision, benefits, and unique sources of value for the company and key individuals
- Ensure the brand value proposition is differentiated from the current state, is credible and reflects the company’s business vision
- Make sure it is centered around your stakeholders and not you (supply chain)
Chief of Research,
Gartner Supply Chain