A Chief Supply Chain Officer Learns from His Millennial Daughter — A Digital Transformation Story
Latest posts by Chakri Gottemukkala (see all)
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Travis Green, Chief Supply Chain Officer of a large consumer product manufacturing company, was more excited than he’d been in a long time. His daughter, Carla — a true millennial, if there ever was one! — had just started a job as a business analyst. Her new role was in the supply chain organization of a large industrial manufacturing company. Tonight, they’re having dinner for the first time since she started the job; Travis is eager to see how she’s doing.
“How is it going in the new job?” Travis asked.
“Dad, I’m not sure this company is for me,” Carla claimed discouragingly.
Travis was surprised, and concerned. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“The way this company operates, it’s extremely disappointing. I’m not alone on this either, a few of my friends who joined the company with me feel the same way,” Carla responded.
Needing to know more details in order to respond to his daughter with encouragement, Travis asked, “How so?”
Carla asked her father if he had heard of a software company called SAP, which he quickly replied stating it’s who his company uses as well.
Carla began to explain, “It’s the software we’re supposed to use to forecast our demand, and plan our supply chain. But, let me tell you, it’s not the software that any millennial like me would ever be happy using.”
Travis was intrigued and wanted to know exactly what was leaving Carla this uneasy in her role.
Carla continued, “Dad, consider this for example. We grew up using Google. Any information we ever need is instantaneous. We type keywords into the Google search bar, and voila, the information appears. On the contrary, we’re navigating through a complex set of reports when using our SAP software to do our jobs. And, even then, it’s never in one place in the system. Just to complete my forecasts I’m pulling out data to put together with other data in a multitude of spreadsheets. Most of my time is spent finding and collating data. It’s a miserable experience.”
At his company, Travis had heard complaints from the planning organization about poor adoption of the system. He simply demanded they adopt the system regardless of the struggle. Again, needing more details about her experience, Travis asked, “What else is bothering you?”
“I’m constantly hit with demand change questions from our regional marketing and sales organization, but our process takes more than a week to generate a supply response. The supply chain module of SAP operates only on a weekly batch cycle. By the way, even after a week’s time to respond, our sales organization doesn’t trust the reliability of the supply response. We’re used to Uber matching demand and supply in real time, providing us visibility of exactly when our ride will arrive. It’s mind boggling that even after waiting for a week we still aren’t getting a reliable commit — I completely understand our sales organization’s frustration,” Carla sighs with exhaustion.
With a growing sense of respect for his daughter’s perspective, Travis responds, “Carla, this is really insightful. What else would you change?”
Carla promptly answers, “Oh, the endless number of meetings involving so many people coming together with data to make decisions. For the generation of millennials, we’re used to sharing information and collaborating in real time on social media platforms. I don’t understand why we can’t take this same approach with our organization and solve our problems. These meetings are a killer to our productivity.”
Travis agrees, “Oh my gosh! Carla, I have been beyond frustrated with our planning meetings for a long time — they’re such a PowerPoint fest. I can’t even imagine how much time is being spent by my organization putting it all together. What else would you change about your process and system?”
Carla pauses in thought for a moment, “Hmm… you know, we’re used to software like Google Maps, which proactively tells me I need to leave for the airport early because traffic is heavy on the road I planned to take from my office. I would expect any software I use to be intelligent enough to prescribe necessary actions in response to events happening across the business, but our planning software is significantly far behind this expectation.
Travis could sense the frustration rising in his daughter and felt it was time for a more lighthearted conversation, but made mental notes on the action he was going to take.
The next day at the office Travis called for a meeting with the CIO and director of planning. Travis expressed his thoughts immediately, “We have a big problem to address. Our workforce is growing younger with more millennials, and if we expect to keep the company relevant to them, there needs to be a change.” He continued by relaying the conversation he had with his daughter.
Travis instructed his colleagues, “Please go find a system that is truly ready for the digital age. We need something our next generation workforce will find inspiring.”
One year later, Travis was having dinner with his daughter. Carla had since resigned from her previous company and was now leading a nonprofit. She seemed genuinely happy, and Travis was proud of the work she was doing. He was also proud of the large steps his company had taken and excited to show Carla all the details.
Travis spoke delightfully, “Carla, let me show you something — he brought out his new tablet computer — we implemented a new software from o9 Solutions for planning our supply chain. Look at this, we run all our planning meetings on the system, and I collaborate in real time with my organization instead of waiting for the monthly meetings. I can also type any question in this search bar, just like Google, and I’m provided the answer immediately. And yes, I can get supply chain answers to demand change scenarios in real time. The system prescribes the correct demand and supply shaping actions to take when constraints appear anywhere in the supply chain.
Carla was amazed. She beamed, “This is the planning software I see my generation not only using, but also having significant success with. Well done dad! I’m proud of you for making the change. By the way, you can donate generously to my nonprofit for the free advice. After all, consultants would have charged you a million bucks for the advice I gave you over dinner.”
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